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tv   Lockup  MSNBC  June 23, 2013 12:00am-1:01am PDT

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due to mature and graphic subject matter, viewer discretion is advised. there are 2 million people behind bars in america. for the next hour, we open the gates. "lockup." >> i pray to god that somebody recognizes what's going on here. you know, we in here just rotting away, you know. >> today we have about 756 inmates serving a life sentence here at folsom. >> i was state raised, federally funded. >> we're dealing with murderers and rapists, and that's always in the back of my mind.
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>> they treat us like slaves up in here, man. >> sometimes you've just got to do what you've got to do, you know, whether you like it or not. >> a lot of times these inmates just don't get along with each other. they didn't get along with people on the outside. that's why they're here. >> they were stomping his head. he went out code three in the ambulance, so he's pretty messed up. what you see here, it's like this every day. >> it's the way they lived on the streets, so they're living it inside the walls. >> use your imagination. anything that you can imagine, that's probably what goes on here. >> you watch horror movies? this is a horror movie. >> i'm innocent. i didn't do it. >> since 1880, california's folsom state prison has gained a reputation for violence and bloodshed. inmates once called it the end of the world. in december of 2002, the prison's worst riot in a decade
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broke out with about 100 prisoners involved. dozens were hurt before the melee ended when a guard shot and seriously wounded a prisoner. it's graphic evidence that keeping the peace remains a challenge inside folsom with officers outnumbered about 90 to 1. in this hour, you'll see what's being done to maintain safety and how violence sometimes boils over anyway. folsom state prison is located in the rolling hills of northern california just east of sacramento. the original structures still stand as an imposing fortress of solid granite. up close, the first thing you notice is how old the prison looks. little has changed about these old steel doors. many of them hung 120 years ago when the prison was still new. walls that surround folsom were built 30 feet into the air and 15 feet below ground to prevent tunneling. in the early years, state dignitaries were invited to the
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annual fourth of july activities where inmates were put on display. on most other days, violence ruled this yard where fights and stabbings were common. even the warden was stabbed to death by a group of inmates during a riot in 1937. originally constructed to relieve overcrowding at san quentin state prison, folsom housed some of the most dangerous inmates of the time. today its history of a more violent time has not been forgotten. >> folsom, just the aura of this place hangs above us like a fog hangs over this place. >> daniel bell is a newcomer, only on the yard for four months. >> i mean you're like totally in awe of the fact that you're actually here, and so many men have died and lost their lives on this very yard right here, at the very spot we're standing, i mean, you know, men have got killed, so it's like you're terrified.
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>> this is my first time here. don't like it. i don't like it. >> a lot of people getting stabbed, you know. i've seen people's throats get sliced. my first night in this building behind me here, when i woke up in the morning to gunshots on the tier, you know. >> you always have a fear factor when you walk through those gates. anybody would be lying to you if they told you that they weren't scared when they were in here. >> there's not anyone who walks into folsom that looks at those gun towers, which looks like a european castle, that isn't scared. >> david benny taylor is 60 years old, serving a life sentence for kidnapping and robbery. he entered folsom prison in 1975 when it was terrorized by sophisticated killers and gangs. >> the stabbings have been numerous. some of them have been right in front of me. and when you see a person die, it sort of makes a change in you forever. the change makes you realize how
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tenuous life is and how important life is and how one minute you can be alive and the next minute you can be dead and it doesn't matter who you are. you can be the warden or you can be an informant. everything in between, you can be alive one minute and dead the next minute. that's something you learn when you see these stabbings occur around you. and some of them die. the code requires that you act like you didn't see it. >> i can recall those days vividly. we average anywhere from four to six gunshots a day at this prison. and you are constantly carrying a gurney with a wounded man on it, and many times the man was dead. >> lieutenant tom ayers, a former marine, has been a correctional officer at folsom for 21 years. >> when staff come in here, especially our uniformed officers, they are taught the history of this prison and the great sacrifice of people who have died here in the line of duty, and they are constantly reminded of that. >> another reminder of folsom's
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grim past is the execution room. >> the hanging area was right here. in the old days what they did was they did turns. down below us there are more cells. then you got these cells up here. you worked your way up to the very last cell. that was the death row cell. >> over a period of 40 years, 93 men were hanged at folsom, and the stay on death row was brief. each condemned man waited for his turn at the gallows in tiny cells only a few feet away. >> at the very last cell, your day of the execution, they would come in, they would basically put metal over the doors so you could not see it. they would bring the guy out. and then he was hung. the inmates in the cells could only hear the hanging. they were not allowed to see the hanging. >> hearing but not seeing what happens around you is a fact of prison life that torments prisoners even today. >> it's not the feel of being intimidated by another person.
