ByAnnika Nelson, writer at

Steven Avery, at the age of 22, was wrongfully imprisoned for the sexual assault of Penny Beernsten, and almost exactly two decades later, Steven was convicted again for the murder of Teresa Halbach. Heinous crimes like those committed against Beernsten and Halbach were few and far between in rural Manitowoc, making the justice system less than eager to take Avery into consideration. Despite having been exonerated by DNA evidence that proved his innocence in Penny's attack, the second trial was rocky, and Steven was charged with the murder of Teresa Halbach, not guilty of mutilating a corpse, and guilty of possessing an illegal firearm. But Steven's story is more than familiar to the Internet, and it has somewhat of a cult following. What lies behind Making a Murderer is far more sinister than the alleged crimes Avery committed. Steven is not unlike other people trapped in the United States prison system, who are lost and ignored under the guise of justice. Many of these people are targeted directly by police, or even organizations like the Bureau of Prison's Counterterrorism Unit.

In a case not too different from Stevens, Daniel McGowan was charged with two separate counts of arson in an act of what is commonly referred to as "domestic terrorism." McGowan, however, was not set out on inflicting terror or injury on the US government, but corporations who capitalized on logging and tree farming. Upon his conviction, he was sent to a low security prison. However, not long after he arrived there, he was sent to a Communication Management Unit(CMU) when his judge added a "terrorism enhancement" charge. There isn't much information on CMUs, or what they're like, and only one reporter has been inside. Will Potter performed a TEDTalk on the prisons, which can be found here. In the talk, Potter discusses how the Bureau of Prison's Counterterrorism Unit, and the Joint Terrorism Task Force actively sought McGowan out for any sort of anti-government ideologies. It should be noted that there are 400 prisoners that are classified as terrorists, and less than 150 of them are in one of two CMUs. Potter spent tireless hours trying to find out the truth, and put both his and McGowan's comfort on the line.

"Later I found out that McGowan was really sent to a CMU not because of what he did, but what he has said. A memo from the Counterterrorism Unit cited McGowan's 'anti-government beliefs.'"

Eventually, Potter got to visit Daniel. Despite being monitored by the FBI and the first journalist to visit CMU, a baffled Will was unsurprised to hear that he would not be visiting for business, but rather as a friend of Daniels. Both he and McGowan were warned that if Potter asked any questions or published a story on the prison or McGowan, then the prisoner would be punished. Three months after the visit, he was returned to a low-security prison, and then shortly sent back to the CMU. The Bureau of Prison's Counterterrorism stated that Daniel had tried to access information leaked by Potter, but when cited beside their prior threat, it is clear what the real reason was. At the end of his sentence, he soon published several articles with The Huffington Post which can be read here, here, and here. In the following months, he was again arrested due to his outspoken articles, coupled with Potter's publications.

These cases are not isolated. People are continually targeted by both private and public prison systems, and these cases only highlight the effects of this on white citizens. People of color, particularly African Americans, are six times more likely to be incarcerated for the same crimes. It is highly regarded as a taboo topic, one that cannot be discussed in everyday conversation without it becoming a political feud. The blatant facts are there, though, and this is an issue that needs to be fought by more than those who are arrested and unlawfully detained. Prisoners don't have enough voice, and writers like Will Potter are being threatened with their interviewee's sentences. Making a Murderer is, in every aspect, a wake up call for America, and someone needs to listen to the shouting voices.


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