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tv   Lockup  MSNBC  January 23, 2016 9:00pm-10:01pm PST

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the north. but we are still looking at that threat for snow and blizzard warnings continue until 7:00 tomorrow morning. dara? >> thanks, bonnie. and check this out. it's what roughly two feet of snow looks like after falling in a span of just 24 hours. this time lapse taken in pennsylvania. from philly to new york city, thousands of flights remain grounded. for now, it's back to "lockup." due to mature subject matter, viewer discretion is advised. there are 2 million people behind bars in america. we open the gates, "lockup." >> you get close to somebody, but you can't trust that person because that person might be the one to stab you. >> down here on the floor, one of the inmates was actually brutally burned. >> you step back to the door. >> they can smell fear, especially in a female. >> this system needed a wake-up call. i broke my tv, made a couple shanks and assaulted them.
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>> i was covered from my neck down with blood. >> i have heard and i've seen what he's done to other officers. >> i would just like to get on with my life and get my freedom back. >> one of the greatest challenges facing prison officials across the country is protecting the safety of both inmates and officers in an extremely predatory environment. with many facilities overcrowded and understaffed, that task can be difficult, if not impossible. in the next hour on "lockup," we'll go beyond the scenic desert landscape to the penitentiary of new mexico, a prison that is battling to overcome a long history of violence. just 15 miles away from the art galleries and shops of santa fe, a concrete fortress looms above the horizon, surrounded by double razor wire fences. housing more than 800 inmates, the penitentiary of new mexico
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is the state's highest security prison. >> we have pretty much the worst of the worst inmates in the state of new mexico. a number of the inmates that have been convicted of first degree murder. >> they got a lot of psychos too who just don't give a [ bleep ], doing life sentences. >> the prison's history is notorious. many of the most violent events took place in a facility called the old main. >> inmates had to prove themselves just to survive. >> you had almost 1,200 inmates in that facility that was built for 750. >> you have people living on top of each other, pushing each other. and i mean, there was a lot of tension. >> carlos cervantes was first brought to this prison in 1975. >> there was a lot of harshness as far as punishment. back then you had a hall, which they called the hold, which was a prison cell with nothing but a hole in the middle, and they would throw you in there butt
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naked. >> tired of the overcrowding and abuse inside the prison, inmates reached their boiling point on february 2nd, 1980. what ensued was one of the deadliest prison riots in u.s. history. inmate carlos cervantes saw it all happen. >> it was like a bomb exploding, it just went off and the whole prison system was taken over, the whole facility. >> for 36 hours, the riot raged out of control. finally, when national guardsmen entered the facility, they found the interior in ruins. 8 officers and over 100 inmates were injured. 33 prisoners were dead. cell block 4 is where rampaging inmates took their revenge on informers held in protective
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custody. >> a lot of people that were considered rats and so on and so forth were housed here. and one of the inmates was actually brutally burned, and down here on the floor is the area where he was burned, and it doesn't matter what we've done to try to cover that up. we've tried floor wax, stripper with industrial paint, we've painted gray, battleship gray paint over it, and it just keeps resurfacing to the top. within a month and a half this whole burn mark would be back on the surface of the paint again. >> this is an area here where an inmate actually got chopped up with an ax. so just things that are almost very, very difficult to eradicate. and what you see here on the floor is just indentures and ligature marks from where the ax actually went through the body and carved into the floor. >> as a result of the riots,
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state courts issued a decree dictating higher standards for inmate care. but instead of creating a peaceful environment for inmates, they continued to be disruptive and started forming gangs within the prison. >> the prison gangs really started after the prison riot. >> the people have divided themselves up because of that riot. no one wants to get caught alone in stuff like that, and there was a lot of hate still, a lot of anger, resentment, a lot of racism. >> major dean lopez started working in the prison in 1982 two years after the riot. >> we were being scrutinized left and right, and the facility itself promulgated an attitude, one of i really don't care. i'll kill you in a heartbeat, and i don't really care. and that's what we had to combat almost every single day we walked in here. i would walk in and those gates would slam and automatically the hair on the back of my neck would stand up. and it wouldn't lay down until the gates slammed again and i walked out of that place.