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it's the sounds, the movements, the keys that rattle. the silence at night. the yells, the screams. you watch horror movies? this is a horror movie right here, and we live it every day. >> many of the inmates at folsom are serving time for violent crimes. over 700 are serving life sentences for murder. due to the hazards presented by its archaic design, folsom no longer qualifies as a level 4 maximum security prison. therefore, it's been downgraded to a level two medium security facility. >> a level two is only a classification score within two, three seconds, that same individual in level two could stab another individual, could
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assault a staff member, and he has now become a level four individual within ten seconds of his lifetime. >> people that don't work in a prison don't realize how dangerous it is in here. and in a blink of an eye, something can go wrong. in the blink of an eye, you can lose your life, or you can be cripple ed >> i mean there's inmates i have known for 20 years, even though we're friendly, we speak, they know my first name, i know their first name. they walk up on me. i still want to know what they're doing. for life. >> the inmates who have been here over 20 years are lifers who may never leave that came in as tough, young prisoners and lived amid the violence, violence that continues even now. officer darlene fieste is still adapting to working behind the walls of folsom. >> i'm not used to being around violence when i started, you know, not that. it really shocked me. how cruel and emotionless these people can be. >> it does get scary sometimes. you hear a lot of the war stories from around here.
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>> i've been stabbed. i've had my knee broke. >> i had a back injury first, stabbed. >> i was assaulted by an inmate in handcuffs. >> i was stabbed seven times. >> if you show the inmates fear, then they're going to go ahead and feed on it. >> keeping that fear in control can be difficult inside this 100-year-old prison because what was state of the art at the turn of a previous century is now the biggest challenge to the officers' safety. when we return, cellblock 5, the most notorious cellblock inside folsom. folsom state prison is more
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folsom state prison is more than 120 years old, and as a result, the facilities are a patchwork of prison technology. for example, arriving inmates are kept track of by a modern computer database while officers on duty keep track of their weapons and keys by using a more low-tech method. some inmates will be housed in world war ii-era cellblocks where each tier is visible from the ground floor. others will do their time in the dungeon-like confinement of cellblock 5. it's a place where the sun never
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shines. >> you become a walking dead man in here. you understand what i'm saying? you're a walking dead man. ain't nobody really see you. it's like the old saying goes, out of sight, out of mind. >> 33-year-old inmate herman johnson is doing 12 years for a felony drug conviction. he is currently housed in cellblock 5. >> in here you lose a lot of things on the outside. and you really find out a lot about people by coming to prison, you know. >> paul poplin has been to prison several times over the last ten years for drugs and fighting. >> this is a big cell actually because of the way it's situated with the toilet over here. there ain't much to them. you know. i guess it ain't that bad here, you know. it could be worse. been in worse. >> like being in a cage basically.
