tv America Tonight Al Jazeera July 30, 2015 2:30am-3:01am EDT
. >> thanks for joining us, i'm joie chen. when we think of torture chambers, medieval dungeons or cia black sites maybe abu ghraib come to mind. victims say decades of vicious abuse outright torture took place. on chicago's south side that precinct was well-known to the community as the house of screams. where "america tonight's" lisa fletcher found one of the city's darkest chapters took place. survivors told her the steal which we advise you includes -- racist abusive language we would not normally air, but tells the tale of what took place. >> ronald kitchen never thought he would hear these words. >> we have ways of making niggers talk.
>> not being held by be white hoods or neonazis. it was the chicago pd. >> use the big old nightstick put on top of your head and he would be (bleep) of it. i'm sitting there and as he's telling me is telling me you did this we know you did this. >> this was a hidely publicized quintuple murder. when people took up kitchen he says they told him it was for auto theft. at this form he police station kitchen said he realized the auto theft arrest was simply a marines to an end. he says to me, stand up nigger handcuffed me to the wall, another who, he put that nightstick between my legs and he put it against wall and he
lifts me off my feet and he grinds. and he grinds. >> for more than 16 hours kitchen says a resolving door -- revolving door of officers beat and interrogated him until he had nothing left. >> i said okay, whatever you want me to do i'll do it. >> you'll sign? >> i'll sign. >> based solely on his confession and the testimony of a prison informant who was later discredited, kitchen was found guilty of all five murders and sentenced to death. it wouldn't be until years later that kitchen realized he was if the alone. kitchen's case tragic as an isolated incident, terrifying as a pattern and practice of some members of the chicago police department, who according to legal experts tortured more than 100 pen, mostly african american -- men mostly african
american from 1989 and to 1992. hauntingly similar reports from suspects claiming to be tortured by chicago police. >> gives us a sense of the type of torture that was used by the officers. >> well, the most well-known is electric shock and there were as far as we know three electric devices. there also was one prisoner andrew wilson who was burned against a hot radiator, russian roulette was played. >> at the center was one man. john best of your burge. >> people were going to die, nothing was going to be anything, people were on death row. >> ronald kitchen was one of
them, 21 years locked up 13 of those on death row but in the wake of mounting torture allegations, governor george ryan made an unprecedented decision to clear all 167 of the state's death row inmates. in 2009 after spending half of his life behind bars, kitchen was exonerated. but in a cruel twist the woman who believed in that innocence all along wouldn't get to celebrate kitchen's release. >> my mother, that's my soldier. when i come home she has dementia. she has dementia. so now, i'm free, now she's locked up. and i -- in her head. i go to her house, she didn't even recognize me. >> i'll assert my fifth amendment right.
>> berge was eventually convicted spent four and a half years behind bars for perjury and obstruction of justice today he's a free man and he still receives his police pension. advocates pressured the city for decades for more accountability. in 2013 introducing the idea of reparation. this year chicago became the first city in the nation to approve a reparation he s ordinance for victims of police abuse and torture. >> the thing is let's talk about it, let's expose them for what they are and we make changes. this was about making changes. >> next, and inmate takeover led by the prisoner who announced, this is my jail. "america tonight's" adam may with a shocking look behind bars
detention center play into the corruption that happened here? >> i think it plays a vital role. >> until now, ralph johnson has never talked on national tv about what he witnessed as a supervising corrections officer at the baltimore city jail. >> people from the neighborhood that become correctional officers and you have inmates that become correctional officers. >> an institution recently corruption. >> what happened? >> it blows old identity of control in 2004 when the state started hiring 18-year-olds. i think that was kind of crazy because how can you put an 18-year-old that does not have any experience in life and you put them on a section of 120 seasoned inmates and expect that nothing is going to happen to that child. >> maryland's short-lived experiment hiring male and female officers as young as 18 was intended to address a
shortage of qualified applicants willing to take low paying entry-level jobs but critics like johnson who's written a job about the jail say it backfired that the younger c.o.s were inexperienced unchanged and vulnerable. >> the veteran inmates was licking their chops. they were seeing this innocent 18-year-old and they would eat them alive. they would manipulate them, have sex with them, have them bring things in and then it became a money making operation. >> the gangs were making money from inside the jail? >> they were making a ton of money. it evolved. >> following a multiyear investigation that involved wiretaps and surveillance, in 2014, 20 officers were indicted more than a dozen members of the
black guerilla family gang called bgf, the largest conspiracy case in history. >> what were they doing for bgf game? >> they were smuggling in percocette fills, cell phone, heroin, crack, they were opening up so bgf could attack other gang members coming on their territory. the c.o.s actually empowered them. they couldn't have done it without the c.o.s. >> rob rosen rosenstein oversaw the prosecution. >> isolating from the communities, that's not what happened. jails have shifts of corrections officers who come in and out they have kitchen workers and maintenance people and that creates a security problem.