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>> in 1988 while on a routine count, officer dean lopez was taken hostage. >> this was the north side of the unit. i had let the porter out to get his cleaning supplies and he had a broom head in the back of his pants. well, he pulled that out, he smacked me. and by the time i turned around, the other three guys were actually coming running towards me. i was actually held inside this closet, and one of the inmates, we were sitting down, and he actually had a knife, homemade knife at my throat here and another one at my chest here. i had two male officers that were up here in the first part of this unit, which is this one right here. we had another officer who happened to be a female officer who was all the way in the back of the units doing a unit check at the time that i got taken. the female officer all the way in the back of the unit was the only one that heard the noise that was made at that time and actually went down to check up on me. the other inmates came out and chucked a piece of broomstick at her.
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she slammed the door shut and made the alert, and that's when they actually found out that i was being held hostage. >> shortly after the alert, a rescue squad made its move. >> thank god for the warden at that time because he actually did what he had to do and got me out of this place alive. you can actually see some of the old bullet holes when they came in and shot this place up to get me out. i used to think i was the biggest, baddest thing that walked the earth, and i realized at that point, you know what i mean, that i was just as human as anybody else. thereafter the incident, for about a month and a half straight, i had nightmares every time i closed my eyes, and i just felt, you know what? i'm either going to come back and face this or i'm going to live with it for the rest of my life. at that point i called the chief of security at that time, the major, i told him i'm ready to come back on one condition. he says, well, what's that? i said that you put me right back in the basement where i got taken hostage. so that next night, i came in, came in, worked down here.
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and i actually got the first good night's sleep in a month and a half. >> due to uncontrollable violence, rising operation costs and the slow deterioration of the main facility, prison officials closed the old building, and inmates were moved into newer facilities on the compound in 1998. it marked the beginning of a safer and more stable environment at the penitentiary. >> in comparison to the past experiences that this department has endured, there is a drastic change for the better. we have controlled the prison. the violence levels have been decreased immensely. the department is a lot safer for the staff and the inmates and everybody that is interacting with the department. next on "lockup." >> had that guy not been there to save him, i probably would have killed him. >> we'll take you into level 6, the maximum security unit where the worst of the worst do their time. then, woosh, it's gone. i swear i saw it swallow seven people.
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seven. i just wish one of those people could have been mrs. johnson. [dog bark] trust me, we're dealing with a higher intelligence here. ♪ the all-new audi q7 is here. ♪
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we live in this place every day by ourselves. but it's survival in here. you get close to somebody, but you can't trust that person because that person might be the one to stab you, you know, and get you raped or something. >> the penitentiary of new mexico in santa fe confines its most ruthless criminals on level 6, the maximum security unit. these 288 inmates pose such a serious threat to staff and other inmates, that they are locked up in solitary cells for 23 hours a day. >> level 6 traditionally and today is the hardest place to work. i would say probably in the whole state of new mexico. >> deputy warden joni brown oversees the day-to-day operation of level 6. >> there are 48 inmates on each side of the unit. two officers dealing with them on a daily basis. >> inmates placed here range from gang leaders to hyperaggressive inmates who have assaulted officers or other
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inmates, often repeatedly. >> they are faced with dealing with inmates that are just irrational, that are dangerous, that are impatient, that will do violent, nasty things. >> one of the officers' toughest problems has been joe sears, who has been locked up for more than 20 years on a rape conviction. >> joe sears was part of the aryan brotherhood. one of the big boys in that faction, let's say. >> joe sears was arrogant. he had something to prove. no problem getting in your face at any time. >> he has not adapted well to the lockup setting. the system has made him very hard. >> this place, what it does is it builds up a lot of frustration and anger and stuff in you because of the environment that you've been placed in, you know? you don't have much jobs, don't have much education programming here. don't have much recreation.
