tv Lockup MSNBC January 17, 2014 8:00pm-9:01pm PST
despite all of their reforms, stateville is still a very dangerous place. for msnbc, i'm john seigenthaler. 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 start eating each other. >> with the age of the building the way it's set up, almost anything you do, you're in direct contact with the inmates. >> it doesn't matter how much staff we have. they will erupt if it's going to. >> mentality of most inmates, have issues, i'm on death row, and there's nothing you can do to me. if i assault you today, there's nothing they'll do to me tomorrow. that's their mentality, you can only kill me once. >> san quentin prison in california is home to some notorious killers -- scott peterson, who was sentenced to die for murdering his pregnant wife, laci, is perhaps the best
known. but the facility also houses richard ramirez, better known as the night stalker, and richard allen davis, polly klaas' killer. the prison is more than 150 years old. the walls are crumbling. and the institution is outdated, contributing to an overwhelming increase in both the number and severity of brutal assaults by inmates. during the next hour, you will witness life inside san quentin, including a look inside california's vicious death row. >> san quentin opened in 1852 and today, seems physically trapped in the century in which it was conceived. old and decrepit, san quentin is riddled with shadowy alcoves and blind spots. there are no electrified, lethal fences.
the towers around the perimeter must still be staffed where, incredibly, there are fewer surveillance cameras than a single convenience store. and worse yet, a lack of modernization has put officers in constant risk of inmate attack. >> every day i walk through those gates, the thought crosses my mind. is today going to be the last? >> the grounds are a sprawling 432 acres located on the shores of beautiful san francisco bay. >> customers! this is the receiving and release area of san quentin state prison. every inmate that enters or exits san quentin will come through this area right here. >> come on, step up. >> you cannot get into san quentin nor can you leave san quentin without coming through this area. >> move on. >> when inmates first arrive, they are strip-searched. >> spread your cheeks.
move on. >> they get their hair cut. then they're photographed and fingerprinted. >> starting with your right thumb, roll your fingers. >> eating. >> in an effort to avoid violent confrontations later, every inmate is evaluated and classified according to his history of violence outside and inside the penal system. >> enemies? >> none. >> gang-banger? >> share a cell with another man, no problem? >> it's all right with me. >> okay. thank you. >> as long as you're compatible. >> i wish we could make that call for you. you'll find out when you get to the house. thank you. >> flores. >> once evaluated the newcomers are placed in one of san quentin's four cell blocks. each cell block holds up to 800 inmates in cells that are
stacked on tiers five high. at its best, this is an inefficient design. officers are always having to climb stairs. >> where are the elevators? >> we're the elevators. a human elevator. >> but at its worst, the design of san quentin's cell blocks expose officers to inmate assault. >> with the age of the building, the way it's set up, almost anything you do, you're in direct contact with the inmates. >> hey how are you doing? >> when it's time for the inmates to go to the showers or the dining hall, an entire tier is released simultaneously. and astonishingly only two officers are assigned to orchestrate it. >> fifth tier is going down right now. >> just now, the fourth tier. you'll be next, five minutes. >> the front bar --
>> an officer uses an original, antiquated key called a spike to unlock each cell door, one by one. only then can the doors on that tier be released with the push of a mechanical bar. with so many inmates and so few officers, the opportunity for violence looms large. the only visible deterrent is the lone armed officer who constantly patrols the gun rail which overlooks the tiers. >> my job is to walk around, give coverage to the other officers, watch the inmates movement. make sure there's no fights, nothing going on in the cells. of course, you look for different things like weapons, visible things.
