tv Lockup MSNBC May 21, 2016 9:00pm-10:01pm PDT
i'm john seigenthaler. its history is bloody. >> we used to have two or three stabbings a day, sometimes even more. >> inmates battle guards on a daily basis. >> i couldn't count how many times i've had to shoot out the tower. >> then a new regime wrenched back control of the prison. >> it's more stable. there's less violence. >> but there are also fewer programs, less time out of the cells, and less hope. >> we've got guys coming in at 17, 18 years old with 80 or 90 years hanging themselves because they can't take it. >> inmates that assault staff, inmates that assault other inmates are going to come to
stateville and they're going to lock up. >> don't holler at me. >> in stateville, it's like you're dead. but you're living. you know, like a walking dead man. that's how it is in here. you're living but you're dead. >> as he left office, governor george ryan made a dramatic decision. rocking the justice system in illinois. ryan granted clemency to all death row inmates, saying the system was broken. ryan commuted 167 death sentences, reducing nearly all to life without parole. until 1998 executions were carried out at stateville correctional center, outside chicago. today nearly half its prisoners are in for murder. stateville had a long reputation as a place where inmates challenged guards for control. how that all changed is the big story behind the walls of stateville.
>> it's another day in paradise. >> just to let you know, the next couple of days, we're talking about extreme heat. we need to ensure ice is passed out so you guys can keep your fluids nice and cold and for drinking. it's really important to check each other out, make sure you guys are okay. we're looking at 105 heat index plus for the next four to five days. >> the towers. curry. >> sir. >> tower one. >> it's 6:45 a.m. at stateville correctional center. >> tower two, voight. >> officers on the 7:00 to 3:00 shift are preparing for their day. for the next eight hours, 400 correctional officers will police more than 2,600 inmates.
before most inmates wake up, the humans and machinery whose sole purpose is to ensure the prisoners stay secured begin their daily routine. >> we got nine gallery coming your way. >> 10-4. >> officer michael white's responsibility is to stand guard in tower 14, from which he sees the entire northeast corner of stateville. he's been on the job for more than five years. >> you have to be serious. serious about it. it's real easy to get kind of lax around here because you're dealing with people and you're dealing with guys really trying to wear you down and find a weakness in you. so i'd say serious. serious at the penitentiary, you know. >> even as white stands vigil, the day is also beginning for some new arrivals to the prison. many of them will end up spending more time here than most of the guards will in their entire career.
walking through the first of many outer gates, there's no mistaking this for a minimum or medium security facility. stateville's reputation is well known. >> from what i hear, people killing each other and stuff like that. you got to go in with guys doing life and stuff down over here. hear a lot of bad things about this penitentiary. kind of scary. because you're going to be here and you see how it is, like, maximum security and stuff like that. so i'm going to stay to myself, man. hope for the best. let me get up out of here. >> inmate walton and officer white make up the opposite ends of stateville. white will spend eight hours in his tower. once walton is processed into the system, he will join his
fellow inmates who spend more than 20 hours of every day in their cells. the relationship between guards, inmates, and the prison they both inhabit is more than 75 years old. construction began here in 1916. and the prison opened in 1925. it differed from any other prison in the world. circular cell houses orbited around and connected via tunnels to a huge central dining hall. today one of the original cell houses remains, the only one of its kind in the country. stepping into it conjures up images of gladiators stepping into a colosseum. >> it's very beneficial because basically you can stand in one
spot and get a visual of the whole cell house. you can also watch the officers on the gallery more. not just the tower but anybody in the house can see if something goes wrong. i'm glad it's a round house. i love it. >> the original design, however, proved to be difficult to maintain and was subsequently replaced. one of the few remaining original buildings is this rectangular cell house, the longest such structure in the world. 33-foot-tall concrete walls surround the 64 acres that comprise the entire prison. looking across the institution, it's gray, desolate and foreboding. >> me growing up, hearing those old-timers talking about being in here made it sound like it was cool to be in here. but i got down here. it was nothing like that. it's all messed up.