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we're isolated with everything. we are isolated in our cell. we come out here to the rec area, and we're isolated. i try to do the right things, but there have been times, yes, that i got into a fight over certain things. >> i myself had many a run-ins with inmate sears. had to lock him up out of population several times. >> the only conversation that we really are -- or social contact that we really have or anything, as you can see, is yelling. i've had to do things i didn't want to have to do, you know, beating people up and stuff. i was a young kid then. i'm older now. i was 16 years old when i got busted, and they waited till i turned 17 and tried me as an adult. maybe if i had stayed at home and ate dinner with my parents and things like that and listened to my mother or my sister when she said, mom is worried, and you never stay at home anymore, and you're always out partying with your friends, and you care about them more and so on, things like that, well,
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if i hadn't been doing that and i was staying at home, you know, maybe i would have grown up to be a mechanic. maybe i would have been a guy with three or four kids right now, a lovely wife, a pretty wife, a home. i would have something, you know? i have none of those things, you know, because as the road, the path, that i took. >> joe sears is 42. he will be eligible for parole in 2009 if he can keep his behavior in check. >> i don't plan on making this my life. i don't want to. you know, i have the chance to get out, and i don't want to be one of the guys stuck in here forever because it is a hard life to live. >> you know, the time that he's done has kind of worn him down. he's lost a lot of weight. mentally he's not as sure of himself as he was. >> they're telling me that as long as i do good and stay out of trouble and stuff, that i will advance into the program something on to a level 5. so that's what i'm waiting for now.
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>> level 5 is the special control facility where prisoners are allowed more time out of their cells. jesus garcia used to be housed there until he attacked an officer. >> i broke my tv, made a couple shanks and assaulted him. >> when officer aaron bell got a security alert, he raced to the scene to help his fellow officers. >> i remember running into the pod, and there's an inmate in between both of them, and they were both being stabbed. >> they were slashed around the head, neck, came very close to the jugular on one of the officers. >> i hit the inmate, tried to get him by his arm, i slipped. and i didn't realize when i slipped, it was all blood. >> it took a couple of minutes before we got other officers in there to respond, pull jesus off and get medical attention to the officers. >> i was covered from basically my neck down with blood. it wasn't the inmate's blood. it was my fellow officer's blood.
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>> had that guy not been there to save him, i probably would have killed him. i mean, who's to say? if he would have died, would i have felt bad or had remorse? maybe, maybe. >> a year later, aaron bell is the only officer involved in the incident who remains in the prison. one of the other officers requested a transfer to a different facility, and the third is still recovering from his injuries. since the assault on the officers, the penitentiary has instituted stringent new security protocols, including regular strip searches and a metal detector known as the boss chair. >> checking his foot for any metal. checking here his back. here on top, it will check his mouth and cheeks, his jaw, ears, anything. metal, he has anything in his mouth or behind his ears or anything. >> we completely restrain the inmate before we remove him from his cell.
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communication is very clear, and the supervisor himself is the only one that communicates with the inmate. >> you're getting strip-searched before you leave. >> as weird as it may seem to people on the outside, you can have one day is this inmate stabbing and killing somebody and the next day, he's normal because that's just him. and as being an officer in here, you can't retaliate. you can't hold a grudge. you have to come back and do your job. next on "lockup" -- >> you don't know if he's going to try to attack you. oh, i mean, usually they attack you. >> an inmate refuses to leave his cell forcing a showdown with officers. . we had traveled for over 850 miles. my men driven nearly mad from starvation and frostbite. today we make history. >>bienvenidos! welcome to the south pole! if you're dora the explorer, you explore. it's what you do.
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time passes slowly for inmates in the maximum security unit at new mexico state penitentiary. locked in a cell for 23 hours a day, boredom and frustration can often lead to anger and rage. >> i'm giving you a directive to step out. you have to be handcuffed. you understand? no response. >> when inmates act out and refuse to comply with officers' orders, they must be forcibly removed from their cells. for legal reasons, these extractions are always videotaped by prison staff. >> we can have something that can happen two, three times a
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week, sometimes even two a day, three a day, and then there's other times where we'll go months without anything going on. >> step back to the door. step back to be handcuffed. >> these cell extractions are dangerous for the officers involved. >> this is the third and final directive. >> as soon as you go to restrain them, they might have a shank, try to pull it out, stab one of the officers that are actually on the extraction team. so every -- every situation like this is somewhat volatile. >> in the most stubborn cases, officers lower the inmate's resistance with pepper spray. but the gas also has an effect on the extraction team. >> this is the end of the line when it comes to high-security or high-profile inmates. >> back off in the cell. cell open. >> so it takes a special type of person to even work in a facility of this type. >> in the shower. >> it's really a personal endeavor to make sure that you get home safely every day.