>> by contrast, contemporary prisons control inmate movement safely and remotely with the use of electronic doors. at san quentin, officers must escort inmates everywhere. to the showers. to the laundry. everywhere. and if an inmate is more violent-prone, it takes three escort officers, all in full riot gear. it's ironic that the only place in san quentin where electronic doors are used is at the officers' entrance to the court yard. coming up, meal time at san quentin. when the opportunity for inmate assault is at its peak. plus, a first-ever look inside san quentin's adjustment center, where the most violent, most sadistic death row inmates are housed. [ male announcer ] at his current pace,
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the feeding of inmates always poses one of the greatest risks for violence at san quentin. san quentin's lack of modernization places inmates within striking distance of officers and other inmates. among the 6,000 inmates at san quentin, more than 3,000 general population inmates eat their meals in the dining hall. only a handful of officers oversee the process. >> on most nights there will be two officers in the dining hall. there will be anywhere from like 200 to 400 inmates in the dining hall. and there's no guns in any dining hall. and all we have is our pepper spray and baton and our communications skills. >> this is known as mark 46. it sprays pepper spray.
controls any kind of disturbance we may have during feeding, after feeding, during escort, inmates coming in and out of the dining hall. >> on this day, prison intelligence has warned officers that a gang-related attack might occur at dinner. >> tonight, we're expecting some type of problems. possibly. so we have some extra coverage tonight to provide security. >> a member of a gang is in risk of reprimand for not fulfilling a direct order. >> they asked them to participate in their gang. if they refuse, they are disciplined. and the discipline being slashed. >> it doesn't matter how much staff we have. they will erupt if it's going to. >> officers are tense, watching for any signs of trouble. pepper spray is at the ready.
>> get on the floor! >> sure enough, the alarm sounds. prison wide, inmates sit down according to protocol. officers catch a man attempting to conceal his homemade slashing weapon. fortunately, a violent act was avoided this time. >> all right. it's okay. >> in this cell block it's the officer who is at risk during meal time. inmates housed here are considered too violent to be permitted to leave their cells. so it's the officers who must deliver the food cell by cell.
>> this is one of the most dangerous areas in the institution. there's that presence of a clear and present danger as soon as you step on the tier. and it doesn't go away. >> officer tony jones has worked these tiers for 14 years and he knows what inmates here are capable of. >> they don't work and play well with others. they're the bad guys here at san quentin. >> a modern prison would have solid doors to protect officers during feeding. but here, the cell fronts are open, allowing inmates the opportunity to assault officers in, perhaps, the most unsavory way possible. >> the absolute worst thing that could happen to you is to have that gassing, is what we call it, that mixture of feces and urine, sometimes fermented for days until it stews into something so grotesque you can't mention it. and that is thrown on the officer through the bars.
a lot of these guys are infected with hepatitis "c," hiv, and many other diseases. i'd rather be punched. i'd rather be kicked. i'd rather be stabbed than to be gassed like i was back in '92. >> incredible as it may seem, officers at san quentin say that there's an attempted assault on their lives almost every day. >> they look for vulnerable spots. they look for times when you do let your guard down. >> this is death row. in fact, this is california's only male death row where the method of execution is lethal injection. this is where you'll find such vicious killers as richard ramirez, the so-called night stalker, and richard allen davis, the killer of polly klaas. today, the condemned population has grown to a staggering 581, well beyond san quentin's
ability to handle them. this forced death row to expand into three additional cell blocks, never designed for such violent inmates. >> okay. we have one escort coming through. >> having worked at san quentin for 25 years, warden jeanne woodford understands the challenges that confront death row. >> as the number of condemned come in, it's just created a situation with this physical plant, with the open cell fronts, their ability to communicate with each other and pass on gang information just makes it very difficult to manage that population. >> the most sadistic death row inmates are isolated in the adjustment center where assaults are almost ritual. >> in the last year, it's probably tripled. and not only in numbers, but in seriousness. just some very serious incidences have happened here. >> in one recent 18-month period, 45 of the 85 inmates at
the adjustment center have successfully attacked staff. the number of attempts? off the charts. >> the mentality of most inmates in this unit is, i'm on death row, there's nothing you can do to me. if i assault you today, there's nothing they'll do to me tomorrow. that's their mentality. you can only kill me once. >> just like in general population, one of the most volatile times at the adjustment center is meal time. >> morning. >> morning. >> it's a typical morning. correctional officers are arriving to start their shift. >> can't have bad breath, you know. don't want an inmate to get upset. >> they get ready to serve
