The unaltered featured photo comes courtesy of Wikimedia Commons…
I have always loved reading and hearing true stories. When I was growing up, I also loved reading fiction. I think I lost my love for reading most fiction when I was an English major in college. It was further eradicated when I lived in Armenia and most of the only reading material available in English was of the trashy romance novel type. I was so desperate to read something in English that I read the bodice rippers, anyway. I found a lot of the romance novels kind of depressing, probably because I didn’t have a love life to speak of in those days.
Nowadays most of my reading is all about biographies, autobiographies, current events, and the like… I like documentaries, too. There are still a couple of fiction authors I enjoy, but I have so many non-fiction books that I stay pretty busy… especially since I tend to fall asleep pretty quickly when I read these days. I need to buy a chair for reading, because I usually try to read in bed and it’s not long before I’m dead to the world.
I think my tendency to fall asleep when I read has also led to me watching more YouTube videos. YouTube has caused me to discover other true stories… many of which would have never been told in days past. YouTube can also offer a new beginning to people who otherwise might not have ever had one.
Take, for instance, Jessica Kent. She’s a popular YouTuber who has a channel all about her experiences in prison. I discovered her via Mama Doctor Jones, an OB-GYN who makes really excellent videos about women’s health issues. Someone asked Dr. Jones to react to Jessica’s video about giving birth when she was incarcerated in an Arkansas prison. I was so impressed by Jessica’s heartbreaking story that I checked out her channel and subscribed. In the old days, Jessica might not have been able to carve out a successful career after being in prison. But now, she has a thriving channel with 992k subscribers. She creates original content that people find compelling. I assume that’s allowed her to live a more law abiding life.
I write that “I assume”, because I really don’t know. She did make a few videos recently indicating that she’d had some issues lately with her (apparently former) significant other. I don’t want to speculate too much on the details, except to state that I think it’s pretty hard to go straight after an experience like prison. Jessica has a lot of empathy for prisoners, which is totally understandable. She was one herself. But a lot of people who have been incarcerated were incarcerated for good reason.
While many prisoners are basically decent people, the truth is, the majority of them did something that put them behind bars. They don’t always learn their lessons when they’re behind bars, which can make consorting with them risky, even if they seemed to have turned over a new leaf. See my book review on Shannon Moroney’s book about her ex husband, sex offender Jason Staples, for more on that.
Christina Randall is also a popular prison v-logger. She has 1.38 million subscribers, and covers true crime topics as well as her own experiences being incarcerated in Florida. I don’t watch her channel as much, but it looks like lately, she’s been focusing on recent true crime cases in the media, rather than telling her own stories. I know she and Jessica Kent have also collaborated. Personally, I prefer hearing the true stories from the people themselves, which is why I don’t follow Christina’s channel. But obviously, she’s compelling, and she has a lot of dedicated followers. If that keeps her out of prison, I say “more power to her”.
Lately, I’ve been watching another channel, this time by a guy named “jumpsuitpablo”, who spent ten years in prison in South Carolina. He’s an up and coming YouTube talent, with 27.1k subscribers, at this writing. I find his content very compelling for a few reasons. First, I think he has a really nice speaking voice. It’s pleasant to listen to. He’s intelligent, and a good storyteller. Secondly, I lived in South Carolina for three years, so I’m interested in his experiences doing time in that state. And thirdly, he covers Alex Murdaugh. I don’t actually care that much about Murdaugh’s case, but that was what initially hooked me to jumpsuitpablo’s channel. I kept getting YouTube suggestions for the channel, based on Murdaugh’s case.
Alex Murdaugh’s case is a reminder that the mighty can fall pretty rapidly. Murdaugh was once a very successful attorney living the high life in South Carolina. Now, he’s a convict, being evaluated before he gets shuffled off to do his time. It so happens that jumpsuitpablo has actual experience being incarcerated in the same prison where Murdaugh is, and he knows people who are still there. So that gives him access to some very interesting content. But jumpsuitpablo also shares his own stories from his days as a prisoner. It’s fascinating stuff.
I guess in the old days, before we had YouTube, these folks might have written books about their experiences. But it takes a lot of time to write a book, and back before the Internet, it wasn’t so easy to get published… even if you self-published. Nowadays, anyone can write a book, or become a video star, or even a music star. I know some people lament this form of progress, because it makes it harder for people who do things the “old-fashioned” way. But frankly, I’m glad to see people who were once incarcerated making money in a legal way. I also think their experiences matter, and they have stories that ought to be told, and HEARD, by regular folks.
Like many people, I used to assume that the incarcerated were all dangerous, bad people who deserved what they were getting and more. That was an opinion based in ignorance, and perhaps on what I had seen and heard on television or read in books. YouTube videos that star actual convicts put human faces on the prison experience. No, I don’t condone what prisoners have done to get locked up, but I also realize that there but by the grace of God go I. It’s very easy to get arrested and/or locked up in the United States. All you have to do to realize that is to watch one of the many cop videos on YouTube.
When I watch the cop videos, I tend to vacillate between feeling sorry for the police (because the public can be incredibly disrespectful), to feeling really sorry for the arrestees (because cops can also be incredibly disrespectful). I often yell at the cops, too, because a lot of them genuinely appear to be on power trips and blatantly deny people their civil rights. On the other hand, a lot of people are total assholes and have no respect for the law, or other people’s safety or property. I probably shouldn’t watch as many videos as I do, for the sake of my blood pressure… but they are so compelling! And I have a pretty boring lifestyle, so I tune in and enhance my knowledge of true crime. 😉
I definitely don’t think I could stand to go to prison, but obviously, I probably would adapt. It appears that most people do. Some people adapt better than others do. Some people even become institutionalized, and can’t function outside of prison. We’ll never see any videos from those people.
I’ve seen other prison v-loggers, too, but to me, their content isn’t as interesting or professionally done. Which just goes to show you that it takes talent and skill to make good content. It’s too bad prison is what led some of these folks to their YouTube careers. Maybe under different circumstances, they would have been able to avoid those unfortunate experiences. Obviously, they survived, but there are lingering costs associated with going to prison. I sure wouldn’t do it to boost my own very modest and tiny YouTube channel (with 130 subscribers).
Anyway, if you find prison content interesting, I’d especially recommend watching jumpsuitpablo’s channel. His content is very interesting, and I’d like to see him stay out of prison. I also recommend Jessica Kent and Christina Randall, although I haven’t been keeping up with their channels as much lately. If anything, these folks remind me to stay on the straight and narrow path.