tv Lockup Raw MSNBC December 13, 2015 4:00am-4:31am PST
her mom flew up to meet me the first thing she said was, how in the hell do you speak portuguese so good? it's a grinding wheel. everything here is a rut. it's a circle. it's a death trap. >> it's like a tomb. a concrete tomb. >> it's fun to break the law and dance with the devil, but see, when you got to pay the fiddler, it ain't nothing nice. >> msnbc takes you behind the wall of america's most notorious prisons, into a world of chaos and danger. now the scenes you've never seen. "lockup: raw."
>> in prison, the term hard time can mean many different things. it can be an inmate who will never see freedom again. or an inmate who's doing solitary confinement for years at a time. our crews have seen numerous examples of what it's like to do hard time. but there's one story in particular that seems like it came straight out of a movie. >> every weekday morning just after sunrise, a group of inmates at the elaine hunt correctional center in louisiana prepares for a grueling day of farming the fields adjacent to the prison. >> 63 acres of vegetable gardens that we grow vegetables on. anything from squash, tomatoes, mustard greens, collard greens. >> supervised by armed officers on horse back, and earning 2
cents an hour for their labor, the inmates harvest more than a million pounds of crops a year. all of it used at the prison. but this particular work detail forces staff to be especially vigilant. >> knowing that they have tools, that they could easily use as weapons, and they have done it before. it makes you watch your back. keeps you on your toes. because you never know what could happen. you could take one of the -- one of the best guys and he decides that he doesn't like you and he wants to take you out. >> see, when you get it like this, like that razor blade there. i learned that sharpening the knives on the floor. >> joel baker has three life sentences and a nickname. it's white trash. >> the judge gave me my name, it was kind of ironic. with sentencing, three murders, drug deal gone bad, shootout,
they shot me, i shot them. the judge says in the final summation in the final verdict, you are nothing, mr. baker, but a pebble in the pond. you are nothing but poor white trash. all my life i was a bad boy. i look back and i see all the stupid mistakes that i made, and i see the young people that are here at this prison, and i hear all the stories because i listen, and i think to myself, you do not know how fortunate you are. you're going out there with another chance. five years, ten years or what. you're getting another chance. i'll never get that chance. i would give my leg, my arm, for that chance. i'm never going get it. i'm going to die right here. >> clean the front, all that grass out in front. >> it's fun to break the law and dance with the devil, but, see, when you got to pay the fiddler, it ain't nothing nice. trust me. i'm living it. i'm living it.
>> when it comes to serving hard time, white trash baker is hardly alone. >> myself, i got 35 to life, on a three strikes case in the mid '80s, burglary and attempted burglary. i did four years for it. those are strike one and strike two. in 1996, i caught a drug charge, a methamphetamine charge and fell under california's three strikes and you're out law. i ended up getting a sentence of 35 years to life. >> aaron yost was 11 years into the latest sentence when we met him in kern valley state prison in california. he says his problems stem from a near lifelong abuse of drugs. >> i grew up with drugs. my parents were quote, unquote, hippies. both my parents dropped acid. my mom's dead now from a dug overdose. when i was 9 years old, i was rolling joints for mom and dad. >> yost's life is now largely
confined to this cell, he shares with another inmate. >> i'm not comfortable like this. i don't like men. i like women. and to me it's disgusting. i'm still irritated. if i wake up in the morning, i'm agitated because i have to live with another man. >> now the closest yost comes to female companionship is his tattoos, some of which too graphic to show on television. >> that's all i dream about. that's all i got. >> i remember when we met aaron, the man was absolutely tattooed. just incredibly inked. if one word describes him, it's intense. just full of energy. i remember when my producer asked him, what's the daily routine. he started right in on telling us what it was all about. >> one person gets down, the bunk down, come over, do your business. wipe the sink out. this has to be pristine. this has to be clean.
