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tv   Lockup Raw  MSNBC  April 12, 2015 8:00pm-9:01pm PDT

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due to mature subject matter, viewer discretion is advised. msnbc takes you behind the walls of one of america's most notorious prisons, into a world of chaos and danger. now, the scenes you've never seen, "lockup: raw." it's a grinding wheel. everything here is a rut, a circle. a death trap inside. it will wear you down. >> they're the inmates who may never know freedom again. >> i've got some criminal tendencies. >> there have been times that i got into a fight over certain things.
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>> they're the inmates with nothing left to lose. >> i've seen a lot of guys snap. any given day they can snap. >> having feces or urine thrown an ow, spit, blood, semen, anything you can think of has happened in here. >> like a tomb. a concrete tomb. >> these are the inmates who serve hard time. >> these are not the good guys. >> what's my role here? i'm an [ bleep ]. >> it's fun to break the law and dance with the devil, but when you got to pay the fiddler, there ain't nothing nice. ♪ >> in prison, the term "hard time" can mean many different things. it could be an inmate who will never see freedom again. or an inmate who is doing solitary confinement for years at a time.
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our crews have seen numerous examples of what it's like to do hard time. but there's one story in particular that seems like it came straight out of a movie. >> every weekday morning, just after sunrise, a group of inmates at the elayn hunt correctional center in louisiana, prepares for a grueling day of farming the fields adjacent to the prison. >> we have 63 acres of vegetable gardens that we grow vegetables on, anything from squash, tomatoes, mustard greens, collard greens. >> supervised by armed officers on horseback and earning 2 cents an hour for their labor, the inmates harvest more than a million pounds of crop per year, all of it used at the prison. but this particular work detail forces staff to be especially vigilant. >> knowing that they have tools that they could easily use as weapons, and they've done it
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before, it makes you watch your back and keeps you on your toes. you never know what could happen. you could take one of the best guys and he decides that he doesn't like you and wants to take you out. >> when you get it like this, like that the razor blade there. i learned that, sharpening the knives on the floors. >> joel baker has three life sentences and a nickname. it's white trash. >> judge gave me my name. it's kind of ironic. upon sentencing they had me charged with three murders. a drug deal gone by in a hotel room, shootout. she -- they shot me, and i shot them. the judge says in her final summation, you are nothing, mr. baker, but a pebble in the pond. you are nothing but poor white trash. all my life, i was a bad boy. i look back and i see all the stupid mistakes that i made.
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and i see the young people that's here at this prison and i hear all the stories because i listen and i think to myself, you do not know how fortunate you are. you're going out there with another chance, whether it's five years, ten years or what. you're getting another chance. i'll never get that chance. i would give my leg, my arm, for that chance. i'm never going to get it. i'm going to die right here. >> it's fun to break the law and dance with the devil. but see, when you got to pay the fiddler, it ain't nothing nice. trust me, i'm living it. i'm living it. >> when it comes to serving hard time, white trash baker is hardly alone. >> me, myself, i got 35 to life. i'm here on a three strikes case. in the mid-'80s i had a burglary and attempted burglary. i did four years for it. those are strike one and strike two. in 1996, i caught a drug charge,
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a methamphetamine charge, i fell under the california's three strikes and you're out law. i ended up getting a sentence of 35 years to life. >> aaron yost was 11 years into his latest sentence when we met him at kern valley state prison in california. he says his problems stem from a near life-long abuse of drugs. >> i grew up with drugs. my parents were quote/unquote hippies. both my parents dropped acid. my mom's dead now from a drug overdose. when i was 9 years old, i was rolling joints for mom and dad. >> yost's life is now largely confined to this cell, which he shares with another inmate. >> i'm not comfortable with this. i don't like men, i like women, you know? and this, to me, it's disgusting. i'm still irritated. if i wake up in the morning, i'm agitated because i have to live with another man. >> now, the closest yost comes to female companionship is
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through his tattoos. some of which are too graphic to show on television. >> that's what i dream about, that's all i got. you know? >> i remember when we met aaron, the man was tattooed, incredibly inked. if one word describes him, it's intense, just full of energy. and i remember when my producer asked him, what's the daily routine? he just started right in on telling us what it was all about. >> one person has to get down, put the bunk down. you come over here, do your business. you wipe the sink out after you're done. there are rules people live with. you have to be pristine. this has to be clean. the inside -- see how aim he cleaning the toilet? this is clean. i could wash my face in here. we don't live like pigs. we're not animals. everything is spotless. that's why everything is so shiny. there's etiquette. you know what i mean? say i have to pass gas, right, i'm not going to fart in the cell.