jails are not islands unto themselves. >> how did that affect greater baltimore and life outside of jail? >> if you remove gang members and put them in a position they still can influence conditions ton outside that's going to add to the problem. >> problems take root. where are we heading right now? with this detention center was built before abraham lincoln took office. >> oldest working jail that we know of. >> pete france is the deputy secretary for maryland corrections. years ago, the retired police commander was hired to run the baltimore city detention center but soon realized the corruption went far too deep. >> when i first came here i
don't know how to make this any clearer, the facility didn't feel right. >> at what point in time were you motivated to call in the feds? >> we had a choice to make. the choice is we could have done nothing or we could have done something. we chose to do something. we had a very dangerous facility here. we had a facility that jeopardized the life and safety of not just the inmates that we were responsible for but more importantly there were people that we asked to come to work every day. >> reporter: the three year case revealed that inside the jail one inmate in particular tayvon white was in charge of the widespread black grill la familyguerillafamily game. in wiretaps he proclaimed, this is this is my jail and i am the law. >> was it as lavish as many reports indicated? >> it was
probably worse. he had one woman that was fixing his meals. he had one woman who was smuggling his percosette pills he had pretty much everything he wanted. when he was incarcerated from 2009 to 2013 he bought four vehicles, a black mercedes, a white mercedes, a bmw and another kind of car. >> from inside jail, white fathered five children with four corrections officers, one of them katera stevenson, had his name tattooed on her wrist and helped him run bgf business.
stevenson was accused of racket racketeering. during a break was she able to leave and come back good with contraband, would that be allowed today? >> since we documented her through or surveillance system suggests officers are not doing their job. >> "america tonight" attempted to quantify the problem but we discovered no one is tracking it. the u.s. department of justice told us they don't have information on criminal charges filed against prison guards. this comes even as the u.s. incarceration rate has more than quadrupled since the 1970s. >> what do you think we would find if we did a research study and tried oquantify this nationwide based on what you have seen here played out in baltimore? >> i think you would find the general problem of smuggling of
contraband into jails and prisons is a nationwide problem. if we are all about preventing violence and crime on the streets we need to focus on what happens when the inmates are behind bars. >> since the baltimore corruption scandal, the system has gone through a massive overhaul. officers who were not indicted have been fired, retired or quit. >> the jail has also invested mills in new technology. better cameras to track inmates and officers plus a system that blocks outgoing cell phone calls. >> what's the impact of shutting down the cell phone communication? >> folks who are incarcerated order hits, restock their supplies of contraband intimidate staff they use them in a variety of ways. cell phones are a way to continue
the criminal enterprise. >> since the criminal indictments meredith has created a task force that investigates other corruption in the plairld prison system. >> how do you think prison corruption is affecting the society? >> in urban be community, the jails are an extension, you have cable tv, you have access to sex, drugs, the whole nine yards. so actually this is exacerbating the problem. >> for dates inmates released from the baltimore jail have seen this sign as they exit the facility. now it takes on a whole new meaning. >> next, doing their time. and what comes after. the next steps for prisoners aging out of the system.
reported... >> what do you think... >> we're making history right now... >> al jazeera america >> beyond the verdict and on the streets. >> there's been another teenager shot and killed by the police. >> a fault lines special investigation. >> there's a general distrust of this prosecutor. >> courageous and in-depth. >> it's a target you can't get rid of. >> the untold story of what really happened in ferguson. >> they were so angry because it could have been them. system faced on the outside. >> i started using drugs, i've been in the penitentiary once, have had two county convictions. >> jeffrey washington has been
in and out of the criminal justice system for past 20 years. one of the fast growing greus group behind groupbehind bars. older prisoners, the one that's getting out. >> the last thing i want to do is come back in here in orange. >> thanks to stricter laws and mandatory minimums many of them have been in prison a long time. whether they are released they are at a unique disadvantage. the world they're entering is vastly different than world they left. >> again a list of employers here who are willing to work with felons. >> this is good as gold. >> like a prescription to stay alive and free. >> jeffrey is in a block known as the reentry pod. the first of its kind in the country. this special wing helps inmates reenter the real world. >> repeat offenders is not something you are able to stop overnight.
