the prisoner (1967)


Brubaker (1980) is a prison drama based on the true story of Tom Murton, who was hired by the state of Arkansas to overhaul its prison farm system in 1968. Two prison farms - at the Cummins unit in Lincoln county, and Tucker unit in Jefferson county, operated farms that produced over $1.4 million worth of produce and dairy products through unpaid convict labor. (which, adjusted for inflation, would be about $10 million today.) The inmates at these prison farms were subjected to horrific abuse, including beatings, torture, extortion and sexual assault, and were served rotten food that was often infested with worms. Murton ordered the excavation of the prison grounds and discovered the remains of three inmates whose deaths had not been documented, but was barred from further excavation by the state of Arkansas. It’s believed that an estimated 25-200 inmates were secretly murdered and buried on the grounds at the two prison farms going as far back as 1915. Murton exposed the horrific conditions at the prison farms in a book called “Accomplices to the Crime: The Arkansas Prison Scandal”, and was promptly fired by the Arkansas Department of Corrections. Furthermore, he was ordered to leave the state or else he would be charged with grave-robbing for exhuming the bodies of the murdered prisoners. After being fired, Murton was never able to find work in the corrections industry again, and worked as a professor of criminology and corrections for several years before retiring to his duck farm until his death in 1990.

In the film, Robert Redford plays the part of Henry Brubaker, a newly arrived warden of the prison (loosely based on Murton) who disguises himself as an inmate so that he can investigate the conditions of the prison before revealing himself. While the movie does take certain liberties with the facts of the story it is based on, the bulk of it is 100% true. It’s pretty important to remember that this stuff actually happened, because history repeats itself.