breakfast to the death row inmates. today, it's two pancakes and grits. inmates also get a bagged lunch with the meal. at one time, it took only one officer to serve an inmate a meal. he wore very little protection. today, since attacks are commonplace and vicious, it takes three officers wearing full riot gear. >> when we feed breakfast, we have all the food in serving containers. and we put it on the trays, serve it to the inmate. >> anytime that you pop open the food port, you're vulnerable. there's an opening for the inmate to assault you. officers des moines brittenum and kevin walker, have worked in death row for a total of 12 years. they say they can never be too careful in there. >> an inmate may try to grab your arm, pull it into the cell
so he can break it or stab it or, you know, cut it, slash it. >> there's been an instance where a spear was shot out at an officer when the food port was open. he opened the food port, turned and grabbed milk and breakfast items. and when he turned back around the inmate had some elastics set up to shoot out an arrow. >> he wasn't wearing these. but he was wearing a visor. so, we switched to these helmets because the face shield is thicker and harder. >> in spite of the riot gear, attacks at the adjustment center have continued. so prison officials took the extraordinary step of installing plexiglas shields to protect officers while they serve meals to prisoners. the shield has rollers which allow officers to slide it along a pipe running the length of the tier. still, the attacks have continued. >> they've been really tricky in there. one assault i can think of, the officer was handing the inmate mail. and the inmate pretended like he dropped the mail. reached down to pick it up, allegedly, in the cell but came
up with a weapon and slashed the officer's hand. >> i don't think you ever get used to it. >> no. >> i don't think that you -- you ever get to the point you feel you're getting used to it, you need a job change. >> that means you're dropping your guard, get you and somebody else hurt. >> you got to form a thick skin in here. coming up, after several related gang attacks, officers search cells for weapons and find the most ingenious inmate-manufactured killing devices. ♪ ♪ stacy's mom has got it goin' on ♪ ♪ stacy's mom has got it goin' on ♪ ♪ stacy's mom has got it goin' on ♪ [ male announcer ] the beautifully practical and practically beautiful cadillac srx. lease this 2014 cadillac srx for around $319 a month
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on last friday we had two incidents. >> it's nearly 7:00 a.m. in san quentin. and officers gather in the courtyard for a briefing regarding recent assaults they feel may be related. so they've organized an extensive cell search for hidden, makeshift weapons. >> this is how we're going to do it. we're going to do a search line right there in the rotunda. >> come on down. >> pat them all down. have them take off their shoes.
they might be packing on the way in here. they'll be searched and fed. >> after breakfast, the inmates are moved to the yards where they will stay until officers can complete their search. >> we're looking for makeshift weapons. bed spreads, anything with razors. anything they can slash these guys with or even stab them with. >> the operation is broken up into several two-person teams. >> i guess i'll get the top, huh? >> you get the top. you're the tall guy. >> officers, david hamilton and meagan mcgee each have years of experience at second-guessing where inmates like to hide contraband. >> okay. i found two razors that were removed. the blades were removed from the disposable razors. and these can be melted into a toothbrush handle, used as real good slashing instruments because they are solid, very sharp razors. >> there's another one.
>> looks like my partner has found another one. i'm going to confiscate these. they have about 20 of them. and they're only supposed to have, like, one each. >> this was manufactured from a bed spring. >> officer steve feudner works for san quentin's investigative unit, where they keep a collection of confiscated inmate manufactured weapons. >> the inmates pry a portion of their bed spring off of the bunk rail. they straighten it. they sharpen it. and this inmate used string for the handle. these weapons are very well made, extremely sharp. very deadly weapons. >> we got about a two inch, two to four inch piece of bed spring that's missing out of here. >> it's not red painted. >> strange. >> top or bottom? >> bottom. >> we spray paint it with red paint. that means it's already been noted. so, it's not new and hasn't been fixed yet. so, like that one down there doesn't have red paint, that's
one we just found out about. >> with some inmates in their cells for up to 20 hour as day, they've got nothing but time in which to think up the most ingenious ways to use whatever is at hand to make the most deadly of weapons. >> the inmates manufacture weapons from something as simple as cellophane wrappers. they'll heat it, melt it, take socks, roll it together, get it so it's forming. they'll dip it in cold water. they'll heat it again. dip it in cold water until the molecular structure changes. and then what you end up having is that. this weapon, for instance, very crudely made. magazines rolled.
