tv Lockup Raw MSNBC May 17, 2015 3:00am-4:01am PDT
due to mature subject matter, viewer discretion is advised. msnbc takes you behind the walls of america's most notorious prisons into a world of chaos and danger. now, the scenes you've never seen. "lockup: raw." ♪ daddy, are you coming home >> the lucky ones find ways to cope with it. >> you have to find something to fill up whatever void you have. >> others are haunted by it. >> it still bothers me a whole lot even today.
talking about it's got me shaking already. >> but for some, the past could return with a vengeance. >> they told me they're coming. they're going to cut all the tattoos off of me that are aryan related and basically take my life. at a typical "lockup" shoot at any one prison we might interview up to 100 inmates. many of these inmates have come to terms with their life behind bars. they really don't care anymore about the past or about the future. but every once in a while we'll meet an inmate, follow their story where the futility of their past catches up with them. and it's like a light comes on and they realize they have to change. >> behind the 40 foot walls of indiana state prison, inmates have plenty of time to think about their lives and the consequences of their actions. but some, like ronnie shephard,
turned to other activities to fill their time. >> i remember first walking by ronnie's cell and looking through the bars and seeing the paint all over the walls. the first thing i thought was, this was different. of course, that sparked a conversation, hey, what's this about? >> i got bored just the other day, so i decorated and painted my cell different. just -- i wanted it to be red so it looked like the walls was bleeding, but it's black. it looks all right, too, though. >> after two decades in prison, shephard had less than three years left on a group of convictions related to armed bank robbery. he dreamt of opening a legit tattoo parlor on the outside when he ran an elicit one on the inside. >> this is the studio right here. it depends on what you're getting. if you're getting your back done, i have you lay down. and vice versa. whatever. and i have a cell house job. i can take garbage bags, tear them open, lay them down for sterilization. >> ronnie had turned his ability
to do tattoo work into a business. he had a list of clientele. he had all the materials he needed. he kept track of everybody's schedule. and he was a walking billboard for his own tattoo artistry. >> i have all kinds of crap on me. devils and vikings. reapers and clowns. and castles. pretty much got every color you can think of. blue, black, red, yellow. i can mix colors. make lime orange and lime green and so no matter what it is you're wanting done i can do it. you really aren't decided on what it is you want, these right here are all tattoo patterns. vikings, jesus, cars. every prison flesh you can think of, i have. i've got like a seven to ten-day wait. i look at the calendar and the first chance i can get you in, is that cool with you? if it is, i'll put your name down.
>> it was interesting to talk to ronnie. because in prison everybody gets tattoos. even though it's illegal in every single prison, the fact of the matter is they manage oftentimes to get away with it. he would only show us certain things because he didn't want to get caught. >> i don't have my tattoo gun out right now. because of the lockdown. i don't know if they're going to come, shake me down. they're not going to take any of my inks or anything like that. i can order them out of the catalogs. but the only they would take them is if they found my tattoo gun. and i got it put up. >> like, where? >> a good hiding spot that they've never found it since i've been locked up. i would show it to you but then they'd know where it was at. >> like most prison ink, some of shephard's tattoos tell a story. in this case, it's about his past membership in a supremacist gang. >> i'm retired. so i'm no longer there, but i still have the tattoos. retired means you're no longer
with them, but you was honorable when you left. first chance i get, i'm covering my tattoos up. i don't want them. yeah, that was me. but i'm done with it. i'm done. you know? it's over. i'm just me now. you know? accept it or don't. >> why did you choose to leave the life? >> because it's -- it's not the life i want, you know? >> but the life shephard claimed to want was still deeply entangled in the life he used to have. the next time we saw him, shephard told us his former gang had sent him a message. they weren't accepting his retirement. >> while i'm tattooing on this guy, another guy comes up to the cell and hands me a knife. i don't think nothing of it. i put it up because we do that all the time, here hold this, here hold that.