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that's why i try and stay out as much as possible. i go out to the yard and when i come back from eating, i try to avoid mine. that way i'm only in there from 8:30 at night until about 7:30 in the morning. then i'm out the rest of the day. >> donald avila is serving a four-month sentence for parole violation. >> just a bunch of guys living together. somebody's going to get on your nerves, and you're going to get on somebody's nerves one of these days, you know what i mean? >> inmate johnson recalls his first experience with prison violence after going to general population, commonly referred to as the main line. >> when i hit the main line, maybe about like two weeks -- not even a good two weeks, a big riot jumped off, and i saw a lot of stickings and everything, and there was this -- it was crazy. >> we do have a lot of blind spots, making it a little difficult as far as observation if, in fact, when something happens such as a riot or we have some type of altercation. the officers at the end of the tiers for visibility, but it
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still makes it difficult for observations, especially 150 yards down the tiers. >> sergeant rudy carmella supervises cellblock 5, one of the oldest operating prison structures in the united states. >> to walk up to a cell, to look -- to see what is going on, you have to sometimes look inside. so it puts us at close proximity to whomever, whatever is in here. sometimes it could be dangerous. he could spear you through these holes, and they make the antiquated type out of a newspaper with a blade at the end of it. very simply it could be done, stab you in the face or the side and so forth. >> officers in newer prisons avoid the hazard of getting close to inmate doors. >> the newer prisons are now all automated with button control. one officer could actually control up to 100, 200 cell doors at one given time. here in this unit, every individual door has to be opened by key. every single door. >> the doors must be locked and
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unlocked several times a day as inmates are released to the yard. to do so, two staff officers snake their way through narrow passageways and the central corridor, 160 yards long. in the process, they can find themselves surrounded by hundreds of inmates. >> there's too many inmates out. >> we're just on hold right now. try to keep it minimal in that dog run to how many inmates are in there so we keep a clear path if something does happen to where we can get through. >> i believe that the number one skill you really, really need in here is communication skills. if you can't communicate with these inmates, then you're going to have problems. because this is an old facility. this is not electric-powered doors. it's all key. and we're walking these tiers with hundreds of inmates every day, and these officers are face to face with these inmates. >> inmates can change just like
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that. and so you can't let your guard down. >> warden diana butler knows the importance of communicating with inmates. she's only 1 of 11 female wardens in california, and with 20 years of service, she knows what to look for. >> one thing you develop when you work here is how to read the inmates. if you go on to an exercise yard, a lot of times they will have magazines inside of their jackets, and, of course, that is to stop any potential violence such as stab wounds or something. and if they appear nervous, then you know you'd better bring some other officers over and kind of find out what's happening and why are they nervous? >> and that's why inmates are watched and counted all day long. [ sirens ] >> right now we're having a major movement. we're having our main yard come in. in this particular building, this is daily, seven days a
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week, every day. >> to prevent escape, inmates return five times a day to be counted just as it was done a century ago, one man at a time. >> bb one. stand count. bb two. stand count. >> 76 and counting. up next -- >> the concept is to do time. don't let time do you. >> surviving hard time inside folsom. >> it's kind of a struggle between, you know, evil and good, evil and good. [ woman ] we had two tiny reasons
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>> amen. >> each inmate at folsom must find his own way of surviving physically and emotionally in this environment. >> it's like being sit down in front of a mirror and made to look at yourself all day every day, and usually having gotten yourself in here, there's not going to be anything in that reflection you want to see. >> a lot of people don't know how to do time. a lot of people come here thinking they can play. that's their perception, you know what i'm saying? but the concept is to do time, and don't let time do you. >> after you get used to it, you know, you get programmed to how the system runs. but at first it's kind of hard, you know. >> inmates refer to this process of survival and rehabilitation in prison as their program. >> basically you've got to do something, you have to have some sort of program, you know what i
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mean? >> everybody here know how to program. you know what i'm saying? this is a programmable tier. >> the main thing for me from day to day is to work to improve myself because it's a correctional facility, and i'm here for correction, and it's kind of hard to be in a situation like this because not everybody here is for corrections. not everybody here understands the meaning of correction. so when you're trying to change your life, you have maybe others around you that don't want to change their lives, and it's kind of a struggle between, you know, evil and good, evil and good. >> it's tough being your own person in an environment like this not to be sucked into a negativity. the saying "misery loves company" is so fit for this environment. >> kindness, compassion, caring, inside the institution it's a weakness. >> they don't care about somebody's feelings. that's why they're in here, you know. that's why they're in here, because of what they did on the outside and what they did to somebody else. >> part of their program for self-rehabilitation means
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contemplating their crime. >> that's a before. this is an after. >> charles williams was only 27 years old when he arrived. as seen through his prison i.d. card, serving 21 years of a life sentence has taken its toll. >> a bar fight that got out of hand that led out into a parking lot, and i beat a man to death. i mean it was a senseless crime. i was drinking. he was drinking. and i just took it too far. he didn't deserve that. >> nobody can make an accurate assessment of me without getting to know me. i mean i am a clean-cut guy. i'm not a troublemaker. but you can't honestly know that until you get a chance to sit down and talk to me and know me. just by looking at me, i don't know, everybody thought ted bundy was a really swell-looking cat, but it turned out he was a freak. if you saw me on the street in a suit, you'd never guess i was in prison.
