Has anyone been watching Revolution? The show about what happened 15 years after all electricity went out and never came back. I want to like the show. I really do. J.J. Abrams and Jon Favreau are producers. Elizabeth Mitchell (aka Juliet from LOST) is on it. It's an interesting idea, to envision what would happen to modern American society if we instantly lost our phones, our cars, our lights, a/c, refrigerators, etc. But they just haven't grabbed me yet. And I don't buy the idea that a high concept show can't grab you right away because LOST had me from the first second.
But what I'm really curious about, and what proves that I am a criminal defense nerd of the highest order, is what happened to all the incarcerated people when the power went out, governments folded, and society as we know it generally collapsed? Would someone have gone around to prisons and fed the inmates? Or just opened all the doors? Might they have all been reduced to chain-gang style hard labors? Perhaps individual inmates might have intrepid family members who would come to rescue them? Or might they all have been forgotten about, abandoned and left to die in their cages? The logistics of this fascinate me.
Prisons are pretty reliant on electricity, especially when it comes to all the doors. There have to be ways to open the doors manually, I'd assume. But then would they all have to be opened one at a time? There are a lot of prisons in this country, housing a lot of prisoners. And I would imagine that as absolutely everything was going to hell, robbers and murderers and sex offenders probably wouldn't be high on many people's list. So I tend to think a lot of them might well just be stuck.
I also wonder how long the leadership structure would remain in place. One thing the show hasn't really nailed down for us is how long the US government or any state governments attempted to function after the blackout. We did see a flashback to about 6 months after the blackout where one of our main characters recognized that there was no law, no functioning police force to protect people and punish thieves, so he took it upon himself. But that could have simply been a matter of transportation and communication being slow, not exactly non-existent. So I wonder how long the leadership structure of any individual prison might have continued to function, even in some minimal way. I have met a few prison wardens and I think a few of them really enjoy running their own little fiefdoms. They might cling to whatever power they could maintain for as long as possible.
We know that the criminal justice system suffered serious lapses in the Katrina aftermath. Records destroyed by the flood, defendants forgotten about in jail. The courts were already overloaded and basically fell apart after the storm. The courts put out requests for attorneys to come from out of state and receive special status to help clear out some of the cases. And that was just one city suffering a temporary shutdown. But in the Revolution scenario, you've got every city, county, state, etc. suffering the shutdown with no resumption of normal activities. In New Orleans, a sad number of people arrested on really petty stuff, like pot possession, got lost in the shuffle and wound up spending months and months in jail. In the Revolution world, I'd have to imagine an awful lot of drunks taken to detox and college kids arrested on MIPs (minor in possession) and people arrested for unpaid parking tickets would suffer that fate and get stuck.
Yes, this really is what I spend my time thinking about. In the post-apocalyptic scenario (or at least the end of electricity scenario), what would happen to the inmates? I'd like to think it would be people like me, my defender family if you will, who would make sure they were safe and taken care of. But I'm useless without my iPhone. I'm pretty sure I would die in the first wave of any kind of giant-scale catastrophe. So I hope that the rest of you would step up and take care of my guys for me.