and he tells me, be ready because we're coming for you. and i'm like, ready for what? and he pretty much basically told me that they're coming, they're going to cut all the tattoos off of me that are aryan related and basically take my life. >> not long after shephard was given the knife, correctional officers found and confiscated it. >> it's small, easily concealed, honed in, a good edge on it. this one has a little magnet on the side of it so they can stash it any place they want to. up underneath the cabinet, under the bed. up on a light fixture, a rail. it's easy to get to it so they can use it real quick. >> if they were coming to get you, why would they give you a knife? >> that's just being noble.
i mean, part of being aryan is being noble. you have to have some nobility about yourselves. so are you going to sneak up on somebody from behind their back? there's nothing noble about that. so it's coming, be ready. it may not come today. it may not come tomorrow. it may not come until next month or next year, but it's coming. you know? and you don't know who it's coming from. >> is that calculated? you don't know when but you know it's coming? >> it's more of a mind [ bleep ] this is what's going to happen. it ain't going to happen in five minutes, it ain't going to happen right now, maybe not tomorrow or next week or next month, it may be a year later. but we told you, it's coming. coming up, officials find a temporary solution for ronnie shephard's dilemma. >> this is like a dungeon in a dungeon.
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after 20 years of incarceration, ronnie shephard was down to his last 900 days at indiana state prison. but ironically, those 900 days might be tougher than the preceding 20 years. after discovering the white supremacist gang shephard had recently dropped out of ordered a hit on him, authorities decided to move shepard to a temporary cell for the weekend. >> an rtu, a residential treatment unit temporarily. until they find the unit to put you in. >> to protect him, prison officials decided to move shephard to a housing unit, separated from the general population until they could find a more permanent solution, such as a transfer to another prison. >> you said you wasn't going to tell them where i'm at? >> it won't go back to the cell
house. this will go to the unit you're going on. >> shephard will also be placed on key lock status, a measure usually meant to discipline inmates, but in this case it's to protect him. it means he'll be locked inside his cell 23 hours a day and allowed out only for a shower or supervised rec time. >> check the cell out over, make sure there ain't nothing in here. >> this is like a dungeon in a dungeon. i guess that's the price you pay before you ever kill somebody or get killed. >> ronnie's story was not an unusual one for us to encounter. we'll start following somebody's situation and then it will completely go in another direction because prison life is pretty unpredictable. and what happens is, these guys basically not only have to face the consequences of their actions outside prison, but they often have to deal with them inside prison as well. >> while prison officials developed a plan for shephard's safety, we were allowed to give
him a videocamera to record a personal diary. >> this cell that i'm currently in is not really a very nice place to be, i guess. let me show you what i'm talking about. stretch my arm out. if you see my arms to my elbow, that's one elbow. basically, one arm length long, is this cell. >> it wasn't long before shephard's thoughts returned to the white supremacist gang he had once belonged to, but now had turned on him. >> just going to take this in order for me to go home. i'm willing to endure it. i mean, put me in here. lock my door. leave me alone.
i'm going home. whoever don't like it, i don't care. i don't [ bleep ]. i'm going home. that's it, period. why would i lay in here and let you kill me, over something dumb? or do something to you over something dumb? >> shepard eventually met with prison officials to discuss his safety and even the possibility of transferring to another prison. >> how are you doing, mr. shephard? how has everything been since you've been up here? >> it's all right. i mean, it's solitary confinement, really, but if that's what i got to deal with until i go home, that's what i'm going to do. because i'm up on 900 days. and if it takes me staying in that cell until i go home to avoid all the craziness going on out there, do this or do that or get this or end up having this done to you, all that, they can keep all that. i'm going home. >> okay. i will get with internal affairs. make sure we follow up and make
sure all the paperwork is done appropriately. we'll work on making sure you get adjusted to what you need. if you need anything or something happens up here, you let me know right away. >> all right. >> okay? thanks. he has a legitimate concern, i would say almost 100% he'll be granted protective custody. and he'll probably do the rest of the time on protective custody inside the prison. >> some people can say, oh, you're soft. you're a coward. oh, you punked [ bleep ]. whatever they want to say. hey, i don't care, you know? those are words. i don't care. just wait until monday and see what internal affairs, what they want to do. hopefully they'll move me somewhere to where i don't have to worry about anything, i can go home. but if they don't, i don't know.