the inside. see how i'm playing in the toilet, this is clean. i could wash my face in it, we keep everything that clean. we don't live like pigs. we're not animals. everything is spotless. that's why everything's so shiny. there's etiquette, you don't do this, you know what i mean? see, i have to pass gas, i don't fart in the cell. i'll sit on the [ bleep ] and hit the button. that way -- you're so contained every little smell is offensive. it's hell. it's constant pressure every day. it's like an animal in a cage. you get poked, prodded, not just by staff, but by everybody. everything's -- everything's a challenge. this is a place where evil lives, you know? >> though he seemed eager to express himself, yost later told our producer that giving this interview put him at risk with other inmates. >> because there's repercussions. because i'm talking, i'm giving an interview. because i could be considered a
rat, you follow what i'm saying? for giving up information, game, for explaining what it is in here. >> we saw what aaron meant like that. we took him out to a more common area of the prison and one of his neighbors began questioning him about what he was talking about. and i just kept rolling. >> what it was like in the cell. you know what i mean? what it's like to live in here. you know what i mean? some of the laws. you know, the seals, this is a new prison. how it's a smash army. >> emotional -- >> oh, man too much. i probably spend half an hour in there. the agony of what it is in here. the torture, the poke, the prod. the constant, you know what i mean, the frustration. feel like you can't release. how do people release frustration? you drive. you build your bodies, you build your muscles, you tattoo, you do all that stuff. >> if you kept it like that the whole time, i'll support you. >> prison is predatory, prison is evil. everyone in here runs on base emotions. very few people think with a higher intellect how to do stuff
or about how to be. >> yourself included? is that how you operate? how do you operate in here? >> well, there's people that would tell you how i operate in here. i'm sure lots of people would tell you that they don't approve of how i operate. >> those people include the correctional staff who not only believe yost is a dangerous inmate, but that he's the leader of a white supremacist gang. >> here, yost. seen him out there? in the yard? watch for him. watch out for that dude. watch his movement. we found information, we received a kite saying that if yost gets three feet next to this guy, he's going to hit him. he's going to hit him. >> what's my role here? i'm an [ bleep ]. >> their mind i'm a [ bleep ] you know? i'm constantly agitating them and they're constantly agitating me and i won't quit.
>> ultimately, yost may not have a choice. >> time's ticking, i'm sick from hepatitis c virus from shooting dope for 20 years. the treatment that i've been on for a year and a half isn't working. my liver is in stage two. i'm tired. you know. i can't get no expression out. all my family's died one by one. >> what is your future? >> death. what's yours? death. >> next, on "lockup: raw." ♪ it's been 18 long years in the so-co prison ♪ >> one inmate's way of dealing. >> every year i change the amount of years it's been since i've been in prison. still be pain.ll it comes when your insurance company says they'll only pay three quarters of what it takes to replace it. what are you supposed to do? drive three quarters of a car? now if you had liberty mutual new car replacement,
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at the brushy mountain correctional complex in tennessee, we met an inmate who knows something about serving hard time. brian lautenschlager is serving a 90-year sentence for armed robbery and attempted murder. >> i've been here so long. >> how long have you been here? >> in prison, altogether, 18 years. come in when i was 18, come out when i was 24, back when i was 25, now back, i'm 36, going on 37. >> along with working out, there's one other way he copes. ♪ i was 18 years old when they sent me to prison ♪
♪ all away from my home in east tennessee ♪ ♪ still see the tears my darlin' was crying as she whispered i love you said she'd wait for me ♪ >> when i first come to prison, you know, i had a girlfriend, and she was telling me how she's going to wait on me and all this. and things change. and -- i -- i'm still in here, and she's gone. ♪ it's been 18 long years in the so-co prison ♪ ♪ sometimes i feel so all alone ♪ ♪ i lost a girl that i loved to the arms of a stranger ♪
♪ the only home i know is surrounded by stone ♪ it's a sense of freedom, you know? it frees my mind. i'm not thinking about brushy mountain or prison, you know? ♪ i'm lonesome and blue, that's all i can say ♪ ♪ i'm lonesome and blue, that's all i can say ♪ it's no cover fines, it's been a while since i had written it. every year i change the amount of years that i have been in prison. next on "lockup: raw." >> it's like a tomb. a concrete tomb. >> they're considered the worst of the worst. >> the sky, the residues and sunlight, but it's fading away like butter on cornbread. >> but these inmates have found an icon to relate to. >> that's -- that's almost like something shakespeare himself
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in many of america's maximum security prisons, there are three letters that strike fear in the hearts of inmates, s-h-u. the shu. it stands for secured housing unit. and like a prison within a prison, these units house the worst of the worst. >> mostly assault, intimidations, threatenings. whether it be on staff or inmates that land them in here. so these are -- these are not the good guys. >> when we visited the shu at indiana's wabash valley correctional facility, the staff made it clear, absolute control is the top priority. >> your quietest day in the shu can be your worst day in the shu in two seconds. some of the challenges we face are the threat of being gunned down here, or as we have in here.