man, it's messed up. it sucks. >> stateville has long been home to some of illinois' most violent offenders. the vast majority of prisoners are in for murder or violent assault. >> it's hard, man. i mean, prison ain't nothing nice, you know, but it ain't like it's they fault, you know. you live a life of crime, this is where you're going to end up. >> stateville has housed its share of infamous criminals. john wayne gacy, convicted of murdering 33 young men and boys in the late 1970s, and richard speck, convicted for the murder of eight student nurses in 1966, were both condemned to die in stateville's execution chamber. speck died of a heart attack in 1991.
gacy was executed by lethal injection in 1994. the last execution to occur at stateville took place in 1998. with such a high concentration of violent criminals in the prison population, it was only natural that the violence would continue within the walls of stateville. over the years, a number of incidents occurred that still reverberate among the old-timers today. >> in the old days we had quite a bit of violence here. you got up in the morning, you'd take a couple of magazines, go out and carry your shank wherever you want. you didn't know what was going to happen. who you was going to fight. there was always trouble. >> i've been up here 11 years. the majority of the holes that you see around us are mine. i've seen officers beat up. i've seen inmates killed. i've seen them stabbed.
i've seen bloody fights out here. >> one man who knows stateville better than most is captain kenneth morgan. he's worked here more than 28 years. he's seen the violent potential of the prison at its worst. >> we had a lot of problems with the gangs here at stateville carrying shanks, assaulting staff, assaulting other inmates. >> where are you going? >> we had an officer by the name of officer kush. probably one of the best officers i ever knew. he was returning from chow, going back to "g" dorm. on his way back there was a couple inmates back here hiding, they was waiting on him. they hit him in the head in this area right in here and they dumped his body right down here. this is where they dumped the body.
>> officer kush was one of eight stateville employees to lose his life to prison violence since the prison opened in 1925. for many, some violence was accepted as a way of life inside a maximum security prison. but for others, it was a shocking and disturbing awareness that the prisoners had too much power. this was true for one young correctional officer who occasionally toured through stateville. >> it was a very dangerous place not only for the staff, but for the inmates as well. there just really wasn't very much control at stateville. i remember when they took over one of the cell houses and they set it on fire. and times that they held hostages. >> things may well have continued unchanged at stateville until something happened that couldn't be tolerated. something that shocked the entire nation. and forced stateville to undergo drastic reform. coming up, a mass murderer's exploit at stateville sparked
we know a thing or two because we've seen a thing or two. ♪ we are farmers. bum-pa-dum, bum-bum-bum-bum ♪ if you have moderate to severe ulcerative colitis or crohn's, and your symptoms have left you with the same view, it may be time for a different perspective. if other treatments haven't worked well enough, ask your doctor about entyvio, the only biologic developed and approved just for uc and crohn's. entyvio works by focusing right in the gi-tract to help control damaging inflammation and is clinically proven to begin helping many patients achieve both symptom relief as well as remission. infusion and serious allergic reactions can happen during or after treatment. entyvio may increase risk of infection, which can be serious. while not reported with entyvio, pml, a rare, serious brain infection caused by a virus may be possible. tell your doctor if you have an infection, experience frequent infections, or have flu-like symptoms, or sores. liver problems can occur with entyvio. if your uc or crohn's medication isn't working for you, ask your gastroenterolist about entyvio.
you know, i regret what happened back during the past. but, i mean, everything happen for a reason. you know, it brought me here at a young age. it taught me a lot, opened my eyes a little bit more. so get out there and try to do what's right for my little son and everything. >> by the early 1990s stateville was one of the wildest and most violent prisons in the country. it was a tough place to be for both correctional officers and inmates. all of chicago's most powerful gangs flourished here, continuing the same business they'd been busted for on the outside. the strong preyed on the weak. >> you fought for territorial
rights and for what was yours and didn't let nobody take nothing away from you. >> it was almost like a question mark of whether you really wanted to come sometimes. you know, it was a little wilder, a little less restrictive, the movement and everything. >> then in 1995, the entire world got a firsthand look at just how wild stateville was. a video surfaced detailing the prison exploits of richard speck. shot by other inmates, the video included scenes of speck and his lover having sex and snorting what appeared to be cocaine. illinois lawmakers declared the tapes validated longstanding rumors of gross misconduct in the state's prison system. prison officials said it was an aberration and that it pointed out the difficulties inherent in trying to control thousands of inmates with only hundreds of guards. the furor caused by the tapes
demanded a response. >> what the speck tape did was enlighten the public of what was going on behind, not only the illinois department of corrections, but corrections throughout the country. and the public demanded there should be a change. the behavior that got them incarcerated, we shouldn't accept that same behavior while they're incarcerated with us. >> changing the way things had been done for decades wasn't going to be easy, but it was going to happen. that was the mandate. the first step came in leveling the playing field. >> you hear the saying, power is in numbers. and that's really true. you put 150, 200 class x murderers in a room together and that's a lot of power. you take that number down and knock it down to 50 and you put a couple extra officers there, and it really kind of balances things out. >> today, anywhere you look within stateville there are rarely more than 50 prisoners together. oftentimes there are fewer.