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so -- you can't judge an individual by just looking at him. you have to get to know him, bottom line. >> one mistake, no juvenile, criminal history, no drinking in public or anything like that. one mistake. one mistake. and all because i was being a follower and not a leader. i was an impressionable kid who just thought he would never get in trouble. >> bryan thomas cello has been at folsom for ten years. he was sentenced when he was 21. >> i committed a crime of kidnap/robbery, jewelry store owner. went into the home, home invasion, took the safe, and the purpose of the whole crime was to go to the jewelry store and it didn't work out like that and the guys -- i was the youngest one in the crowd, so the most impressionable one, and the thing is i was basically the one
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who took the fall. so if you can just -- it's kind of a -- it's sad. i get -- i still get choked up thinking about it because i wish i could just take everything back. coming up -- tension boils over in the yard between inmates in the same gang. now back to our program. due to mature subject
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due to mature subject matter, viewer discretion is advised. welcome back to "lockup." one of the most important aspects of prison life is time spent in the yard. at folsom state prison in california, over a thousand inmates can be on the yard at any given time. it's a central meeting place where prisoners work out their aggressions and interact with other inmates. but it's also the flashpoint when violence breaks out, as witnessed while msnbc's cameras were in the yard. >> this is my life. state raised, federally funding. >> treat us like slaves. treat us like slaves up in here, man. >> you see around here, it's like this every day. >> seeing people, you know, getting shot, you know, killed, you know, riots. and, you know, melees and stuff
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like that. like if you get somebody that's been an informant from your county or child molester or something, somebody in your car, that's your county, you know, your local people, you know, that are here in prison, you've got to handle it, somebody's got to handle it, or the whole car is shunned. your whole car will be put on shine, you know, on lame status. >> because folsom's yard is the smallest prison yard in the state, no one is segregated. members of the various prison gangs who are known to be enemies are forced to walk amongst each other. >> if i could describe it and sum it up in one word, i would say it's like a big toilet waiting to be flushed. >> come here, both of you. hey, you two, come here. what building you in? what building are you in? >> 5. >> you go to five count gate, tell them you're going home. you go to one count gate, tell them you're going home. you don't do that in my yard.
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you know that. he threw an inappropriate sign denoting a praise of naziism and promoting that type of racist behavior and attitude that we will not tolerate here. if we let our guard down for one moment and we stop observing and interacting, tension can rise, and we could have a very volatile situation here. >> oh, you can feel it. it's like electricity in the air. it's so thick you can actually breathe in the tension. and when that happens, you know, you want to put yourself against the wall or put somebody behind you that you can trust or just stay off in a corner. >> in the blink of an eye, that much time, it can change. that's why our staff is out here watching, interacting, and monitoring the attitudes and the temperature gauge, you might say, of this yard and institution because there is a real threat that an attitude or temper can change in just a moment. >> and tempers did flare while
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msnbc's cameras were in the yard. >> well, we had two northern mexicans jump on another northern mexican. it all stemmed over a disrespect issue. yesterday they beat him up over here in front of the yard shack. the guy that beat him up was the victim's age. this guy was in his 60s. apparently the northern mexicans felt he wasn't -- business wasn't handled properly, so therefore today they sent over guys about a third his age. the guys that beat him up today are probably early 20s, late teens. what you saw here today was actually a battery. they were stomping his head. you can see he was pretty messed up. lately the northern mexicans have been acting up, more so than any race on this yard. beating up their own over respect issues. prison's about a lot of respect.