find out monday, i guess. >> the last time we checked on ronnie, he was safe. but he's still fearful that there could be some retaliation in the future. >> i'm not going to lay around in here and let them stab me, kill me over something stupid because somebody wants to save face. or look good. or get rank. or get their color. whatever the hell. i mean, come on, man. grow up. i'm going home. i'll send you a postcard. coming up -- >> being my sexual orientation, my gender status as far as male institution is touch and go. we're trying to just find
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man. this is crazy right here. >> when we visited california state prison corcoran for "extended stay," we came upon clarence lee as he was moving into a new cell with an old friend from the neighborhood. a place he might never see again. lee was a veteran of the crips street gang and is serving a life sentence for murder. the majority of inmates in prison belong to gangs. >> welcome into our little casa. >> lee's old friend reginald maiden who preferred to be called terry was in a distinct minority. >> go to school together. help each other with schoolwork. go to chow together.
i have no problem sitting with terry. i have no problem doing whatever with terry because i look at him as a human. i understand all of the things he went through. to others it seems like we're more than homeys because they don't understand how long i've known terry. >> terry was a very overt transgender inmate. then we meet clarence who comes off as this very strong, straight-looking guy. and because terry was constantly running into problems with his cellmates, he needed protection, for lack of a better word, and clarence was willing to offer that for terry. they characterize their relationship as two old friends. >> home sweet home, huh? >> we all grew up in compton. so terry's house was like the hangout spot. we got gang sisters. we're always hanging over there drinking, shooting dice. terry always comes over with a gang of girls. terry, who's your friend right here?
we're trying get terry to hook us up with his friends. terry starts looking more and more like his girlfriends. we're like, whoa, terry, are you gay? you really are gay? >> but maynard, serving time for felony prostitution isn't just homosexual. he's convinced he is really a woman inside a male's body. >> being my sexual orientation is touch and go. we're trying to find somebody who will want to be my cellie without all the criticism. >> transgender? >> because you're a transgender. if you live in my cell, you got to do this. i can't say that. but do this, "b" do that. clean up. wash my clothes. they try to take advantage of him and don't look at him as a person. i look at terry as a person. therefore, i treat terry as a person as i want to be treated. >> lee acknowledged there was a time in his life where he wouldn't have been so accepting.
>> years ago when i was young i probably wouldn't be sitting here. i would still be stuck with the image thing. i was really into the gang-banger scene. i was really caught up. >> lee's childhood neighborhood was riddled with gangs. and lee joined up when he was barely in his teens. >> not listening to my family. not listened to ma. thinking i knew everything. running with the wrong crowd. i put my homeys before my family. and that's all i knew was my homeys. homey this. homey that. >> lee told us, despite being shot five times and serving a prior prison sentence, he couldn't give up gang life. then, his story took a turn. it had to do with recruiting his younger brother into the gang. >> when i was growing up, i never thought i would get past 21. i want my brother to get the same exact respect i was getting from the neighborhood so, when i'm gone, my brother gets the same respect.