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you know, these guys are smart. just because they're here doesn't make them stupid. they just got caught. >> stand up, everybody, stand up. going to be counted. >> you'd be stupid if you walked into a prison and you weren't sort of scared. >> angela graham works in level 2, the minimum security unit. but when the need arises, she'll suit up with the men on the cell extraction team. >> when you come in here, you have to have that authoritative demeanor about you. they can smell fear, especially in a female, and they'll use it against you any chance they get. they know which females will make it and which ones don't. >> captain candis stoddard is one who did make it. she was only 18 years old when she started working at the prison, and her family wasn't happy about it. >> yeah. they were, like, you're working where? i said at the main facility. well, they didn't care for that too much. they did know friends of the family that had two sons in here
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that got killed during the riot. hadley, i'll be back to talk to you when i have some more time. i do not have time right now. >> when? >> you're going -- tomorrow. >> when? >> i had a few higher administration tell me i wouldn't make it. that i was going to be bringing in drugs, having sex with the inmates, doing something, and that made me have more ambition to prove to them and myself that, you know, you can't base what you're thinking on my looks, and that's what's kept me going all these years is that i'm here to prove them wrong. >> as our cameras were rolling, we saw firsthand how unruly inmates continually challenge the staff. inmate toby gonzales, convicted of second degree murder and armed robbery, refuses to remove his hand from the food port.
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>> do you want to us do 22 or 23? >> this morning when he got his first meal, he refused it, stuck his hand out the food port and he's had his hand out ever since. >> we have an extraction team being set up so that we could get him out, so we could search his cell to ensure that the safety of the staff that are working this unit is maintained. >> the corrections emergency response team, or c.e.r.t., prepares physically and mentally for the job ahead. >> you don't know if he has a weapon. you don't know if he's going to try to attack you and, oh, i mean, usually they attack you. >> what happens, they barricade their cell door with a mattress. so this thing fits through the food port. what we do is we ram whatever object's there to get out of the way, we can disperse the chemical into the cell. this is a pepper spray like a mace. we use it as a shield. any time we have to disperse chemicals, the shield will cover the food foot. he'll lift it up so much so we can get the chemical in there and put it down. we put it up so the inmate don't throw any type of object, liquids at us.
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>> you're nervous, but if you're trained properly, then you know what to do, and, you know, you depend on your fellow teammates to do the same. >> when i first started, we used to go in there with nothing and fight the guy with the shield and take him down and do what we had to. now with chemicals, they come to us. >> our worst-case scenario is that we actually have to go into a cell. he could actually have a weapon in his cell, and chemical agents could have been deployed. >> seconds later, gonzales gives up, and the officers calmly resolve the situation. >> usually, you know, all this black, all this armor, is intimidating. a lot of times they see us
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coming, and they know what's going to happen, and they'll step down. >> following the extraction, gonzales will be strip-searched, and his cell will receive a thorough shakedown. >> remote control for a tv. they can sit on their bed and use this to change their channels. it's contraband, though. >> i told you i'd look into your property. i'll check the paperwork. >> the supervisors decide what he's going to get back. but it's just a security that we have to go through everything. they're given plenty of chances and they're given plenty of directives before a team comes in. if they refuse to come out, you just can't say, well, okay, and let the inmates run the asylum. >> hopefully, they don't have to come back. there's no reason to come back. he ain't going nowhere. he don't have no weapons. his cell is empty. so most likely this is it until he behaves again and receives someone's property and we do it again.
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next on "lockup" -- >> is it a greater sin to steal a cracker or to kill someone? what does it matter what sin you perpetrate? >> you'll meet new mexico's most infamous serial killer. (two text tones) now? (text tone) excuse me. (phone tone) again? be right back. always running to the bathroom because your bladder is calling the shots? (text tone) you may have oab. enough of this. we're going to the doctor. take charge and ask your doctor about myrbetriq. that's myr-be-triq, the first and only treatment... its class for oab symptoms of urgency... ...frequency, and leakage. myrbetriq (mirabegron) may increase blood pressure. tell your doctor right away if you have trouble emptying your bladder, or have a weak urine stream.