unlike many other prisons around the country where hundreds of prisoners congregate, at stateville, whether it's in the prison yards, dining hall or any other location, the number of inmates is always limited. these same limitations also apply anytime prisoners are moved from one area of the prison to another. >> in the past we used to move 200, 300 inmates at a time. now it's no more than 50 inmates at a time whether they going to chow or whether they go on the yard. that's the total. 50 inmates. >> a second component of stateville's institutional reforms involved limiting the amount of personal property an inmate could possess. that came in the form of two property boxes. everything an inmate wants to keep in his cell, other than fans, televisions, and radios, must fit inside his property boxes. >> prior to property boxes, inmates had really kind of
unlimited amount of property. when you have an excessive amount of property, when officers have to search cells, it becomes very difficult because the more property you have, the greater places there is to hide contraband. >> random shakedowns turn up far less contraband than they used to. >> weapon recoveries are significantly down. at one time i found as many as 125 weapons in one cache. now we're finding one or two or three, and this is rare when we're finding them. >> the third reform completely changed inmates' personal appearance. today all of stateville's prisoners are issued the same standard clothes. just a few years ago fashion statements were totally different. >> you would see very name brand type of clothing. that's a status symbol inside of a prison as to how much power you truly have. the gang leaders had those kinds of articles.
we took that away and put inmates in correctional industry blue pants and t-shirts and made everybody look the same. when you make everyone look the same, it takes away that status. >> the reforms didn't happen overnight. but they did happen. the administration held the key card. if the inmates didn't toe the line, if there was any sign of trouble, the entire prison went under lockdown, a condition where prisoners don't leave their cells, period, except for medical attention or a parole hearing. lockdowns are a common occurrence at stateville. >> you go on lockdown damn near every week because something happens. you're in here with a bunch of murderers, rapists. something happens, you go to the yard, somebody is fighting, they lock us down. you go to the chow house, somebody is fighting, they lock us down. >> it's changed from the way it used to be. people getting killed, getting raped.
things like that. they got a hold of the penitentiary now so it ain't really like it used to be. >> inmates and staff agree, the reforms make stateville much safer. what they disagree about is the price prisoners have had to pay. that's next on msnbc's "lockup: stateville." ♪ the intelligent, all-new audi a4 is here. ♪ ♪ ain't got time to make no apologies...♪
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oftentimes stateville appears deserted. only the ever-present guards in their towers break up the otherwise lifeless landscape. the desolate atmosphere is a direct result of the institutional reforms implemented here in the mid-1990s. before then, hundreds of inmates filled the grounds, worked out in the yards and pursued a variety of programs. today, the vast majority of inmates spend most of their day in their cells. >> it's depress -- it's real depressing.
