Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What Grad Students Can Learn from Convicts

As a graduate student, I was slow to discover the benefits of low-involvement, reliably hysterical entertainment. All that changed the night I heard my roommate utter, “Hey, do you like prison shows?”.

The “prison show” in question is “LOCKUP”, a documentary series produced by MSNBC. Crews spend several months filming inside the prisons, conducting interviews with inmates and correctional staff, and editing thematic pieces with titles like “Prison Love” and “Hell in a Cell”. While I must commend MSNBC for this quality program, it appears that the editors and interviewers have an appreciation for hilarity, because they’ve managed to locate and showcase what must be the most entertaining convicts on the face of the planet.

Especially choice was last Saturday’s “New Mexico: Extended Stay” episode entitled “Fight or Flight”, which highlighted inmate Chris Shiverdecker, a diminutive convict whose tiny hands enable him to slip his handcuffs and cause a major headache for New Mexico prison staff.

Let’s meet Mr. Shiverdecker now:

Shiverdecker spends his time in prison growing his hair for Locks of Love and creating innovative shanks, in what he hopes will create a karmic balance. He reports that when people think of him, they think of “somebody like Macgyver because [Shiverdecker] stabbed someone with Jolly Ranchers”. That’s right, people, Jolly Ranchers, a bizarre feat that earned him a reputation as a troublemaker and ended all other inmates’ hard candy privileges forever.

Because of Shiverdecker’s fights and flights, prison officials spend a lot of their time trying to convince him to demonstrate to rookie officers how he slips his cuffs and share his tactics for creating weapons out of anything under the sun. Shiverdecker’s reasons for refusing to participate in this training seminar mostly have to do with illuminating the differences between prison and kindergarten playgrounds. But when you “go away at ten-and-a-half for grand theft auto”, you probably have little else to compare prison to.

The clip of the episode alone is highly amusing:

I can guarantee that this show will both make you laugh and instill you with a conscious desire to avoid prison at all costs. Not that the educational element will be lacking during this hour of your week. For instance, I never knew Jolly Ranchers could kill you, and without LOCKUP, I probably never would have.


  1. my blog has same format as yours...weird.

    shiverdecker was something else.


  2. I found this guy fascinating! Wow...I even started to feel bad for him. The more I watched him the more I liked him!!!!

  3. I met Chris Shiverdecker when he was 13yrs. old. At the time, I was an employee at a juvenile detention facility in Gainesville, Fla.. He was more misunderstood than anything else. I was the only staff member who could reason with him. He had escaped many juvenile camps before the age 17. He is a perfect case of Parents Gone Wrong. Until that MSNBC episode, I was sure he would be dead by now.