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i'm meteorologist bonnie schneider. we are still tracking this blockbuster storm. in fact, these are the latest snowfall totals for new england. over a foot for block island, and nantucket right at 11 inches of snow. boston at seven, providence, five. east hartford, only four. so the snow is continuing to fall, especially in cape cod. that's where we have a blizzard warning. this will continue until 7:00 a.m. tomorrow. but as you can see, as the storm pulls away, some of the snow bands are lessening and we're getting some breaks in the action, which is great news. you can see new york city, you had a little breather, but that snow is still coming in. it's also working its way through bridgeport, new london, providence a little bit less, and hartford as well.
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boston, i think you're almost done with the snow. the main thing to note is we're still looking at very strong winds. they're gusting right now at 30 miles per hour in and around the coastline and as low pressure pulls away, we'll certainly say goodbye to the storm, but it won't be until tomorrow. say safe and stay inside tonight. we'll be back in 30 minutes with another update. the penitentiary of new mexico houses the state's only death row. the last lethal injection took place in 2001, and you're about to meet one of the few men waiting execution. he has a reputation as a savage killer and a unique perspective on his crimes. >> my name's robert fry. i am in for four counts of murder, and i'm currently serving three life sentences, and as of now, i'm on death row. should that get overturned, i'll be serving a maximum of 209 years. >> robert fry is a serial killer.
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behind each of his murder convictions lies a tale of violence and horror. >> i feel that i had evil within. not that i myself was evil, but that i allowed myself to be drawn towards evil things. >> while robbing a store, fry stabbed his first two victims, then slit their throats. >> when you walk in that path of darkness, you can't help but walk hand in hand with evil. whether you believe it to be evil or not, i never considered myself a violent person. >> in 1998, fry savagely beat a man to death with a shovel. >> i came from a very good family, but i got involved with alcohol and drugs at a very early age. i was looking for something in my life to fill a hole, in my heart and my soul, and i tried everything i could think of to put it there, and then anger and frustration lashed out, and then i lashed out at the world. >> his last victim was a mother of five. she was found nude, having been stabbed and bludgeoned to death
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with a sledgehammer. it was for this murder that fry received the death penalty. >> you know, you hear a lot of people who come to prison and, oh, i found god. well, i did. >> where are they taking you, man? >> bible study. >> fry leads a weekly bible study class with fellow inmates. >> i was a drunk. i used drugs. i would fight. i was very promiscuous. when you allow one thing to happen in your life, you will make a series of lines in the dirt, so to speak. and when you're willing to cross one line, you're willing to cross another and another and another and another till finally you get to a point where you're like, how did i get from there to here? through this fellowship, it has relieved me of those failings. i still have my faults and failures. everybody does, you know? romans 3:23 says we all fall short in the sight of god, you know, but this equals it. no one's worse than anyone else. no one's better than anyone
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else. we are all the same in the eyes of god. >> you're getting ready to go? >> yeah. >> two prison fellowship volunteers assist the inmates who must remain in individual holding cells throughout the meeting. >> you'd best show your love for god by the way you show your love for your fellow man. >> god loved the world, everybody. >> are there conditions? or is it unconditional? >> it's unconditional for us because of his love, which is not conditional. >> the lord loves you whether you're a sinner or you're a saint. he doesn't care. >> there's nothing i've done that god has not forgiven me for. let me ask you a question, is it a greater sin to steal a cracker or to kill someone? >> kill someone. >> god doesn't see it that way. you break one sin, you break all sins. if you are guilty of the least of this, you are guilty of all. if you break one of my commandments, you break them all. so what does it matter what sin you perpetrate? >> hey, chris, would you do
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lamentations 3:22 to 3:23, please? >> robert fry is a very quiet inmate. he's demanding at times for some of the things such as his legal material and those types of things related to his case but never outspoken and never -- never unruly. >> there are people here who could care less about who we are, but we love them because we love god. it's faith that keeps me from doing stupid things. i don't use drugs, though i can get them. i choose not to. i quit smoking three years ago. and i was a two-pack-a-day smoker, and i've never felt healthier. i've never felt freer. i'm freer in prison than i was on the street. ♪ amazing grace, how sweet the sound ♪ >> since he believes god has forgiven him, robert fry now feels empowered to ask for the forgiveness of his victims' families.