this is a spear. and as you can see, it's pretty rigid. this inmate lodged a metal screw for the tip. when the officer or inmate walks by the cell, the spear is thrust out. >> you wouldn't think that a rolled up newspaper or magazine would be -- make that good of a handle and it does. very effective. >> this is known as a zip gun. this portion of the zip gun is filled with match heads, ground-up match heads. a plunger is used to push shrapnel, pieces of metal, ground up zippers, packs it down. when his target walks by, the inmate would light those two fuses. basically what you have is a double-barreled shotgun. >> what's particularly scary is once an inmate finishes making his weapon, he finds a clever place to hide it for quick access. >> it's an old joint. you can hide stuff anywhere,
like the i-beams up here. i'm going to check these. it's just a beam. you walk under it every day. somebody is walking to the chow hall. a lot of guys know where it is. but they won't tell because they don't want to get killed, get hurt for ratting. i guess you can't reach up there, can you? i'll get them. >> you had to point that out, didn't you, partner? >> i can't help it. i call them like i see them. >> by 10:00 a.m., search teams had confiscated several homemade weapons, including sharpened bed springs and blades. the search was a success. and as a result, several prisoners will be prosecuted. coming up, inmates and the politics of staying alive on the exercise yard. but first, a provocative and personal look at how inmates
remain sane in the six by nine foot world of a prison cell. they share how they cook, wash clothes, and even fish. ♪ [ male announcer ] to truck guys, the truck is everything. and when you put them in charge of making an unbeatable truck, good things happen. this is the ram 1500. the 2014 motor trend truck of the year. ♪ and first ever back-to-back champion. guts. glory. ram. if yand you're talking toevere rheuyour rheumatologistike me,
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hey, there. siam veronica de la cruz. here's what's happening. the worst dry spell in more than a century forces california governor jerry brown to declare a drought emergency. to help cope residents are being asked to cut their water use. meanwhile, in southern california, residents are battling a wildfire that has forced thousands of people from their homes. it has charred more than 1,800 acres and about 30% contained. and the cdc says the flu is continuing its spread across the united states. it is now widespread in 40 states. i'm veronica de la cruz. let's get you back to "lockup."
san quentin is a deteriorated penitentiary whose obsolete design is putting officers at risk and causing enormous inefficiency. but for the thousands of inmates incarcerated there, san quentin is home. it's where long days are spent in a small cell, where survival is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one. >> there's a nine by six cell. now i can put my hand from here to here. and i can't even stretch my arms all the way up. >> you might say this is what criminals deserve, after all, this is prison. but for cellmates, russell johnson and christopher reid, for instance, it's hard time. >> it's certain ways you conduct yourself in here, too, you know what i'm saying? >> let's say for instance someone wanted -- >> somebody wanted to talk to him, you know what i'm saying, we got -- i've got to sit down. you know what i'm saying? >> or i might have to come up like this.
or he can just turn to his side right here and walk this way. >> yeah. this is how you do it. you do your back that way. this is the real deal. you know what i'm saying? it really is. >> just how each inmate survives the extraordinary time they spend in these tiny spaces is as individual as the inmate. >> as you see we keep our home neat and clean. cleanliness is next to godliness. >> salen lee is a third termer about to be paroled. lately he's been teaching his cellmate the benefit of his experience, and he'll need it. he's got a 12-year sentence in which to practice. >> this is what i do. take my t-shirt. grab my bar of soap. dip it in the toilet because i keep my toilet fresh and clean. hold my hand here.
when the toilet fills up, it's fresh water now. now, i can just rinse it. as far as the cooking, we use a can, an empty coke can. >> i'll just demonstrate how it works. you wrap the toilet paper. you keep wrapping it. tuck it in. tuck it in on both sides. you know, in order to keep a fire going, you've got to let it breathe. this is basically what a bong looks like when you're finished. you sit it on the edge of the toilet because it's got to breathe. i might sit it here, i might light it at the bottom. as you see, it's like a fire. you hold your can over it and you cook. and you hold the can up here.
and it heats the can, therefore your water gets hot. >> at san quentin, using fish lines is the customary way for locked up inmates to share food, tobacco, information, anything. >> fish lines are throughout the institution. i mean, that's a common practice for the inmates. it's their way of getting something from this cell to that cell. they rip up bed sheets. sometimes they'll get real fine ones by taking their clothes apart, getting a thread-sized fish line going. they usually anchor it be a piece of soap or something that slides well down the tier. and they'll send everything from cigarettes to full newspapers to any information that they're trying to pass -- drugs -- all kinds of things they'll pass on the fish lines. >> i could use another one.