it's depressing. but i try to stay focused. i always try to keep an avenue of hope. because without hope, you would go crazy here. >> life here means spending more than 20 hours a day in a 7x10 foot cell. the only regular time out is an hour of exercise in the yard five days a week and one hour for lunch and dinner. the majority of prisoners spend their days watching television, reading and sleeping. >> i want you to do this entire section on mechanics. capitalizations, commas -- >> stateville does have a mandated adult education program where prisoners can work towards their ged or graduate equivalency degree. >> i think you've had enough time with that paper. >> any inmate who fails a standardized test must attend 90 days worth of classes. they may leave the program after
90 days even if they continue to fail the test. >> remember, i said i want my complete sentences. you know i'll be watching. >> i know you do. >> okay. as they get old and as they get locked up and find out they are at a dead end, they do have a tendency to want to get an education because they feel that is an escape. >> are you ready for book two? >> yes. >> it's a brief escape. 90 days of classes passes quickly. for those inmates who've been here long enough to remember when things were different, the time feels especially hard. >> we had programs. we had college. we had activities. we had musical programs. >> gregory macon is serving 40 years for murder. he's been at stateville since 1985. he remembers when the prison had regular programs including theatrical and musical performances that used to take place here in the now long abandoned prison auditorium. >> the musical program was a
great thing because of the fact we would have competition against other penitentiaries. and stateville was always number one. in here it's like a cage of awaiting execution because there's nothing for a man to do and no programs or nothing. you're just sitting here like a commodity. you know, a price tag on your forehead with nothing to do. >> rehabilitation, what's that? they erased that out of the dictionary here. there's no such thing as rehabilitation. it's not about rehabilitation. it's about money. it's all about money. if they can keep a number on you and keep you in here, they get their check and that's it. this is a new cattle drive. >> this is not the place where we want to do services to inmates to get them reintegrated back into society. stateville's not that place. we don't have all those things to offer here. stateville's a place to come and lock up. >> being constantly locked up doesn't give a man many options.
anger is often the result. working with this ongoing anger is one of the biggest challenges for staff at stateville. medical technician mike borkowski has worked here for almost 17 years. >> it's an entire different world from the outside. coming here it takes a long time to get used to that. because you get lied to. you get called every name in the book. and you have to put that aside. sometimes it's even -- even nowadays it's difficult to do when you're getting called names after 16 years. you just try to be a little bit professional and go on. sometimes that can be very difficult. >> so recovery, keith? you want to make a point there? >> as far as anger cycles, me, that's my problem. my biggest problem is the anger in me. >> out of more than 2,600 prisoners, a few are eligible
and volunteer to participate in the prison's one therapy opportunity. a group that meets once a week. >> i'm angry because i'm locked up. i'm angry because i'm not with my family, my children. i can't do the things i want to do. they tell me when to eat. they tell me when to sleep. they tell me when i can go, when i can't. that's a whole cycle to me there. >> are you ever angry not just about things that have happened to you or things that other people have done to you, but are you ever angry over some of your own decisions? do you ever say to yourself, how could i have done this? why did i do this? >> these men have a chance to gain some insight into their behavior. they are the rare exception at stateville. illinois corrections officials say there are many more programs available at the state's other prisons. they emphasize that stateville is reserved for their most hardened criminals. >> when it really comes down to it, you know, you in the penitentiary. so i mean, you know, certain things they could have, like maybe some more school.
but guys get over there and they don't really take it seriously. so, i mean, for the most part, no. no, you in prison, man. >> when i'm walking galleries i'm talking to inmates and i get inmates that say they don't like it at stateville, i think that's a good thing. we don't want stateville to be a nice place. stateville is not designed to be a nice place. >> stateville becomes an even worse place for inmates who cause trouble. >> don't holler at me. >> we'll see just how bad things can get when we return to "lockup: stateville." ♪ if you have moderate to severe ulcerative colitis or crohn's, and your symptoms have left you with the same view,
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i'm dara brown with the hour's top stories. u.s. officials believe the taliban leader mullah monsieur was likely killed in a drone strike today along the afghanistan/pakistan border thorltsed by president obama. hillary clinton at a trayvon martin foundation dinner saying unlike donald trump she will not pander to the gun lobby.
clinton called his gun policy ideas dangerous just a day after donald trump received an endorsement from the nra. now it's back to "lockup." after decades of ongoing battles, sometimes bloody ones, between the inmates and staff at stateville correctional center, reforms finally put control of the prison back in the hands of the administration. part of those reforms meant cracking down on any prisoner who doesn't follow the rules and regulations. when average inmate spends more than 20 hours a day in their cell, how much worse can things get? we'll find out as we follow one problem prisoner. >> we're looking at what? >> it's a typical day at stateville until warden briley and his staff get a tip from a confidential informant that two inmates have some drugs in their cell. >> information that we have is within those cells they should be testing positive. they have been smoking.