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>> there's an old saying that i'm going to clear my side of the street, and when i ask you to forgive me, you can either choose to forgive me or you can choose to continue to hate me, and then you get to live with the power of your own hate. ♪ then when we first begun ♪ amen >> we're not the best singers. joyful noise. >> whether it sounds like somebody running over a cat with a lawn mower or not. >> since fry has appealed his death penalty sentence, it is not clear when or eveb if he'll ever be executed. >> 15 to 20 years down the road, that will be decided. as with all death penalties, it's a controversy. >> i'm not afraid of death. when i die, i go to my maker with a clear conscience because i have accepted him as my savior and i have asked forgiveness of my sins. to die is easy. to live is hard.
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>> robert fry isn't the only inmate whose prison experience has dramatically transformed his life. >> not everybody in the penitentiary system are bad apples. we've made mistakes, but some of us have learned from them. >> you know, i just want to go home, see my kids. i haven't seen my kids in six years. >> to tell you the truth, i'm tired of the gang banging crap. i've done it too long. you know? i've been stabbed, shot, and i got scars from here all the way down, nicked, been shot, my elbow, my knee, you know? for what? for a [ bleep ] that don't even belong to me. >> the long years behind bars have given many inmates ample time to reflect on their crimes and seek redemption. for native american inmates, there is an opportunity for personal transformation through the practice of their ancient traditions. as an earned privilege, the penitentiary allows them to use
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a sweat lodge as a ritual for spiritual cleansing. >> there's a prayer service, basically, you know? the native way of praying. you know? so we come out here, we get the fire started for our medicine man, and then we begin our service right here. >> a member of the navajo tribe, tex joey travels regularly from his reservation to aid in the ceremony. >> our native american brothers that are incarcerated, they're coming from the outside, you know, they addicted themselves to certain things, and i guess you could say that they're mad at the world, things like that. >> inmate marty begay came here 11 years ago after he was convicted of murder during an attempted robbery. >> i barely started getting into my roots when i came into prison around six years ago. and i was approved to have my medicine bag and my herbs. they say you lose yourself in here and get caught up in all
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the negative stuff that prison has to offer, so when you come in here, you know, you forget all that stuff, you know. >> this sweat box ceremony is really to purify their system, their physical self, emotional, mental, spiritual, like that. this is really what it's for, to cleanse, you know. >> before i used to come to the sweat lodge, you know, i was quick to get angry at the staff members and stuff like that. but now, you know, if a staff member gets me angry, you know, i just let it pass by. yeah, you feel better, you know? sweat all that out, all the negative stuff. >> hi, baby. next on "lockup" -- >> hi, baby. >> hi, baby. >> how good behavior is rewarded behind bars. >> if i would never have got locked up, i would have never learned nothing like this. then, woosh, it's gone.
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i swear i saw it swallow seven people. seven. i just wish one of those people could have been mrs. johnson. [dog bark] trust me, we're dealing with a higher intelligence here. ♪ the all-new audi q7 is here. ♪ as long as you love me, it's alright bend me shape me, any way you want me you've got the power, to turn on the light shape the best sleep of your life. sleep number beds with sleepiq technology adjust any way you want it. the bed that moves you. only at a sleep number store.
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what was it, a couple tapes that we talked about before? so i'll take care of that end of it. >> i really appreciate it. >> you're welcome. >> i appreciate it. >> all right. >> although the maximum security units at the penitentiary of new mexico require his constant attention, warden stanley moya has also devoted more time to creating a new and more rehabilitative minimum security program. the goal is to prepare inmates for life on the outside.