don't worry about bullying. just trying to run over him or the family. nowhere near my thoughts what's going to happen to him. >> while lee was locked up in corcoran, his little brother decided to turn his back on gang life, but on the streets attempting to leave your gang could lead to a death sentence. >> they walked up behind him, shot him. shot him. not only shot him. but shot him and robbed him. just left him there. my mom, she had to see that. that's the worst thing a parent can see, your own child, laying there like that. shy told me how she tried to wake him up. my mother, my sister, my little brother, my grandma trying to wake him up but he was already gone. >> lee said, at first, he couldn't believe his own gang could be responsible. >> truth came out, that ripped my heart out. i taught him everything i could teach him. but never to watch out for your
homeys. i went and straightened up for a few years. even now up to this day it's hard to believe that my little brother's gone. i write letters to him. on his birthday i write letters to him. christmas i write letters to him. >> what do you say? >> i apologize to him. i just talk to him. and as i talk to him, seems like i don't know, maybe i'm helping myself in a way to ease the pain because it's a deep pain. sometimes it's real deep. if i can turn it back right now and get my life right now, for my brother to come back, i'd do it in a heartbeat. i live my life. there's nothing here for me. that's the way i feel. there's nothing here. but it's not possible. so i can't do it, just like i say. every time i write him i'm always apologizing. i guess i'll apologize until the day i die. i know it's my fault. like a dagger that's in me, all
day, every day. >> clarence never left his gang. and he struggled with the desire to avenge his brother's death. and he talked about the fact that he would think about if the man who killed his brother ever came into prison, what he would do. >> would i let down my brother if i just forgive this? i ask myself that all the time. i try to weigh the options. i talk to my family about it, my mother. she try to tell me, don't, you know, don't even worry about it, which in a way makes me mad. because i feel she went soft on me. because i don't know how exactly i'm going to control myself if i see who do this. i hope i do the right thing. i hope i do. but i don't know. i really, really don't know. coming up -- >> my first impression of lawrence stall was that he doesn't fit.
>> i didn't even hunt. i didn't kill nothing. i was john denver all the way. >> an inmate attempts to deal with a murderous past. and help on experian.com. so how are we going to sweeten this deal? floor mats... clear coats... >>you're getting warmer... leather seats... >>and this... my wife bought me that. get your credit swagger on. become a member of experian credit tracker and find out your fico score powered by experian. fico scores are used in 90% of credit decisions. american express for travel and entertainment worldwide. just show them this - the american express card. don't leave home without it!
now it's easier than ever to manage your account. get started at xfinity.com/myaccount reports of some power outages in oklahoma tonight after powerful tornados rolled through the state. it there are no major injuries at this time. storms are moving across parts of texas, nebraska, and minnesota. amtrak in response to deadly derailment in philadelphia. they expanded the use of the speed restriction in the area where the derailment took place. now it's back to "lock up." due to mature subject matter, viewer discretion is advised. most of the old-timers we've interviewed in prison have learned how to deal with the
consequences of their past. they've come up with distractions to really take their mind off of their crimes. but sometimes our very presence in a prison can change all of that. >> lawrence stall has spent the last two decades in prison. most of it at the holman correctional facility in alabama and sometimes it seems to have been just as long since he's heard the sound of his real name. >> they call me red top. >> hey, redtop. >> they call me redtop. they call me ringating red. >> is there one you prefer? >> none. i just answer to them all. i've learned to answer to them all over the years. >> stall began serving his sentence 28 years earlier, when he was 22 years old. >> back when i first came here there was a lot of violence. >> was it scary? were you scared a lot? >> scared to death. >> my first impression of lawrence stall was that he
doesn't fit. he didn't fit in those surroundings. i think that's initially what brought us to him. he looked a little meek. the red hair. the glasses. he looked more like a college professor, versus an inmate. >> the social system in here is totally different. it's nothing like the free world. it's a totally different world, you know? i mean, it's like moving to japan and not knowing japanese, you know? you know, you're lost. and that's how i'd be now if i got out. i'd be lost. >> due to a fatal action he took as a much younger man, it is unlikely stall will ever get out. in 1981, he was convicted for the murders of two grocery store employees. stall claims he was high on pcp, when he and a co-defendant intercepted the employees on the way to the bank. >> we picked them up, took them
out to a wooded area, and they were killed. >> how did they die? >> them got shotgunned. shot. >> in their confessions, stall and his co-defendant claimed the other pulled the trigger. in the end they each received life sentences. but stall's sentence went beyond what was handed down by the judge. >> it's not something i like to talk about a lot. i can talk about it more now, but it still bothers me a whole lot, even today. uh -- yeah. in fact, just talking about it, i don't know if i can. i don't know if i can do this. >> for me, lawrence stall was a rare experience doing "lockup." he truly and genuinely seemed remorseful about his crime. >> talking about it has me shaking already.