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i'll sit on the [ bleep ] and hit the button. that way it goes down. it's hell. it's constant pressure. every day. it's like an animal in a cage, you know. you get poked. you get poked. you get prodded, not just by staff but by everybody. everything's a challenge. this is a place where evil lives, you know? >> though he seemed eager to express himself, yost later told our producer that giving this interview put him at risk with other inmates. >> because there's repercussion. because i'm talking to you, because i'm giving you an interview. >> from whom are there repercussions? >> because i could be considered a rat. you follow what i'm saying? for giving up information, giving up game, explaining how it is in here. you know what i mean? >> we saw what aaron meant by that because we took him out to a more common area of the prison and one of his neighbors began questioning him about what he was talking about. and i just kept rolling. >> what it's like in the cell, you know what i mean? what it's like to live in here. you know what i mean?
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some of the laws. the cos, this is a new prison -- >> did you tell them about the emotional aspect of it? >> oh, man, too much. i probably spend like half an hour in there, the agony of what it is. the prodding, the frustration. you feel like you can't release. how do people release their frustration? they drive. you build your body. you build your muscles. your tattoos, do all that stuff. >> all right, you kept it like that all the time, i'll support you. # >> prison is predatory. prison is evil. everybody in here runs on base emotion. # very few people think with a higher intellect about how to do stuff or how to be. what? >> yourself included? is that how you operate? how do you operate in here? >> well, there's people that would tell you how i operate in here. i'm sure there's lots of people that would tell you that they don't approve of how i operate. >> those people include the
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correctional staff. who not only believe yost is a dangerous inmate but that he's the leader of a white supremacist gang. >> is that yost? have you seen him on the yard? watch for him. watch out for that dude. watch his movement. >> we found information, we received a kite saying that if yost gets three feet next to this guy, he's going to hit him. he's going to hit him. >> what's my role here? i'm an [ bleep ]. in their mind, i'm a [ bleep ]. you know? i'm constantly agitating them. and they are constantly agitating me. and i won't quit. >> ultimately yost may not have a choice. >> time's ticking. i'm sick from hepatitis c virus from shooting dope for so many years. the treatment that i've been on for a year and a half isn't working. i'm liver stage 2. i'm tired, can't get no expression out. all my family died, one by one.
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>> what is your future? >> death. what's yours? death. up next on "lockup: raw, hard time." >> he's a big, powerful, scary guy. he's the kind of guy that would have been a formidable opponent in a cell extraction. >> i got some criminal tendencies, okay, ain't like i'm in here for nothing, all right? >> one inmate pushes correctional staff to the brink.
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nestled at the base of the rocky mountains, colorado state penitentiary was built to house the state's most violent and disruptive inmates. it gives new meaning to the words hard time.
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>> we decided that csp could not be a place where inmates could get comfortable and make a life for themselves. we had to treat them differently. >> colorado state isn't just any maximum security prison. it's a super max facility. inmates here are considered a constant threat and are confined to single-person cells 23 hours a day. >> i was astounded by how sterile and stark and what tough time it would be to serve in that particular prison. i think that would be the hardest time possible. >> many of the inmates we spoke to agreed. they say the isolation is too much. >> i've been here a long time. i've seen a lot of guys, seen them snap, you know? any given day they can snap. >> 23 hours a day you're locked
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down. you come out for five hours a week. essentially it's just another cell. it's a dead room with a pull-up bar. there is window where you can get some fresh air. that's it. # everywhere you go, handcuffed, handcuffed to go in the shower. you have no human contact with nobody at all. >> but roy slagle has had more contact than most inmates here. it's just been all the wrong kind. at the time of our shoot, he held a dubious record. he had had more cell extractions than any other inmate at the prison. cell extractions occur when inmates violate rules.