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when you are disrespected, situations like this take place. >> as long as you have street gangs, you will always have prison gangs. these guys aspire to do that. most individuals in a free society would aspire to be doctors and lawyers. these guys don't think past tomorrow. they don't know what they are going to be doing a half hour from now. they aspire to be the shot callers, the leaders, the gang members. and just talking to these individuals at various times, i have posed that question, why is it that you want to do this, this lifestyle? and basically it's because that's what they look up to. >> the inmate who was attacked will survive because of quick response from prison staff on the yard. >> they comply to your orders, they get down, you cuff them, bring them to the custody complex, interview them from there. if not, sometimes force is used, baton, pepper spray. in this situation, there was no weapons involved, therefore, the gunners didn't have a reason to shoot. >> the two inmates responsible
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for the attack were found guilty of battery and received 180 days added to their sentences. any time prisoners are involved in assaults with other inmates or staff, they are placed in administrative segregation or ad seg. officer jeremy backart works on ad seg where inmates are locked down and watched 23 hours a day, seven days a week. >> you always have to stay alert. you never know what an inmate is doing. you never know what he's thinking. that's why you have partners. your partner watches what you're doing, and you're watching what your partner is doing for protection. any time an inmate comes out of the cell, he has to be strip-searched, handcuffed, and escorted with two officers. >> for their own protection, all correctional staff are required to wear protective gear while working in the ad seg unit. >> the face shield is worn to protect us against possible gassing when inmates throw urine
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or feces at the officers. this is a baton. it's used to escort inmates when we take them outside the building. the inmate that's escorted is handcuffed. and he can't protect himself. if other inmates are going to jump him, we have to protect him. the protective gloves we wear in case we come in contact with blood or other bodily fluids when we're searching a house or if the inmate has it on him when we touch him. we also wear a protective vest where it's stabproof. inmates will use elastic out of their waistbands from their boxers and can use it like a bungee and shoot metal objects out at us if they're able to get ahold of it. >> administrative segregation is not the only area of folsom where officers are at risk. snoop i've been on, you know, probably about two dozen cell extractions to where i've had
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people jump on my back when we're going in and trying to get them. nothing i haven't healed from, but you've just got to understand that there is always potential to be hurt in this job, and that's basically what you're getting paid for, too come in here and do that. a lot of times these inmates just don't get along with each other. you know, they didn't get along with people on the outside. that's why they're here. and you put them all in the same setting in a small cell, you have the ability to be volatile. >> for the inmates who demonstrate good behavior, there are areas of folsom prison that appear more like scenes outside the wall where inmates are able to learn things like landscaping, how to rebuild computer systems, study in the law library if they choose to appeal their sentence, learn about carpentry, or the most prized job among inmates is making license plates. every single license plate in california is made here.
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but any time inmates have access to power tools and steel equipment, there's a danger of weapons getting into the population. when we return, how the investigative services unit guards against illegal weapons and drugs and how far they go to check everywhere.
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it was kind of hard for us to live up in this smaller space. >> well, most of my life i do in the cell. >> like i said, it all depends what your cellie is like. if you've got a messed up cellie, you're not going to want to be in here with him. you know what i mean? there's too much animosity. >> inmates spend years living in cells with floor space about the size of a piece of plywood, 4' x 8'. yet in this tiny space they manage to hide weapons and contraband not allowed in folsom prison. that's why there's the investigative services unit. sort of a police department within a police department. officer juan berrago and his team investigate prison gang activity, inmate squabbles and homicides. and to keep all those things from getting out of hand, he's constantly looking for signs of
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trouble. >> they'll use toothpaste. they'll use any type of ceramic putty or cement, anything that's in the institution to conceal things or sometimes even hidden compartments. >> when inmates are released to the exercise yard, they never know if officer berrago was looking in their cell. when they return, there will be no doubt he was there. nothing is overlooked. >> tubes of toothpaste. try to see the integrity has not been broken. a lot of times they'll stick stuff down in and retrieve it later. you got these speed sticks, stuff like that. usually what we'll have to do is go all the way through to make sure that at the very bottom of this, they don't secrete something. at this point you can see where there's nothing there. >> sometimes they'll actually allow or rent each other pornographic material. bedding is always a good place to hide things. kind of like a food of choice in the institution.