>> between the two officers and you and captain stiggler in the house, you guys can go hit the cell. >> immediately a team of officers and investigators spring into action. after a quick search the tip appears to be accurate. a small amount of what looks like marijuana is found. >> you can see this is how they put it in the knob of the radio. you can put it on. for unsuspecting staff, they can walk around all day. or you can shake the radio down. if you don't look in there, you'd never find it. >> it looks like marijuana, but to be sure, it is chemically tested. >> see the purple?
>> we have a positive test for thc. >> this is a good one, then. now what we'll do, we'll drug test both of these guys. hopefully we can talk to him and get him to tell us where he got the stuff from. good job, guys. >> seven more years. >> the lead suspect is 25-year-old maurice wilson doing his second prison stretch, this one 35 years for home invasion and aggravated battery. >> i used to follow a crowd, you know. i was following the wrong guys. just wanted to hang out, you know, be popular. so, you know, they considered themselves the bad guys. so, man, i wanted to be a bad guy, too. i wanted to be recognized, you know, hey, when i come through, the show stop. that's what happened. you know. the shop stopped because i got popped, you know. >> getting popped for an offense inside stateville means an
additional sentence. in maurice's case, six months in the segregation unit, also known as "i" house. here inmates are given hard time. time that's added on to their sentence. it's also considered hard time because of the harsh conditions and severe restrictions that accompany time in "i" house. officer loquita younger is one of the correctional officers assigned to the segregation unit. >> basically, this is where the bad people for being extra bad in the facility come to be locked up. >> a walk through one of "i" house's wards quickly reveals how different it is from the general population units. this is stateville's version of solitary confinement. >> how y'all doing? >> markers indicating dangerous
inmates fill the ward as does an overwhelming stench. >> it's a stripped cell, so they don't have on any clothes or very little clothes. they urinate, bowel movement everywhere. >> can you tell us what that is? >> it's feces. spreads it on everything. clean it off every day. every day, he puts it right back on. >> i think they just kind of crazy. kind of the prison life is probably getting to them. >> not only are the conditions much more stark than in the other cell houses, the inmates don't get out for the normal yard, dining room, visiting hours or any other privileges. what they get is one hour of yard and one shower a week. that's it. this is what the next six months hold for maurice. >> this is the penitentiary. the real deal.
>> in addition to the problem prisoners like maurice, the segregation unit also houses inmates with psychiatric problems. stateville doesn't have a psych ward, so until it's determined that an inmate needs more comprehensive care off site, they are observed here. >> what is the emergency? >> that creates daily challenges for the staff. >> i'm in here for being assaulted in "h" house and i'm going to have mr. snyder and the head of investigations down here. i want the media. >> you want an awful lot, don't you? >> no. listen. i don't want no problems. i'm having a problem with myself -- >> don't beat on my door. don't beat on my door. >> i haven't done anything to anybody. >> yes, you did. you disturbing the peace down here. >> i can't live in this cell. >> don't holler at me. don't holler at me. >> i'm not in here because i did anything. yes, sir.
yes, sir. >> it's very hostile. it can bother you. you have to be very strong to work over here. because, you know, just every day, name calling, you know, just the stress over here from dealing with different issues with these inmates can get to you. >> one week later maurice is having difficulty adjusting to conditions in "i" house. >> it's like a sweat box up there. i've been shook down every day for the last three days. i'm looking old. you know, i haven't shaved. got to wash up in the sink, you know. it's rough, you know. this type of place will break you down, man, you know. >> maurice's biggest problem is himself. with good behavior, he stands a chance of getting out after 17 years. but if he continues to be written up for drug charges and other grievances, he could wind up doing the full 35.
his only real inspiration comes from his family. >> my wife and kids, you know, they sticking by me right now. so who knows what's going to happen in the next 12, 13 years. it hurts, man. it's like it takes a part of my heart, man. it hurts bad. when i'm not seeing my shorties. she tries to bring them up as much as she can but the questions steady come, dad, when are you coming home? it's hard, man. run -- your kids growing up without a father, you know. no father figure. they wind up going out there on the street looking for a father figure and they run into the wrong crowd, you know. hey, they wind up being in here with me, you know. i can only tell them so much and try to teach them, hey, man, don't wind up here with me. you know, i'm not there, and that hurts, man. that hurts bad. i still cry sometimes, man. because i'm not there with my kids. yeah, man.
