User Prison Reviews Give us a Taste of What It's Like on The Inside

September 10th 2015

Alex Mierjeski

The age of connectivity and technology has birthed a consumer culture that often values user review sites over more traditional methods of criticism. But that culture is not just eschewing newspaper restaurant critiques; the breadth of reviewable subjects and spaces these days knows no bounds to amateur critics, eager to review anything and everything they come across—national parks, elementary schools, and recently, prisons.

The last category of reviews seems to run the gamut from the comical, to the earnest. According to the Marshall Project, some prisoners and people who work with the criminal justice system have been turning to Yelp and other user review sites to both process their own experiences, and to provide guidance and helpful tips to prospective inmates and their family members, lawyers, social workers, and others.

"I started reviewing because I needed something to kill time while I waited to see clients," one private defense attorney who has reviewed several jails and prisons on Yelp told the Washington Post in 2013. "But I think the reviews are actually helpful for bail bondsmen, attorneys, family members — a lot of people, actually."

For inmates serving time at some notorious facilities, user-review sites have proven a useful place to voice their grievances. To give you a taste of what some of these places are allegedly like, ATTN: pulled together five illuminating reviews from some of the lowest-rated facilities in the country.

L.A. County Jail, 1.5 stars—"The food is terrible. I like the carton milk though."

User Sierra Z. complains in a Yelp review about lacking basic needs for people who suffer from physical conditions.

User review of the L.A. County Jail

Riker's Island, 2.5 stars—"It does have a lovely view although it smells like hot garbage."

User Bloodsnake 1. discusses violence, degrading orders, and nutritional deficiencies during his stay at one of New York's most notorious facilities.

User review of New York's Riker's Island

Willacy Detention Center, 5 stars—"I cannot describe it."

As the Marshall Project highlighted this week, the only review on Google for Texas' Willacy facility, which was recently the site of a debilitating riot over substandard healthcare and other abhorrent conditions, features just one, dubious five-star review:

User review of Texas' Willacy Detention facility

...or, "I cannot describe it."

Pelican Bay State Prison, 3.3 stars—"If a shiv doesn't get you, the bedbugs will."

California's Pelican Bay is often ranked among some of America's worst prisons, a designation one alleged former inmate there vetted in a Google review.

User review of California's Pelican Bay State Prison

Orleans Parish Prison, 1.5 stars—"Im giving it two stars because illegal drugs are easier to get inside than out."

Louisiana's OPP is another facility included on top 10 worst lists, and garnered national coverage in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when thousands of inmates were abandoned in flooded cells without food, water, ventilation, or electricity, Mother Jones reported.

User review of New Orleans' Orleans Parish Prison