>> he had such a difficult time talking about it that it was a little surprising to me. >> it's something that you never get over. i was the type -- i didn't even hunt. i didn't kill nothing. i was about -- i was john denver all the way. you know? i think about it often. you know? i do. but to live in here, to live in here, to be honest, i had to put it out of my mind. that's the only way you can deal with it. only way i can deal with it. >> it was interesting for me to watch how lawrence chose to deal with the vast amount of time he had to serve. he was very involved in the leather shop. and then he also had these little rocks on to which he would paint these intricate and elaborate tableaus. >> that mountain scene right there on the back of this one. purple mountain majesty thing, you know?
it's time consuming but it is tedious. >> everything was very tiny. so the amount of time and focus and energy it took him to do each one of these rocks must have been immense. >> i'm going to do a yoda. a yoda on one of them, for a friend of mine. >> though stall looked for distractions in prison, he wasn't completely unwilling to face the consequences of his actions. during our stay at holman, he decided to participate in a victims empathy class the prison conducts for those convicted of murder. though the guest speaker was in no way connected to stall's victim, she might as well have been. >> well, this afternoon we're really honored to have pat tuthill with us. she is a surviving victim of a really horrible crime. her daughter's name is peyton. and her daughter was murdered eight years ago. >> and i have to tell all of you, i didn't know how i'd feel about being here today.
she was 23. at noon, she went to her house to let out her little puppy dog and go back to work. and someone had broken into her apartment. and there, all of his rage came out. she fought. she fought very hard. her body was bruised. and he left her tied up. and he left. and peyton was able to escape and freed herself. and she was almost downstairs. and he came back in the house. and there, she was tortured. she screamed. she fought. he finally decided to cut her wrist off so she couldn't fight him anymore. she fought. and you know what? i have felt like it was my fault that she fought because i always taught my kids, you're never a quitter.
you never quit. if you fail at something, you get up and you try it again. you do it a different way. but we can't quit life. we can't quit. and i thought, if i would not have taught her that, maybe she wouldn't have fought so hard. i came here and thought i would yell and scream at everybody. tell everybody how much i hated them, but that's not who i am because i don't. i don't have hate in my heart. and i have faith and hope that because i've come here today, that maybe one of you, one person, will reach out to someone in your life to give them hope. to make a difference.
>> filming with miss tuthill was one of the most difficult things i've experienced up to that point, and even through the next five, six prisons that we've been in. and i remember how emotional it was. and out of all the inmates that were in that session, lawrence was the first one to speak up. >> i want to thank you for coming. >> lawrence was visibly affected by mrs. tuthill. when the two of them spoke, what was so interesting to me was lawrence wanted to make her feel better. >> you know, you said you couldn't protect her. i don't believe that. i believe you protected her and it was just someone else's violence that caused what happened. you protected her more than you knew. and you're still protecting her today, doing this. giving of yourself to people who don't deserve it.
>> she took comfort in what lawrence was saying. and i think it made him feel somewhat better to be able to give her some type of comfort. >> thank you. thank you. >> thank you. >> but i also think her sharing of that story helped lawrence get in touch with the people he had victimized. >> lawrence, how were you changed by miss tuthill's talk? >> um, i don't -- i just -- i don't know how -- i don't know how to explain it. i really don't. it's deeper than words can ever be said. i don't know if i'll ever -- if i'll ever have that kind of opportunity. and just to be honest, i don't know if i want it. it scares me. i mean, there's nothing i can really say to my victims to ease
any kind of pain, but like now, bringing it back up brings it all back up. you know? i guess i kind of pushed back for a moment. but it's always there. just the choices you make. and i made bad choices. that's all there is to it. coming up, a 13th century castle houses one of the most infamous criminals in the czech republic. >> did anyone go into a barrel alive? retirement? i don't want to think about the alternative. i don't even know how to answer that. i mean, no one knows how long their money is going to last. i try not to worry, but you worry. what happens when your paychecks stop? because everyone has retirement questions. ameriprise created the exclusive confident retirement approach. to get the real answers you need. start building your confident retirement today.