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and refuse orders to cuff up and vacate their cells. it's then up to a specially trained emergency response team to forcibly remove them. and in slagle's case, the extractions are always intense. >> [ bleep ]. >> roy slagle is a big, powerful guy. he is intimidating looking. when you meet him, you understand why he would have been considered a formidable opponent in a cell extraction. >> in and out of correctional facilities since the age of 14, slagle was serving time for robbery and assault when we met him. >> i got some criminal tendencies, okay? you know what i mean? i robbed and i fought with a guy in here. ain't in here for nothing, you know? i come here and i got in quite a
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bit of trouble here or i would have been out a long time ago. >> i'm the shift commander. i need to have you uncover your window. are you going to cooperate or do you want us to come and get you out of your cell? slagle? no response. >> in one of his more memorable acts of defiance, slagle served as a ring leader when he and seven other inmates covered up their cell windows, a major infraction of prison security rules. >> we'll have to come in and get you. is that what you want? no response. >> jones, this is captain cruz -- >> this is captain cruz. # i'm shift commander tonight on swing shift i'm going to ask you to uncover your window. >> no. >> are you refusing? >> yes. >> do you understand that i'll send a team in to bring you out of your cell? >> yes.
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>> okay. >> unable to get slagle and others to uncover their windows, captain cruz summons the emergency response team. >> so we are going to get them out. the first one is going to be slagle, because we identified him as one of the leaders. he will fight us. he will try to get out of his cell. >> determined to make a stand, slagle mounts a defense with the few meager items he has in his cell. he has jammed his door with a hardened papier-mache-like mixture with wet newspapers and toothpaste. but with the extraction team on its way, the conflict is about to come to a head. >> [ bleep ].
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>> easy' on the floor with his feet up against the door. prepare to come out. >> slagle fights off the extraction team for a full minute before they take him to the floor and attempt to cuff him. >> [ bleep ]. >> it takes another four minutes of struggling before slagle is finally subdued. he's placed on a gurney so that the team can move him into a holding cell. following a strip search, a
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defeated slagle will be left in the holding cell until authorities feel they can safely transfer him back to his own cell. >> good job, guys. >> everybody in prison ain't the scum of the earth. there are actually real good people in here that do have some morales, that would never harm a child. old folks. # i would like to be in a situation where i could actually get real rehabilitation. this place here, it's just about control. >> slagle's defiant attitude seemed to change after the prison introduced the use of oc gas, also known as pepper spray, to their extraction procedure. >> please come to the door and cuff up. you understand if you don't cuff up we're going to administer oc? >> yes. i understand.
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>> slagle's first experience with the gas might have been a rude awakening. it was also one of the few times he submitted to an extraction without a prolonged struggle. after determining he is not going to be combative, officers allow slagle to shower off the burning gas. >> one of the really amazing things about the cell extractions is that sometimes afterwards, the inmate and the officers seem to have a camaraderie, almost like pro athletes standing around the locker room at the end of a really tough game. and that was the case with slagle as he was recovering from his pepper spray. >> yeah, [ bleep ]. first time for that. last time? >> i don't know.
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next on "lockup: raw." ♪ spent 18 long years ♪ in this old cold prison >> one inmate's way of dealing with hard time. >> every year i change the amount of years it's been since i've been in prison. it occurred to mindy she might actually be invisible. ♪ but mindy was actually not invisible. ooh, what are you doing? can you see me? she had just always been treated that way. yeah. you don't have to look at me like that. there are worst things than an attractive woman touching your body. i'll go. join the nation that sees you as a priority. ♪ nationwide is on your side hey, scott!. this is no time for lollygaggin', lad. but we love lollygaggin'. we do. but it's a battlefield out there! you know the chickweed is surrounding yer sidewalk and the dandelions are stealing precious nutrients!
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♪ at the brushy mountain correctional complex in tennessee, we met an inmate who knows something about serving hard time. brian lautenschlager is serving a 90-year sentence for armed robbery and attempted murder. >> been in here so long, sometimes it seems like i was born in here. >> how long have you been here? >> i've been -- in prison, all together, 18 years. came in when he was 18, got out when i was 24. come back when he was 25. now i'm 36, going on 37.
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>> along with working out, there's one other way that lautenschlager copes. ♪ i was 18 years old when they sent me to prison ♪ far away from my home in east tennessee ♪ ♪ still see the tears my darling was crying ♪ ♪ as she whispered i love you said she'd wait for me ♪ >> when i first come to prison, i had a girlfriend and she was telling me how she was going to wait on me and all this. and things change. and i'm still in here. and she's gone. ♪ it's been 18 long years in this old cold prison ♪
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sometimes i think it's been so long ♪ ♪ i lost the girl i love to the arms of a stranger ♪ ♪ the only home i know is surrounded by stone ♪ >> a sense of freedom, you know. it frees my mind. i'm not thinking about brushy mountain or prison, you know. ♪ i'm lonesome and blue ♪ that's all i can sing ♪ i'm lonesome and blue ♪ that's all i can sing >> snow-covered pines. it's been a while since i had written it. every year i change the amount of years that i've been in prison. next on "lockup: raw -- hard time."