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top ramen. it's a delicacy. you can see the individuals here have a lot of personal property. well, the first thing that i do, i look -- this is just my personal observations and how i do my cell searches. i would take an overall view of their cell. it tells me a little bit about the individual. is there certain colors that are prevalent in the cell. it will tell me if he's some type of disruptive group, if he's a blood or crypt, just because of the colors. if he's a hispanic, if he's a northern hispanic or a southern hispanic. if i see swastikas in there, my clues tell me white supremacist. so that tells me a little about him. if it's unruly, unkept, is he a drug addict? so i take all of those things into account before i look, depending on what i'm investigating. >> this was just a routine cell search. this time nothing suspicious was found. but that's not always the case. >> as you see here, we have a wide variety of weapons that have been discovered here at folsom. they go all the way from the big type of weapons all the way down to the slashing-type of
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instruments. they'll roll newspapers up. they will actually make real crude type of darts that are dipped in feces or urine and are shot at staff. we see these bottles here that are taped up together. one of the things that they do here is they secrete things in their rectums. the individual that had these bottles was actually trying to stretch his rectum up to be able to smuggle in some dynamite into our institution. >> another way weapons can get into prison is through the mail. while officers cannot read personal letters, they do have a right to inspect them for illegal items. >> we are reviewing the mail to make sure that there's nothing inappropriate. this particular letter here has pictures in it. and we want to make sure that there are no pictures of small children as in, you know, child pornography. so once we determine that these pictures are within the guidelines of what the inmates can have, then we'll go ahead and seal it back up and allow them to have that. this inmate has got a card from
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a loved one, and i can already see that there's some contraband in here that he will not be allowed to have, so we will remove this piece of contraband and since drugs are secreted frequently inside cards like this, we want to check to make sure that the card has not been altered in any way. very time-consuming and exhaustive process, but it's what you have to do in order to ensure that drugs aren't getting into the institution. >> their living quarters have been searched. the mail has been searched. and now the inmates who've been allowed to attend classes or work in the equipment shops must line up for yet another sort of inspection. each man must disrobe and shower in a full view of prison staff. clothes are carefully examined as inmates pass through a metal detector.
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for all of the scrutiny over things inmates are not allowed to have, one of the things some of the inmates are allowed is conjugal visits. well chain-linked fence and barbed wire are made available for family visits for inmates who are eligible and demonstrate good behavior. >> in other words, i behaved myself well enough to get out from behind the wall. >> gordon simpson was sentenced to 5 1/2 years for receiving stolen property. he has 2 1/2 years left, and his wife, barbara, is allowed to visit. >> we met through a friend. >> through my best friend, who was -- they were in the same county jail together, and they were writing. she gave him my address to write to her, and i kept getting these letters, and i sent them on to her. but i got these really good vibes from these letters. and i have never written a stranger in my life, and i wrote him. you know, we just wrote back and forth. >> then we finally put in for an application for visiting. >> it took me eight months to
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get cleared. >> it's a long process to get cleared. >> especially if -- >> she'd been in trouble herself a long time ago. >> yes. >> so anyway, then we sort of fell in love and got married and here we are. >> i got married here december 9th of last year. in fact, we honeymooned in this very cottage here. this is only our third time we're going to have a conjugal visit, so -- >> so it's pretty cool. it makes time go by a lot easier. a lot easier. >> doing time in folsom affects the prisoners in two ways. physically they all make the adjustment to the rigors of prison life. regular meal schedule, regular work program, constantly being counted. daily searches of their bodies and their bunks. but emotionally, they all talk about separation from family as the most difficult part of doing time.
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when we return, the family connection. >> when you do wrong, you are incarcerated in prison. it affects everyone who loves you as a person. >> and going home.
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♪ ♪ i'm losing you for many of the inmates doing time in folsom, it's not their first lockup. >> this is my fifth here in the penitentiary. i've been all around. i've been in the system for a while. >> soledad, tracy, jamestown, now here. >> many of these inmates are simply resigned to prison as a way of life. >> i will probably come back once or twice on a violation.