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>> it is a dormitory setting, which is a much more controlled environment. you're dealing with a completely different caliber of inmate, an inmate that's much closer to his release date. they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. >> they've already done their time. they're ready to get out. they're at that point where they're not flooding and burning and everything. so they're more polite. >> unit 448. unit 552. >> at times as few as five officers oversee the 330 inmates on level two. >> you notice every inmate in the corridor, their shirts are tucked in, their belts are not sagging, no sunglasses, no hats or no nothing. we let them know up front what we want. >> all level 2 inmates are within a maximum of five years from their release date. many have worked their way up through the prison's level system to earn the many privileges and opportunities they enjoy here. >> the inmates get together, and they do classes, and there's a psychologist there, and they
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talk about why they're in the prison. so when they get out, they're able to live a normal life. >> each dorm in level 2 holds 55 men who sleep side by side in bunk beds. >> make myself at home. my corner, my corner of the cave. it is a common area that we have here, which isn't much. so it seems like the system keeps getting more crowded and more impossible to manage sometimes, but i guess we've got to do the best we can with what we got. >> in such close quarters, the inmates are forced to accept a variety of personalities and belief systems. >> you're going to find satanists, you're going to find klan members, you're going to find all kinds of people. >> you're going to have to deal with different personalities with different people when you get back into society. and this is a preparation for that. >> have that one back. >> david lynn abear is finishing
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a 2 1/2-year sentence for a sex offense. before he came to the penitentiary, he was panhandling on the streets of albuquerque. >> for me living the homeless life that i lived for almost the past seven years out there and doing nothing but alcohol and drinking a half gallon to a gallon of vodka a day by myself was actually prison for me. it saved my life. for the 2 1/2 years i've been down, this is the cleanest i've been and really made me think about how alcohol played a major part in my life. >> with his release only a few weeks away, abear hopes to someday work in a homeless shelter. >> go back out there and get back into the work style and everything. it's going to be -- it's going to be a little difficult at first, but i believe i'm going to handle it no problem, and i'm ready for it now. ♪ twinkle twinkle little star ♪ how i wonder what you are >> while high-security felons
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are allowed to visit with loved ones through a thick wall of glass, level 2 inmates are permitted to sit next to family and friends during visitation. >> hi, baby. >> hi, baby. >> in about two months. >> has it been that long? [ speaking a foreign language] >> but these visitations are closely monitored by security cameras. >> one of the things that occurs is the potential for an introduction of contraband, drugs or money or those different types of things. >> we haven't really had that many problems. they know that the camera is there, and they know we monitor them, so they kind of behave. >> what are you doing to daddy? >> today lorenzo allen has driven six hours to see his brother joey, a sex offender who has been an inmate here for 13 years. >> we were raised up together, you know, close, played and, you
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know, did all sorts of things together. >> i only get a visit once a year. but when they come to visit me, it energizes me. you know, i get all happy again. it puts my -- you know, it brings my spirit back up for more and more months. >> this is my first piece ever right here, my first kuchina doll, you know, so i'm going to give these to my brother so he can take them home and save them for me because when i get out, my goal is to have like a big -- have a big art show, like go on a little road tour. >> during his first few months in prison, alan discovered he had a passion for art. >> i was scared because, i mean, this was where the big boys were. killers, you name it. i thought it's time for me to straighten up my life from here, you know, so that's where it really kicked into where i should, you know, better myself.
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>> you know, if i would never have got locked up, i would have never learned nothing like this. i wish i would have done this on the outside. this is my career now, my future. and i don't know how you describe it. i just love art. ♪ >> it's like a meditation for me, and it's getting out of this place. so, you know, artwork really does help me. ♪ so now i'm teaching people that are serious, i'm teaching them for free. take that little point off of there. there. now it's darkened the whole thing now. after you get it all dark, then we'll come back in with different colors, highlight, you know. i guess making the wrong
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choices, you know, that's why i'm here, being crazy and stupid i guess. but when i get out on the outside, i want to help people. my goal is to be a famous artist and to teach people and show people what kind of talent i got. coming up on "lockup" -- >> no offense, but we don't want to see you back, you know what i mean? >> i don't really want to see you either. >> -- will good behavior give joe sears a better life behind bars? in new york state, we believe tomorrow starts today. all across the state the economy is growing, with creative new business incentives, the lowest taxes in decades, and university partnerships, attracting the talent and companies of tomorrow. like in utica, where a new kind of workforce is being trained. and in albany, the nanotechnology capital of the world.
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let us help grow your company's tomorrow, today at our cosmetics line was a hit. the orders were rushing in. i could feel our deadlines racing towards us. we didn't need a loan. we needed short-term funding fast. building 18 homes in 4 ½ months? that was a leap. but i knew i could rely on american express to help me buy those building materials. amex helped me buy the inventory i needed. our amex helped us fill the orders. just like that. another step on the journey. will you be ready when growth presents itself? realize your buying power at
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inmate joe sears first came to the penitentiary of new mexico more than 20 years ago. he has spent the last three years on level 6 in solitary confinement. >> i've been here, gosh, since i
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was 17 years old, and i have grown. and as i've grown, i've turned into more of a man. and that man regrets a lot of things that i've done. >> the only thing that can change a person is time, and through aging in this place and being locked up in a cell, i mean, i'm sure that it would have affected me just like it does him. >> i think i'm bad for what i've done, they put me in prison, but at the same time, i know that i'm not that person anymore. >> compared to when i knew him back at the main, it's a complete different joe sears now. i've seen joe sears deal with his crime. >> that hard work has paid off. sears has finally earned the right to leave the isolated and restricted world of level 6. today, he will be making the move up to level 5. >> congratulations.