>> i know. >> you guys are getting too bold. >> my name is charles a. pelham. and i'm originally from tampa, florida. you may wonder why i came to the golden state of california. well, it's like they say, you come here on vacation, and you go home on probation. >> charles pelham is completing a short eight of month sentence for a parole violation. >> i'm not an aryan brother. i'm not a skinhead. i used to be a member of hari krishna back in the old days. the skulls let the rest of the inmates know they'd better back off because i'm not an easy mark. i don't hate anybody. i'm too old for that nonsense. i had this put on my face when i was a youngster. i wanted to make a political statement. i also wanted to impress my girlfriend. but it impressed her the wrong
way and she got rid of me. >> i'm the bird man of san quentin. >> mike miller is at san quentin for commercial burglary. he's got roughly eight months left to serve. >> i think the birds is a good way of releasing a lot of tension and anger. before i got arrested, my girlfriend used to chase the birds away. she didn't want me around them. and so, now i'm in here, i have a chance to mingle with the birds. and basically, that's about the only friends i've got are birds. you know, i can't trust anybody else. >> this is the mental health unit at san quentin's infirmary. the inmates who are housed here generally don't have the survival skills needed in prison. susan downs, a prison psychiatrist for more than four
years, comes here every day to see her patients. a pretty volatile group. she always maintains a safe distance from them, even with a solid steel door between them. >> i have to wear a vest because there was one psychiatrist, they tried to kill her. they grabbed her when she got near the cell port and tried to stab something into her. okay. so just going to be -- just want to check in, see how you're doing today. >> i'm doing the same i've done every day. >> dr. downs meets with her first patient. he was once incarcerated three years for stealing a car. during his term, he often assaulted both staff and inmates. now, he's back for a parole violation. officers brought him to this unit because they noticed he seemed to be quite delusional. >> don't put me in a cell. and then, don't put like a -- like a gun killer next door, right? and then the gun guys never get out, those who like shooting people. i get out and i'll be the guy who was in the cell next door, going out shooting people with a
gun. they're coming up with [ muted ] in my file. >> would you like -- >> level one, little petty theft, you get killed by a psycho killer while you sleep. >> would you like to consider taking medications? because i think it could -- >> i feel just fine. >> because you get all these thoughts rushing in your head. >> it's like this -- it's like this. the guy next door could be on a medication. and then they'll keep me around him for three months. and then i'll get out of prison. and i'll be him. little do i know he's a psycho killer. and i'm not. next thing you know, i'm running around with psycho killer. and they think i need medication. i don't need medication. >> under law in california state prisons, a psychiatrist cannot force drugs on any patient unless that patient meets certain criteria for being a danger to himself or others. >> they will probably discharge him like that. and there's not much we can do because he has the right to refuse medication.
>> this is -- this is a crime against civilization. those bars on that window. coming up, what is considered the most dangerous place at san quentin, the exercise yard. in my world, wall isn't a street. return on investment isn't the only return i'm looking forward to. and my parachute definitely isn't golden. [ male announcer ] for some, every dollar is earned with sweat, sacrifice, courage,
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on the exercise yard, there are no bars keeping rival gangs apart, only a desire to carve out their own place in the sun. >> this is the lower yard. and the inmates segregate themselves out here. and the reason being that the gangs want it that way. john gladson is a veteran officer at san quentin, with 19 years of experience observing yard politics. this has helped him to fine tune his senses for predicting trouble. >> sound is a big thing in prison. if you look out, this yard's pretty nice. everybody is out and about, talking and laughing and having a good time. if the yard goes silent, you know it's all bad. >> if something's going on, you'll feel it. it's just there to be felt.