this requires attention. >> san francisco schaeffer ross mirkarimi's office helped launch the ram he said the united states justice system lacked the program to help the be older inmates on reentry. >> what sort of issues do the seniors face that perhaps younger men and women do not? >> arthritis, significant arthritis, diabetes, their own just overall general health. >> prison will age you ten to 12 years past your chronological age, physiologically. they are aging just being in prison. >> frank williams knows something about being behind bars. >> i was incarcerated under federal
indictment for embezzlement. i was also convicted for narcotics possession and narcotics for sale. those are my convictions. >> i can see in your eyes there is a feeling. >> you don't want to feel. >> frank turned his life around 18 years ago. >> my past is my purpose. what i do today. >> frank found his purpose in helping others overcome addictions and struggles. he is the director of the senior ex offenders program. seop, helping older offenders. >> what specific challenges do seniors face after incarceration? >> the shame they get from society. you know, you that old, you need some
help. well you shouldn't have done wrong so long ago. that's your conventions. >> what specifically does your program do? >> we do case management alcohol and drug counseling. we help them inspire them motivate them to look at what their spurp in life. >> seop has helped about 60 inmates achieve self sufficiency. it doesn't work for everyone but like herb johnson it gives them the confidence they never felt before. >> i graduated from this program about a month ago. they helped me, steered me to a clean slate. they tried get all my felonies down to misdemeanors, they helped me with bank accounts and with therapy with as well. >> how did they help you in therapy, how was that significant to you? >> i haven't graduated from anything in my life. i didn't even graduate from high school.
when i got this certificate i cried because i finally accomplished something in life. >> it's a certificate for completion from culinary school. with the help of frank williams and seop he works five days a week cooking meals for the very agency that got him back on his feet. >> do you sometimes think, when you're chopping up some cornbread, this sure beats life on the streets? >> i never even think of the streets no more. >> do you ever think, where would i have been were it not for this year and a half working with this program? >> i would be dead. seriously. i would say or in prison. again. >> jail is the intersection of so many wrongs in a person's life. coming through something like this helps you either learn better habits, better skills and unlearn the kind of habits or responses that you just shouldn't
have. >> reporter: were there any programs like the one that you now run around when you were in prison? >> no. so that's why i do what i do man, because we got olearn how to love each other. we got to learn how to love ourselves, someone was there for me man. >> what do you say to those people who say, why should i care about those people? >> people made a mistake in life but somebody was there for them. nobody make it alone and that's the premise of our program. we should be there for them. >> reporter: give me a sense and for all those people watching who can't even imagine what it must be like to be 57 years old and an ex-convict about what challenges you face? >> when i turn 62 years old i qualify for $550 a month in ssi retirement funds. san francisco you can't even rent a closet for $550 a month. nowhere in the united states
basically can you rent an apartment an sustain your medical bills, your food, you know just day-to-day survival. $550 a month. >> looking for work but you haven't had a job history in over the past ten years so what is it that you can do, what can you get hired for and then when you go apply for it, i'm ex-offender. we're not hiring ex-offenders so they got great stigma upon them when they come out. >> where do you think you would be in this day if you weren't housed in a pod where you're getting these kind of services? >> i might be getting ready to go back to crime. >> really? you say that without pause. >> it's true. i know i have to man-up, humble myself, i got to slow up for my own day-to-day responsibilities. nobody's going to just give me a job and opaycheck. so all those are challenges. i'm ready to tackle them all.
i'm ready to confront them head on. it's either change for better or find myself back here in orange and it is no place to be. especially 57 years old. >> michael okwu, al jazeera, san francisco. >> that's "america tonight." tell us what you think at aljazeera.com/americatonight. talk to us on twitter or facebook and come back, we'll have more of "america tonight," tomorrow.
>> an egyptian court is due to announce a verdict for all three al jazeera staff. we wait to hear their fate. hello. we are live in doha. this is al jazeera. also could this be part of the missing mh 370 plane. the taliban still won't confirm if its spiritual leader is dead. it has not agreed to peace talks