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>> it's like a tomb, a concrete tomb. >> they're considered the worst of the worst. >> the skies that do with the sunlight. but it's fading away, like butter on cornbread. >> but these inmates have found an icon to relate to. >> that's almost something like shakespeare himself would write. ? that'll be $23.50. now .75, 23.75, hold 'em. hey now do i hear 23.75? 24! hey 24 dollar, 24 and a quarter, quarter, now half, 24 and a half and .75! 25! now a quarter, hey 26 and a quarter, do you wanna pay now, you wanna do it, 25 and a quarter- -sold to the man in the khaki jacket! geico. fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance. now? can i at least put my shoes on? if your bladder is calling the shots ... you may have a medical condition called overactive bladder ... ...or oab you've got to be kidding me. i've had enough! it's time to talk to the doctor.
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works. don't settle for u-verse xfinity delivers the fastest, most reliable internet. perfect for people who like things to just work. hello, everybody. this hour's top stories. a 1-year-old boy in cleveland is dead, shot boy a 3-year-old who picked up an unattended gun inside a home. police say at least one adult was home when it happened and they are trying to determine where the gun came from. police in florida say a lamborghini that was part of a walt disney world attraction crashed. and killed a person. now, it's back to lock up.
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in many of america's maximum security prisons, there are three letters that strike fear in the hearts of inmates. s-h-u. the shu. it stands for secured housing unit. and like a prison within a prison, these units house the worst of the worst. >> mostly assaults, intimidation, threatening, whether it be on staff or on inmates that land them in here. these are not the good guys. >> when we visited the shu at indiana's wabash valley correctional facility, the staff made it clear. absolute control is the top priority. >> your quietest day in the shu can be the worst day in the shu in about two seconds. some of the challenges we face are the threat of being gunned down, as we say in here, having feces or urine thrown on you, spit, blood, semen, anything you can think of has happened in this building.
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>> but for inmates in the shu, the monotony brings a horror of its own. they told us what it was like to spend 23 hours a day in a windowless concrete cell, sometimes for years at a time. >> it's like you're always trying to find a way to come up for air. this place suffocates you. you know what i'm saying? >> it's a tomb for me. you know? it's like a tomb. it's like a tomb, a concrete tomb. what if they would have sent these punk ass dudes to -- and he would have succeeded in killing them, right? >> during our first day on the shu, we walked into a heated exchange about murder. >> what you saying about the killer? you saying both killer. >> but it wasn't about prison violence. >> showed up, saying that macbeth sent him.
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>> it was about shakespeare. >> it was really bizarre. because the inmates are not allowed out of their cells. so they're having this lively conversation through the pie flaps in their cell doors, but other than that, it was like being in a college classroom, listening to a literary debate. >> macbeth is a general, and he got strategies. i think he might have been prepared for that, so when it came, he would have been, like, my god, how you doing? you know what i'm saying? >> through a program called shakespeare in the shu, inmates here have a brief escape from the relentless boredom of being locked down. indiana state university professor laura bakes started the program. >> i went door to door, cell to cell and had experiences like walking up at one cell and completely unannounced, mentioned shakespeare and the offender started quoting from shakespeare. had no idea this was coming.