you can tell it and many people smiling, laughing. everybody is circulating. you know what i mean? you can honestly tell, people whispering and talking. this is how it goes. >> and those are the first things -- >> the signs. >> you come to learn in the penitentiary. >> inmates must be even more aware of their environment than an officer. for them, it's all about survival of the fittest. >> using your vibes and looking at the motions and the actions to people from a distance. something is not right. something is not right. so, we've got to watch this here. >> the northern hispanics are our main gang here at san quentin. it's because they're better organized. if you look at the yard, it looks like the blacks control more of the yard. but the blacks are all fragmented into different gang groups. when the northerners, no matter what gang they're in on the street, when they get here, they're one group, and they all stick together. then the border brothers run
this area over by the laundry that has the volleyball court. border brothers being anybody that was born south of the border. they usually are the ones getting the advantage taken of them because they're not organized at all. they've taken that little area there because nobody else wants it because it has an open bathroom. it stinks. it smells. the white guys over here on the parallel bars and on the picnic table. the white guys are pretty relaxed even though in reality everybody's always looking. >> looking out for one's safety is any inmate's concern. perhaps even more important is his obligation to look out for all his cohorts on the yard. >> what you're looking at is the bathroom area. they'll go over together. and one guy will stand out in front while the other guys go to the bathroom and then they'll switch off. >> basically we do that for safety. for our safety, you know. watching your back. you never know what can happen, you know. things happen. >> this is prison and things can happen here. >> it's good having somebody else with you.
they've got your back or whatever. you know? >> right now, the atmosphere seems calm and uneventful. but, in fact, each gang is involved in at least some level of surveillance activity. >> over in the corner, you see where the aces are sitting. you'll see that everybody is sitting, facing a different direction. the reason for that is, that they're making sure nobody comes to their area. and if you look, you'll see their area is all empty right around them because they control that area. and they're not going to let anybody take their space. this is a turf war here. with the northern hispanics, they have a minister of defense, is what they call him. and his thing is he's to have ten weapons ready at any time. their weapons are all hid over there. and in the morning we'll come over and we'll search that area and try to find their weapons. but they're getting better and better at the way they hide
their weapons. the blacks are over here. as you see this one guy keeps looking around. and he's got the heavy coat on. the temperature's pretty hot. so they're the soldiers. they wear these jackets, a little bit more armor. >> watch your back, too, like you do on the street. you watch your back on the street so when you come here, it's just natural, you know what i'm saying? you don't look over your shoulder but you got somebody already looking in that direction. you know what i'm saying? and i'm looking behind him. you have someone looking sideways. it's not, hey, watch out for me. but it's like, you know, when he sees something, he's going to say something. >> and he's looking out for himself. >> my thing is this. you in the pen. you know what i'm saying? you don't need to get ready. stay ready. you know what i'm saying? you stay prepared. you're always prepared. you know what i'm saying? that's why the individuals, groups, are always on the lookout. they don't know what they're looking at. you walk up to him. what is he looking at? but him, he knows what he's looking at. he's looking at every individual
movement of this yard. when you grow up like how we grew up with gangs or whatever in the neighborhood, in the ghetto, you're raised to watch your back because you have enemies on the street. you go to school with your enemies and on the bus with them. when people come here it's not that new to us. we've been watching our back all our life. you never know which one of your enemies is going to come in just like that. so to top everything off, you got to be aware in here or on the street. you know? >> yay, look at that big smile. when we return, the last place you would expect to find this peaceful neighborhood. i need proof of insurance. that's my geico digital insurance id card - gots all my pertinents on it and such. works for me. turn to the camera. ah, actually i think my eyes might ha... next! digital insurance id cards. just a tap away on the geico app. could save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance.