>> under the best of circumstances, maurice will be 42 years old when he's released. if that's the case, and if he somehow manages to make a life for himself on the outside, he'll become one of stateville's few success stories. otherwise, he's destined to join the majority of men here who will spend the rest of their lives bouncing back and forth between trouble and stateville. >> my life is gone, man, you know. the majority of my life has been in here, you know. it's like my second home. that's messed up to say that's my second home but, you know, i was just a kid since i've been in and out of here, you know. next, we'll visit the one exception to the rule at stateville. a place that's a small piece of paradise for a few fortunate model inmates. that's coming up.
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this here is not no joke. period. it's not no joke. you got guys up in here 17 years old with natural life. 17 years with -- i'm talking 17 years old with natural life for what, for nothing. just because somebody looked at him hard or something like that? it's not worth it at all. >> way off in the far southwest corner of stateville is an almost completely abandoned area. years ago, apprentice programs flourished here. inmates learned a trade in haircutting, foundry work or tailoring.
but with institutional reforms came a redirection of time, energy and money. one by one, the trade programs fell by the wayside until today one last program remains. the stateville industries program produces office furniture, including desks, bookcases and tables. the only men who work here are long-time model prisoners. one of those men is william earl basset. basset has been incarcerated since 1963 and in stateville since 1966. originally he was serving a maximum of ten years for burglary and forgery at another illinois penitentiary called menard. >> i had a short parole coming but a guy was messing with my food in the dining room and i just -- i went off, tried to get him and got involved in a prison riot down there.
there was three prison guards got killed down there at the time. they give me the electric chair for one of them murders. they said everybody stabbed this one lieutenant. >> in 1972 the u.s. supreme court abolished capital punishment. basset's sentence was commuted to 150 years with the opportunity for parole every year. though he's been repeatedly turned down for parole, he remains one of stateville's model prisoners. he's worked in the industries department for more than 15 years. >> let's make sure it gets out to the right place. we have to number everything. i like it. i'm the type of guy likes to stay busy. i can't just lay around. i like to work. they call me a workaholic, really. they be trying to slow me down. >> i hire him as a janitor and slowly we train him and working with different equipment and
assemblies and stuff. and i never have a problem with him. >> basset and a handful of other similarly well behaved, low risk inmates live in "g" dorm. there are no bars or locks on their doors. they have more living space. they have a full bathroom. it's a small slice of heaven compared to the rest of the prison. >> there's so much noise out there. you know, just the noise alone, the guys that come over, that's the first thing they notice. it'll be so quiet at night they can't sleep for the first few nights. they're used to all that noise. >> basset has lived far more than half of his life in prison. he's missed his chance to have a normal life, a career, a family. he's graduated to the best position he can be in at stateville. now all that's left is to hope that one day soon, he'll make it
to the outside. >> it's a wasted life. i look back, i know i was young and wild. and if i had it to do over with, i would -- there's a lot of things i would have changed. can't do it. i think i'm ready for society now after all these years. i got in 37 1/2 years. i still got four brothers and my son and a grandson. my son's got his own business over there in st. louis. he wants me to come and live with him. he said he'll get me a decent job. i can stay with him. i got a pretty clean record now, you know. you get older, you slow down, you know. you don't think about nothing but just getting out there and get to know your son and your grandson again. and cooling out, you know. >> william earl basset will soon face the parole board for yet another chance at freedom.
when we come back, we'll follow one rare and fortunate stateville inmate as he spends his final hours in prison preparing to return to his life on the outside. >> one free man walking. >> that's next on "lockup." little miss muffet sat on a tuffet eating her curds and whey. along came a burglar who broke into her home and ransacked the place making off with several valuable tuffets. fortunately geico had recently helped her with homeowners insurance. she got full replacement on her tuffets. the burglar was later captured when he was spotted with whey on his face. call geico and see how much you could save on homeowners insurance.
