Letter Re: Prisons and Other Institutions Amidst a Societal Collapse?

I live in a rural area in Wyoming. My husband, our children and I are lucky to have been raised in the area. We have access to thousands of family owned acreage to hunt, fish and garden on. Because we live in a rural area (at lease ninety miles in any direction from any large community) we are among the few that still have skills handed down to us that will allow us to be self sufficient. I have only recently found your blog and have enjoyed all of what I have read here. I agree wholeheartedly that our society is not even remotely close to the one that existed in 1930. Many people are naive to believe that if we faced even a long term recession let alone a true depression or societal collapse that things would be similar to what is found in historical texts.

I understand all too well that protection is important as I work with criminals on a daily basis, at a minimum security prison. Although it is a minimum security prison it houses inmates who have committed crimes that run the gamut. There are murders, rapists, burglars, you name it; housed behind only an industrial chain link fence. My question is in a time of societal collapse or WTSHTF what would happen (most likely scenario) with institutions run by the government. My biggest concern at this point is protecting my family from those that would take whatever they wish without thought. Thank you in advance for your response. – CL

JWR Replies: In circumstances where the power grids remain functional, prisons will probably not be much of a local threat. In fact, it will be relatives that are visiting the prisons that will be more of a threat than the inmates themselves. But if the grids go down for more than a week, then all bets are off. My prediction for prisons in the event of a worst case grid-down collapse are summed up in my novel “Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse”. Here is brief quote:

Electricity also proved to be the undoing of prisons all over America. For a while, officials maintained order in the prisons. Then the fuel for the back-up generators ran out. Prison officials had never anticipated a power outage that would last more than two weeks. Without power, security cameras did not function, lights did not operate, and electrically operated doors jammed. As the power went out, prison riots soon followed.

Prison officials hastened to secure their institutions. Under “lock down” conditions, most inmates were confined to their cells, with only a few let out to cook and deliver meals in the cell blocks. At many prisons the guard forces could not gain control of the prison population, and there were mass escapes. At several others, guards realized that the overall situation was not going to improve, and they took the initiative to do something about it. They walked from cell to cell, shooting convicts. Scores of other prisoners died at the hands of fellow convicts. Many more died in their cells due to other causes; mainly dehydration, starvation, and smoke inhalation.

Despite the best efforts of prison officials, 80 percent of the country’s more than 1,500,000 state and federal prisoners escaped. A small fraction of the escaped prisoners were shot on sight by civilians. Those that survived quickly shed their prison garb and found their way into the vicious wolf packs that soon roamed the countryside.

But keep in mind that there is only a slim chance of a grid-down societal collapse. In a less severe recession or depression, having a large prison or mental hospital in your county might be a good thing. We may find that in an era of mass corporate layoffs, having a large and stable government-funded payroll might give some communities an advantage.