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>> i remember we went into this beautiful little village of mirov. it was like being transported into another time. it was beautiful and quaint. there were none of the trappings i'm used to, billboards, advertisement, fast food places. then on top of a mountain was this gorgeous old castle and that was mirov prison. >> inside this fairytale-like 13th century castle we had an encounter with a man whose life was anything but a fairytale. his name was vladimir kuna. >> i heard a lot about vladimir kuna when i got to mirov prison. he was one of the most notorious inmates housed there. because he was such a high profile inmate he had to be taken into a specific cell before we were able to go in and interview him. so there was this big buildup about his notorious crimes. the violence. he was like a character out of
"goodfellas." when i started talking to vladimir, i was a little surprised. he was a very calm, gentle guy. he was relaying his situation to me. >> translator: i was living a double life. it was awful for me. it's like watching a horror movie on tv then you're actually living it. >> kuna was serving 25 years for his role as an accomplice in a bizarre organized crime plot that was so infamous that it inspired five books and a czech feature film. it also resulted in five murders, including kuna's mother. >> translator: as far as my own personal story is concerned, i should start at the beginning. i grew up without a father. and i had friends, older ones. and one of those older friends became my curse in this case.
>> kuna claims his strange journey into hell began when a childhood friend, turned crooked cop, murdered a man in his home and then demanded kuna help cover it up. >> translator: and because my family lived in the house where that happened, that was my daughter and wife. he actually threatened me by saying if i didn't cooperate that he would kill both me and them. so it happened that i cooperated with him. >> according to kuna, his role in the plot was limited to getting rid of two of the bodies. he did so by stuffing them into barrels and welding the top shut and dumping them into a reservoir. >> did anyone go into a barrel alive? before they were thrown into the -- >> translator: no, no, no, absolutely not. and we didn't cut them up, either. the bodies were whole. >> he claimed his co-conspirators were so serious about harming his wife and
daughter that he murdered his mother. >> translator: he mailed an explosive to my mother and it killed my mother. >> czech news reports say he was involved in the plot to kill his mother to gain an inheritance but kuna denies that. >> translator: i just wasn't able to protect her. i could have protected her if i had gone to the police at that time. but you can't go back and undo it. once it was set in motion it was like being on a plane and not being able to jump off. the only thing i can take comfort in is the fact that nothing happened to my daughter. even though i missed out on her childhood, and of course i regret that. >> kuna's daughter was 6 years old when he entered prison 14 years earlier and he counts his loss of his relationship with her among the many consequences he's dealt with. >> translator: i was planning on hanging myself. i spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself.
but then i started to think, it's the wrong way to think because why should i feel sorry for myself when actually a lot of people were hurt? and the people whose lives can't be returned and the victims and their relatives as well? and it just made me feel very sorry. these are things that can't be undone. but ever since then, i believe that the soul is immortal. and that helped me to come to terms with the idea that perhaps even the dead will be born again into a new life. >> but kuna was still making the most of his life. even behind the ancient walls of mirov prison. he had recently remarried. this time to a woman he met through an inmate pen pal program. >> translator: with this hell i've gone through, my life values were completely reversed. i realized that some kind of property and money and all that means nothing, compared to a healthy love. a person's health and love of life. i was aware of that. even when those things were
happening. but you realize it in here. when you're locked up in iron and concrete. without being able to go out in nature and live with the one you love. it really gets to you here. and then, then you really see what kind of person you are. coming up -- ♪ who are we to stand in judgment ♪ >> two inmates find a bit of meaning amidst the crumbling walls of san quentin. >> some people might look at this as being very ugly. it's like looking at somebody and saying, this ain't the most beautiful person, but this person got character. curity. it's how you stay connected to each other and to your customers. with centurylink you get advanced technology solutions, including an industry leading broadband network, and cloud and hosting services -
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francisco bay. surrounded by city but shrouded in a mystique that's fed by its fortress-like architecture and an infamous history, dating back to 1852. >> the first time i walked into san quentin it looked like a place time forgot. it was like a prison you see in one of these old movies. the walls were crumbling. it was very dark. very depressing. the cells were stacked on each other, one by one, packed with people. it had the most creepy feel you could possibly imagine. >> while san quentin produces images that are haunting to some, there are others who find inspiration beneath its facade. >> the most interesting part about this that i see is the weeds that's growing up out of the cracks. and it's, you know -- i always find that interesting because you got life that always seems to push up.