between sports and the right person, you know, looking up to the right people at the right time, you know, and by the grace of god, you know what i'm saying, i didn't wind up on that side of the wall, you know. >> be strong in the lord. now, how do you get strong in the lord unless you get in the book? >> a famous saying originating in world war ii claims there's no atheists in fox holes. there are plenty in prison, but many inmates find solace or
escape in god. >> i'm a new creature in christ jesus. behold all things are new. i'm righteous created in christ jesus. you got to know who you are. god is your company no other man in this world can ever give you. he's our father. he created us. in here it's really rough, brother anderson, he helps us day to day to cope with our problems. >> this service has been a blessing to them. it edified them. it encouraged them even though they're incarcerated, that to give them a chance for hope and a new life. bless you. >> a weekly religious service, contemplation, reading, these are a few opportunities inmates at stateville have to somehow reach beyond the bars, the guards, and the prison walls. most will not see the outside ever again.
or not for a very long time. but a few will. >> hello there. >> this is neil bell's last day in his cell at stateville. despite one stretch in the segregation unit, he's finishing up a two-year sentence for aggravated battery. as the final hours wind down, his emotions rachet up. >> i'm pretty anxious. been waiting for a while. the last week's the longest. just ready to go home, be with my family. >> sunrise brings what for everyone else at stateville will just be another day. but for inmate bell it brings him that much closer to freedom. >> did you get any sleep last night? >> i've been up since 2:00. >> kind of figured that.
>> backing out his property, taking a last walk through the compound, the images of the outside that are long gone memories for so many inmates are within bell's grasp. >> i'm going to spend some time with my dad and i'm going to go see my sister. i got a wedding to go to, my cousin. i'd like to get back into college for computers. i work on cars and stuff too. i can go either way, you know. i'll let you lead the way. i don't know where i'm going. >> sure, i want to see these guys get out and succeed. when these guys get released, we hope we never see them again. a large percentage of them do come back. >> name and number. >> bell, 81872. >> date of birth. >> 8-1-78. >> one free man walking. >> bell served the extremely rare short sentence at stateville. >> one discharge coming up.
>> he's also very young, hopefully young enough to have learned from his time here that he definitely doesn't want to return. >> it's hard sometimes, you know. i mean, everybody's apt to get into trouble, you know, and you just got to try to keep yourself out of those situations. >> okay, bell. take it easy. >> that ability to learn, to change behavior, is not a big part of what stateville is about. >> i think the majority of the inmates that are at stateville today and the majority of inmates that are coming to stateville tomorrow are really inmates that are beyond that help. these are inmates that, over the years time and time and time again have proven, in different environments, that they just can't function. the majority of the people at stateville are going to stay at stateville and be here a long time.
>> oh, man. this is a bad place to be. you know? you don't want to be here, you know. everybody says it's all glamorous, i'm going to come to the joint, it don't matter. but once you get here, you see it's reality. you know? you think you're bad. it ain't what you think it is. take you away from your loved ones. you know, kids grow up without you. it's rough. >> i hate to even think about passing away up in here. i'd like to get out there on the street and do these last few years anyway that i got left. you know, it could happen at any time up in here. >> father, we just thank you, lord. we bless your holy name. even though we're in prison, god, you're a good god anyway. >> you know, i'm hoping to god you know, like i say, somebody up there likes me. i hope they continue to like me enough to let me leave out of here. and like i say in church
services, you know, we preach. keep your head up. keep your faith in god. keep your trust in him. because right now, we're in hell's glory in here. this is hell's glory. because a man can go no lower than to be locked up in here for a long time. >> on the last day of our visit, an inmate at stateville was murdered. prison officials say he was killed by his cellmate. the prison immediately went into a level one lockdown. it was a sobering reminder that despite all of their reforms, stateville is still a very dangerous place. for msnbc, i'm john
seigenthaler. due to mature subject matter, viewer discretion is advised. there are 2 million people behind bars in america. for the next hour, we open the gates. "lockup." the number of units here at san quentin has grown beyond the capacity of this prison and what it was designed for. >> free us. free us. >> i took sociology in college. and you can stack a bunch of rats together. eventually they t