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that's how shakespeare in the shu was born. >> still doesn't answer the question about the third murder. >> you could look at him as being like -- >> the program has inmates rewrite shakespeare in a way that reflects their own experiences. during our shoot, the group was working on macbeth. a play about ambition, assassination and a warlord's lust for power. >> i take macbeth to the streets. and what he did, he bring to the hoods, to the housing projects, you know, guys that don't got nothing, and he used nobodies, nobody know. >> leon vincent, serving 60 years for murder, read one of his passages to the group. >> you read my eyes like parables. i was pressed for time because of my special preparations for tonight's special feast. >> i really like the metaphor
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that you used, you read my eyes like parables, right? right. >> that's almost something like shakespeare himself would write. so i really like that. >> i'm from the hood, you know, not to separate the hood from anything. shakespeare was something, you know, i never thought i would experience in my life. you know, since i came in contact with shakespeare, i see a lot of those parallels that correlate with urban life. >> essentially macbeth and the rest of the characters are committing either immoral, unethical or criminal acts. where we would say criminal acts, right? of course, that's what we're in here for, committing criminal acts. so it's made me more introspective. >> the sky has the residue of sunlight, but it fades away like butter on cornbread. the titans of our targets is hunger. macbeth is getting rid of them. that's how he keep his hands clean. he's going to have the lower ranking ones do the job for him so he don't have to. >> just days before our shoot,
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inmate iris white had completed a 3 1/2-year shu term and had been transferred to general population. he was allowed to return to the shu to finish his work on the script. now, he gets to join this group of general population inmates who will bring the script to life. >> it was really funny, because some of the inmates were playing witches in macbeth, dancing around, these big old guys, big, you know, dangerous, scary-looking guys, going "whoo!" >> an all-male cast is something that we need to get accustomed to. we're not used to it. the population here isn't used to seeing them playing women. and yet that's the way shakespeare's plays were originally done. >> you have overstepped your
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authority. it is i with an awesome sight. bow down and acknowledge my heights. by magical words, i shall give the illusion of spirit with much nerve. >> as the actors were performing, i looked over my shoulder and i noticed iris was silently reciting every word of the play. so i focused my camera on him and i thought it was pretty cool that he was getting to see his own words coming to life and enjoying it so much. >> all he's known in belief, he shall bury it. i tell you, hags, that this -- >> whoo! [ applause ] >> this is the first time i seen it when he was speaking, i knew everything, i knew the words as he was saying it, right? it's crazy to hear it. to see the words come to life. make you want to continue to do it. like art imitates life.
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oh, man, that looked good. i like it. they did good. i want to see some more of it, though. >> for iris white, the playwright, it was the first time he had seen a performance of it, and he was really happy. you know, it was like the greatest day of his life. >> but white's elation was not to last. the day ended in bitter disappointment. >> and then an hour later, he got in a fight in the yard and got busted and got sent back to the shu. so it just shows how fast things can fall apart even when things are going good. prison can take it all away from you. >> it's the old law, you know? for every action, there's a reaction. so i can relate to macbeth, you know, by the choices he made predicted his punishment. some of us made mistakes. our choices was mistakes, now we're paying for them. next --
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>> three dangerous individuals. his believes, which aren't really the norm of any known society that i know of. >> a feared inmate is released to the yard. rushing to work all those years- from time in the service... to different jobs... to community college... all that hard work-it matters.
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in every prison we profiled on "lockup," there's a certain type of inmate doing hard time. they're the ones that have come in as teenagers, they've grown up in the prison system, they've spent their entire life there. so everything they learned about being an adult comes from the lessons they've learned from being behind bars. >> we met such an inmate at the penitentiary of new mexico. >> when i first got there, i was 17 years old. they put me in a dormitory that was overcrowded.
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man, i was just like i was scared to death. i didn't know what to expect. or what to do. i knew right away i'd get jumped, beat up, maybe worse, maybe raped, maybe murdered. >> joe sears might have been a scared kid when he first arrived, but he quickly grew to be one of the most feared inmates the prison has ever known. >> very dangerous individual. has the potential to be very dangerous anyways. very strong. has his mind set on his beliefs which aren't really the norm of any known society that i know of. so he's a very difficult type of person. >> i remember joe sears very vividly. because so many of the correctional officers had dealt with him in the 20 years he had been locked up there. people kind of lowered their voices when they talked about joe sears. >> as a result of fights, intimidation and other rule violations, sears has spent most of the past 15 years in new
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mexico's highest security unit, level six. >> there have been times, yes, that i got into a fight over certain things, you know, whether it was, you know, a couple guys jumping on me because they didn't like what i said or who i was hanging out with or where i was working or maybe they wanted the job position or something. who knows, you know? maybe they just disliked me for the color of my skin or my attitude or, i don't know, you know. >> sears was convicted on several charges including robbery, kidnapping and rape. he first entered the penitentiary in 1983 on a 36-year sentence. >> i remember him working out in f-2, our recreation area, lifting hundred-pound dumb bells like they were nothing. he walked around like he owned that place. no problem getting in your face at any time, for anything.
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>> and before long, sears gained a reputation to match his muscle. >> inmate joe sears was part of the aryan brotherhood. he was one of the big boys in that faction. he was the type of guy that would have put the hurt on you if you looked at him wrong at that point. >> i guess a lot of people looked at me as one of the, if you mess with the white boys or there's a problem with them, joe's going to be one of them. he'll be up front. you'll have to deal with him. >> as a level six inmate, sears lives in solitary confinement and is allowed outdoors no more than an hour a day, which he spends in this exercise cage. hard time has taken its toll. >> he's lost a lot of weight. mentally he's not as sure of himself. >> a big piece of my life is ruined. it's just real sad, it's a waste of time. >> sears has no family or friends waiting for him. our crew was his first contact with outside faces in years.