>> when we met ronny goodman he was in the seventh year of a ten-year sentence for burglary. >> i started drawing when i was 6 or 7 years old. my cousin, he drew a picture of batman. and i was like, what is that? you know? it was like a magic trick. and then he started teaching me how to draw and after that i just, i never stopped. >> unfortunately, goodman's love of art wasn't enough to save him on the outside. >> i started using drugs. i started being self-destructive. didn't care, you know, about who i am as a human being. was basically homeless. and was struggling with life in general. >> but in prison goodman rediscovered his passion. >> a friend of mine told me, since you're in prison, why don't you create work that's pertaining to your life? i was kind of like just fighting
it. i'm in prison. why do i want to do anything about that? i'm like, man, it's bad enough that i'm here. i don't like being here. so -- he said see what comes out of it. this is a scene in san quentin prison that is really the main access to the upper yard, which is going up to north block. and you're coming down the steps. you know, you get this feeling like you're walking into time going up and down these steps. i just capture a lot of the character of san quentin. some people might look at this as being very ugly. it's like looking at somebody and saying, this ain't the most beautiful person, but this person got character. and to me, if you got character, that creates a beauty in its own.
i'm painting what i see, what i go through, where i pass. there's beauty in things that you might not really see. whatever makes you feel better, you have to know how to use that as a tool. whether you're in prison or out of prison, you still got to make due with life. you have to do something to fill up whatever void you have. in another part of san quentin, joe askey practices his art. and his choice of location just outside death row is no accident. ♪ there's a woman fighting tears back on the table ♪ ♪ doctor's just removed his gloves ♪ ♪ she couldn't bear to have a baby being single ♪ ♪ she couldn't bear to give it up ♪
>> the spot has special significance for askey, who is serving 25 years to life, under california's three strikes law. >> i almost killed somebody during a burglary back in 1985. if they would have died, i may have been up there. that's pretty heavy right there. ♪ on a cold december morning a million miles out to sea ♪ ♪ stare down at a letter from my wife and kids to me ♪ >> why do you write such sad songs? >> i don't know. i don't know, actually. i really don't have an answer for that. they feel good to write, though. they really do. ♪ and a letter from home saying how they miss me every day ♪ >> life's about emotion. i think we're all related emotionally, all of us. ♪ how much longer will i have to stay ♪ i think before i came to prison
in '85, i didn't relate. i didn't feel like i related. just with human beings, you know? which is probably why i was able to do what i did. almost killed somebody during a burglary. ♪ they say time's been healing broken hearts probably since the first beating ♪ >> relationships may have been an effort for askey, but he has struggled to maintain one in particular, with his daughter, lauren. >> she's 21 now. and she's trying to make a singing career, actually. she's so intelligent and so compassionate. and so many things. so many wonderful things, actually. >> but askey has rarely been able to enjoy his daughter's musical talent. >> i don't have a tape of her or anything. i haven't heard her sing. except for the time she came over here, that was the first time. about four years ago she came up during a christmas festival thing. it was the first time. she was 17 years old.
it was the first time i got to play guitar with her. and sing in front of the audience. boy, that was a moment because i had never even really just sat there with a guitar, you know, with her before. all this kind of good stuff just makes me feel like a real moron, you know? i let my kid down and everybody. family. everybody loved me. everybody still does. but it's weird. it's heavy. it's as heavy as my music, man. it really is. ♪ words just can't explain the emptiness i felt ♪ ♪ the loneliness and pain ♪ i thought of just how long it's been and wonder if i'd ever see my family again ♪
>> due to mature subject matter viewer discretion is advised. >> msnbc takes you behind the walls of america's most notorious prisons. into a world of chaos and danger. now, the scenes we've never seen. "lockup: raw." >> with "lockup" we film in some of the toughest prisons in america. and every time we send a crew out to a maximum security prison you never know what might happen with regards to violence. whether it's a stabbing, or whether it's a fight in the yard, or even a riot