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nwas the most watchedage otelevision event ever.s so, what's next? the upcoming winter games from sochi. where every second of nbc universal's coverage will be available on every device. on tv, online or streaming on the nbc sports live extra app. beginning february 6th, experience the winter games everywhere. welcome to what's next. comcast nbcuniversal at first glance, this looks like a perfectly normal suburban neighborhood. beautiful trees.
well-manicured lawns. a nice place to live. >> yeah, and my kids play outside. i don't have to worry about speeding cars coming down the road. >> that's one reason why officer, martha aliviso, decided to move her family here. the one caveat? these houses are located inside san quentin's gates. when the workday is over, most officers head for the gates, en route to their homes. but for others, home is no more than 100 yards away. >> it's hard to live in the san francisco bay area. rent is so high. we couldn't buy a house because the prices just skyrocketed. and then, with just my income, it was just impossible to live like that, so i asked warden if it was okay if we moved in. we waited three years. but we got it and here we are. >> there are 87 houses in all, and when one becomes vacant, they become available to
officers in need of cheaper rent and a shorter commute. >> i hear a lot of people say they don't want to move here because they never leave the prison. well, i come home and i'm home. >> not everyone in the family is so excited about living inside a state penitentiary. in fact, the whole idea makes martha's son, chris, pretty nervous. >> it's kind of scary because they could break out and come and sneak in. i just think about it sometimes. >> actually, it's very safe. it's like a real nice -- just a good neighborhood. everybody is a correctional officer. so, if somebody escapes, they're really not going to run here. they're going to run somewhere else. >> yay. look at that big smile. >> for inmates, the feeling of community can be found in one of the several houses of worship on the prison grounds. ♪ this is the garden chapel. when it was built, most inmates were protestant. which is why their facility is
the largest of the six chapels at san quentin. with over 200 seats, it's also among the most spacious in california. ♪ glory glory ♪ hallelujah ♪ since i lay my prayers down >> evangelist, richard rugnao, has been singing here for 11 years. richard was once an inmate at another institution. after kicking a heroin addiction that almost killed him, religion helped him turn his life around, something he feels his parishioners can appreciate. ♪ when i say hallelujah ♪ hallelujah >> they can relate to that. and i come back in to tell them that there is a way that they can come out of that also. ♪ >> for those inmates who are
sincere about reprogramming their lives, richard gives them a song of prayer and a little bit of hope. >> where there are rules and regulations, and rightfully so because they're incarcerated, just the fact they're able to yell as loud as they want to or clap their hands and stomp their feet for that brief hour and a half, two hours, however long we're here, they're able to get some kind of release. >> come on, give me praise. in this house at the top of the day. >> at san quentin, getting any kind of release is a luxury for both officers and inmates, alike. this is a tense, stressful environment. aggravated by the antiquated design of its building and how officers and inmates manage their stress is all a matter of individual choice. >> i think if you have outside activities, it helps a lot.
i try not to get too worked up over certain situations that i can't control. you know, sometimes you've just got to stop and say, okay. i need a minute. >> hi, my name is ray lincoln. >> for inmate ray lincoln, doing time at san quentin is much more emotional. >> this is just a true life story about being in here. you know what i'm talking about? ♪ i close my eyes and see the things ♪ ♪ that no one else can see ♪ and no matter how far apart we are ♪ ♪ your heart's in tune with me all around me ♪ ♪ i feel all the stress because i'm dealing with insecurity ♪ ♪ and i lay all my thoughts in the night i cry ♪ ♪ because i wonder where i went wrong ♪
♪ and by the time they let me go ♪ ♪ i know that you will all be gone ♪ ♪ because i'm doing time >> free us. free us. free us. >> it's clear that san quentin, california's oldest prison, is decrepit and in serious need of an overhaul. after years of debate, state officials say they are planning a nearly quarter of a billion renovation of the death row facility. the plan has numerous critics who argue the expensive renovation is only a temporary solution and that the new facility would be at capacity within a year of opening. but with an appeals process that averages 20 years and about 30 inmates added yearly to a death row that was originally built for 68, overcrowding continues to be a serious problem. currently, there are nearly 700 people waiting for execution. that's our report. i'm john seigenthaler
due to mature subject matter, viewer discretion is advised. it's like being buried alive. >> we house the worst of the worst. >> aisle i'm going to ask you one more time and that's it. >> i've been in two riots. >> prison is no good place. >> he ran a razor blade down my arm. >> i'm in effect a child molester. >> i'm not going to change my views on the death penalty just because i'm facing the death penalty. >> cable into the base of the chair. you don't go to death watch and come back to live to tell about it.