having feces or urine thrown on you. spit, blood, semen, anything you can think of has happened in this building. >> but for inmates in the shu, the monotony breeds a horror of its own. they told us what it was like to spend 23 hours a day in a windowless concrete cell. sometimes for years at a time. >> you're always trying to find a way to come up for air. the place suffocates you. you know what i'm saying? >> it's a tone, for me, you know? it's like the tomb. it's like a tomb, a concrete tomb. >> what if they sent these punk ass dudes against and he would have succeeded in killing them -- >> during our first day on the shu we walked into a heated exchange about murder. >> the killer. so what you saying the killer? you say -- >> but it wasn't about prison violence. >> saying macbeth sent him. >> here's what i'm saying. >> it was about shakespeare. >> what was really bizarre,
one cell, completely unannounced, mentioned shakespeare, and the offender started quoting from shakespeare. had no idea that this was coming and that's how shakespeare in the shu was born. >> and they're going against banroll. >> still did not answer the question about the third murder. >> i guess you can look at him as being like -- >> the program has inmates rewrite shakespeare in a way that reflects their own experiences. during our shoot the group was working on macbeth, a play about ambition, assassination, and a warlord's lust for power. >> i took macbeth to the streets and what he did, he went, to the hood, to the housing projects, you know, guys that don't got none, and he used nobody's. nobody's know. >> leon benson, serving 60 years for murder, read one of his passages to the group. >> you read my eyes, i was pressed for him because of my special preparations for tonight's special feast.
>> i really like the metaphor you used, you read my eyes like parables. that's almost something like shakespeare himself would write. so i really like that. >> i'm from the hood you know. not to separate the hood from anything else, because the hood commercial now, whatever, right? but shakespeare was something, you know, i never thought that i would experience in my life. since i came into contact with shakespeare, i see a lot of those parallels that correlate with urban life. >> essentially macbeth and the rest of the characters are committing either immoral, unethical or criminal acts. we would say criminal acts. that's what we're in here for, committing criminal acts. it's made me more introspective. >> man, a sky has the residues of sunlight, but faded away like butter on cornbread. it should be approaching in a moment. >> macbeth is getting rid of them, that's how he keeps his hands clean. he's going to have the lower
ranking ones do the job for him so he don't have to. >> just days before our shoot, in mate iris white had completed a 3 1/2 year shu term, and had been transferred to general population. he was allowed to return to the shu to finish his work on the script. now he gets to join this group of general population inmates, who will bring the script to life. >> it was really funny, because some of the inmates were playing witches in macbeth, kind of dancing around, these big old guys, big, dangerous, scary-looking guys going whoo! [ laughter ] >> an all-male cast is something we need to get accustomed to. we're not used to it. the population isn't used to seeing them playing women, and
yet that's the way shakespeare's plays were originally done. >> your authority, it is i hecatie with an awesome sight. bow down and acknowledge my might. it has by magical words i shall give the illusions of spirits with much nerve -- >> as the actors were performing, i looked over my shoulder and i noticed iris was silently reciting every word of the play. so i just focused the camera on him and i thought it was pretty cool that he was getting to see his own words come to life and enjoying it so much. >> he shall bury it. i tell you hags that this is -- >> hey! [ applause ] >> this is the first time i have seen him when he was speaking, i knew everything. i knew the words as he was saying it, right?
it's crazy to hear it, to see the words come to life. make you want to continue to do it. it's like art imitates life. oh, man, it looked good, i like it. they did good. i want to see some more of it, though. >> for iris white, the playwright, it was the first time he had seen a performance of it, and he was really happy. so it was, you know, like the greatest day of his life. >> but white's elation was not to last. the day ended in bitter disappointment. >> and then an hour later he got into a fight in the yard and got busted and sent back to the shu. so it shows how fast things can fall apart, even when things are going good, prison can take it all away from you. >> it's the law, for every action there's a reaction. so i can relate to macbeth, you know, by the choices he made, you know, he predicted his punishment. some of us made mistakes, our choices was mistakes.
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