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>> kind of like getting a better opportunity, you know? >> there you go. that's what it's about. >> i'm kind of glad to be going. getting a chance to go over there, try to make the best of it on the next step. now you get a chance to see what you can do with it. yes, sir. >> no offense, but we don't want to see you back, you know what i mean? >> none taken. >> good deal. >> don't really want to see you either. >> he's been in level 5 a couple times. so i hope he makes it. with joe sears, it's a big waiting -- it's a waiting game. only joe series knows if he can make it there or not. >> but sears' old reputation precedes him and not everybody is happy about the move. >> i personally have never had any problems with him. but i am concerned having him in my pod, in my unit. i've heard and i've seen other things that he's done to other officers, just verbally abusing them and just throwing items from his food port. >> they have some machine weights there. you get to go out with a few
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guys you live with in your unit. like a group. you get an hour tier time, i hear, to play games, cards or just conversate with someone there. >> so they can actually recreate and congregate with other inmates. if you visit at level 5, level 5 is much more of a quiet unit and they become much calmer. they become much more cooperative. they become much more willing to comply with the level system. >> lean forward. you're leaning back too far. there you go. all right. like part of the family. >> why is that? >> well, we've known each other 20 years. who do you know 20 years? >> your visiting hours are from 8:30 through 3:30 wednesday through fridays. you're allowed to have up to 15 visitors on your visiting days. you understand? >> yes, sir. >> after learning the rules that govern level 5, sears is transferred along with his
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belongings to his new tier, a place where he'll have a chance to work, eat and socialize with other inmates. the level system appears to be working. >> you're always going to have the hard-core cases but from the old main facility, there's no telling the change that i see from then to where we're at today, which is the level system, which is the best thing i've ever seen in my whole career. if the inmates do good, they get more privileges. if they do bad, they get less. and it's something that really, really works. >> major lopez was once held hostage by an inmate. but with his own son james beginning a career as a correctional officer, he has a renewed confidence in the prison. >> when i first started, maybe 5% to 10% of the staff that we would hire would actually stay on past a year. lately we're looking at maybe 50% to 60% of the staff which will actually stay past that first year. it was just a bad place. and when they closed that down, a lot of the attitude went with it.
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>> we came back to talk with sears a few days later to see how he was adjusting to his new situation. >> trying to make it look good here. appetizing. get the appetite aroused. all humans are social people and they're used to being together and working together. and now all of a sudden, i have all this contact with people, and i have a little bit of trust and responsibility here now. and i like it. it feels good. >> could i take this back to my cell? >> i think he'll be much better in level 5. you can see it in his face. you can see it in his eyes. he knows now that there's light at the end of the tunnel. he's worked very hard. >> with the time he has left in the penitentiary, sears hopes to keep moving up through the level system prior to his release. >> level 4 will be my next step. you know, and when these little opportunities come, you know, i'm here to take them if i can.
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i do worry about going out there because i worry about, am i going to be able to talk with these people properly, do i have enough knowledge or education to make it out there, am i going to be able to get a job, am i going to be able to stay away from dope and not repeat crimes and things like that? and i tell myself yes, sir. i would just like to get over this and on with my life and get my freedom back. i feel i deserve that, and i've paid my debt. i'm ahead, 2-0. >> if sears continues to demonstrate good behavior, he's scheduled to be paroled in 2009. prison officials maintain he is a testament to how the level system can provide incentive for a better life behind bars and beyond. that's our program. thanks for watching. i'm john siegenthaler.
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i'm darp ra brown at msnbc headquarters. in new york where we've learned the death toel from this weekend's snowstorm has risen to 19. let's go over now to msnbc meteorologist bonnie due to mature subject marte, viewer discretion is advised. >>


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