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♪ i can't shake these penitentiary state blues ♪ >> but flaco has come to the realization that hanging with a street gang does not mean lifetime loyalty. >> well, basically what it boils down to, an eye opener for me was, when i fell, when i got locked up, where were they? you know, the only people writing me, taking care of me right now is my family. all those guys, home boy this, they ain't nowhere to be found right now. you know, so what it boils down to who is really here for me right now is my family. >> and for chester reed, it's that separation from family and his wife of 32 years that is most painful. >> misery i went through inside these walls and the pain that i caused my family, it will never happen again, not in my lifetime. it hurts me just to think of the hurt that i caused those ones i did that love me, especially my wife.
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she was there all the time. and then being together for 35 years as my soulmate, i don't even like insects to bite her. that's how personal i take it. >> twice a month for the past six years, chester's wife, ruby, has flown in from texas to visit. >> one of the things about your spouse being incarcerated is that you feel so much shame. you know. we had a pretty middle-class family. i mean my daughter thought it was the perfect family. i have two adult children also and suburban home. this stuff doesn't happen in your family. when it did happen, you don't want anybody to know about it. man, for me to sit here in front of the camera and talk about it, and think that somebody else will see it, especially somebody on my job, is more than i would have ever thought. i mean my family didn't know about it for two or three years. >> what did you tell them? what did you tell your family? >> that my husband was out doing work. he was working and i was kind of fudging it, thinking, well, he was working in prison, so i'm
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not really lying. they knew that my husband would travel from time to time, so for years i covered it that way. >> everyone in life has periodically told themselves, what i do only affects me. it's not true. when you do wrong, you are incarcerated in prison, it affects everyone who loves you. >> first-time offender brian tomasello now has a greater appreciation for the little things in life. >> through this experience you learn that all the things that you took for granted, washing your clothes in a washing machine, i mean, something little maybe to you, but now to me it's going to mean everything, you know, walking to the grocery store and having multiple choices of items i want to buy or going clothes shopping or just getting in the car, going to see the beach. that's what's tough about being in prison about because everything's the same day in, day out. basically your program doesn't change. once i leave here, i'm leaving
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here, and it's going to stay behind me. i don't want nothing to do with it, you know. >> flaco came to folsom prison in his teens and hopes he can overcome the stereotype of his street gang background. >> i came to prison right when i turned 18, you know, and i'm missing the best years of my life, you know? so it opened my eyes a lot, you know what i mean? being away from my family and all that, that's the most precious thing to me is my family. you know what i mean? i'm sure that people that are going to be watching this are going to look at us and say, you guys look like criminals. they look like -- look at this guy. he has ink all over him, you know what i mean? you know, that's on them. you know what i mean? that's on them. i've got a beautiful girl in my life. she sees -- you know, when she sees all this, she don't buy it, i mean about she don't trip on it. my main priority is to get a job and just find myself a little corner, you know what i mean? do my little thing, got my girl. basically it. you know, retie all the ties in my family. that's pretty much it. stay away from old friends.
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>> the question of going straight or coming back is a question that plays out in the minds of men every day in the receiving and release unit. here there's an ebb and flow of new inmates checking into the system while other inmates are there to pack up and move on. on this day, anthony nelson is going back to his food distribution company in lake tahoe after a year in folsom. and 23-year-old jesus acosta, a gang member from east l.a., is being released after serving four months. >> first name. >> i'll see you when you come back. >> i'll see you when you come back. >> all right. >> i'll still be there. >> you never know. that's why you've got to be careful. it's kind of good to know that you'll come right back if you're not on your toes out there.
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it's easy to get in trouble. you come right back. >> will they be back? young jesus has been in prison once before. and for anthony, this was his fourth time behind bars. ♪ one day you'll find me on the main street ♪ ♪ i'll be the one who's looking square ♪ ♪ oh yeah >> if the goal of prison is to deter, punish, and rehabilitate criminals, maybe folsom is doing something right. in the past ten years, folsom inmates have provided about 1.5 million hours of community service. at that rate in a single year, the labor saves community agencies over $2.5 million. the true test is whether these
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inmates can continue using the skills they learned inside folsom to help their community once they are released. for msnbc investigates, i'm john seigenthaler due to mature subject matter, viewer discretion is advised. just trip over something? >> i don't remember, man. >> you don't remember. somebody help you fall? >> prison staff suspect an inmate is covering up his own brutal beating. >> i don't like using the same broom that everybody else uses. >> two cell mates share deeply

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