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he opened up on how his time has affected him. >> it's kind of hard for me to explain. you start feeling. they talk about conscience. before you didn't have a conscience. you start developing a conscience. because you actually have time to sit in a cell all day and think about the things you've done. you know what i mean? it's like, man, why did i do that? what a dumb kid. >> during our shoot at new mexico, sears had been approved for a transfer to level five. a lower security housing unit where he would have considerably more freedom and the opportunity to be around other inmates. but with sears, nothing is certain. >> he's been in level five a couple times. i hope he makes it. joe sears, it's a big waiting game. only joe sears knows if he can make it there or not.
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>> i personally have never had any problems with him. but i am concerned having him in my pod, in my unit. i'm concerned about being assaulted. >> i got butterflies in me but it's just -- i feel good about going over there. i'm glad to finally get this chance, this opportunity. >> our cameras were there as sears made the move to level five. >> the move went off okay. and when we got to his cell, he kind of took it in. even though it looked like, you mow, pretty much the same as his old cell, it seemed like he was in a new world. >> looks about the same, doesn't it? >> later, our crew caught up with sears on the prison yard. >> that's my main concentration
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and priority, to try and make something good of this. it's not going to do me no good to sit here and ignore this, throw all this to crazy or not get anything out of it. i'm not that 16-year-old kid anymore. i'm 41 years old now. >> as he walked across the yard, first time in years with other inmates, we had no idea what to expect. >> we missed you. >> one time. one time only. >> go ahead. >> hey, i'm not good at this. i'll tell you right now. are you good? >> not really. >> not really? >> hit a ringer. >> i'll try. >> i think it astounded him to be out on the yard and working out with somebody else, being in contact with another inmate that he could talk to without being in shackles.
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>> that's one, two. >> i'm ahead, 2-0. >> he seemed like a kid, you know, at summer camp. >> but an even more significant challenge is in sears' future. >> i ain't going to lie. 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? when i get out to the streets, i have to pick up where that 16-year-old kid left off. next on "lockup: raw" -- >> they call me big "d."
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i've been in the barber shop since '93. >> there's one place in prison where everybody knows your name. >> my special haircut before they took the razors away from >> a close shave here can result in more than just a nick. but managing my symptoms was all i was doing. so when i finally told my doctor, he said humira is for adults like me who have tried other medications but still experience the symptoms of moderate to severe crohn's disease. and that in clinical studies, the majority of patients on humira saw significant symptom relief. and many achieved remission. humira can lower your ability to fight infections, including tuberculosis. serious, sometimes fatal infections and cancers, including lymphoma, have happened; as have blood, liver, and nervous system problems, serious allergic reactions, and new or worsening heart failure. before treatment, get tested for tb. tell your doctor if you've been to areas where certain fungal infections are common, and if you've had tb, hepatitis b, are prone to infections,
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when an inmate is serving hard time with little to no chance of ever living on the outside again, he takes advantage of every small opportunity he can to feel like he's free. and "lockup" crews have seen time and time again, there's one place in prison that offers a few moments of normalcy. the prison barber shop. >> they call me big "d." i'm a cosmetologist outside and in here. i've been cutting hair in this
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barber shop since '93. >> darryl "big d" wright is serving hard time at california's aging san quentin state prison. we found him working his barber chair in a no-frills shop. >> we have three barbers in here. we're pretty steady. you know, they come in. one of us try to be here at all times. so we all have to know how to cut all kind of hair. >> as with any barber, it's important to keep the customers satisfied. that's especially true when your clients are inmates. >> you know, occasionally guys, they drop by and want to give you a little something if you give a good haircut, you know? want to give you a soup or something like that or a canned good or something like that. it's not a mandatory thing but they won't let you refuse them. you know what i'm saying? they won't let you refuse them. >> barber shops have been a
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favorite stop for "lockup" crews at prisons nationwide. >> any man that walks through the door can get a haircut and he'll get a good haircut. he might not get a whole lot of layers and feathers and all that, but he'll get a good haircut. >> we met willard lucas at indiana state prison. he had been working the same chair for 26 years. >> my special haircut is a taper haircut. and my other specialty before they took the razors away from us was a straight razor. i could use a straight razor pretty good. and -- which i enjoyed. but for some reason, they took them away from us. so we don't use them no more. >> at 79 years old, lucas' grandfatherly personality seems at odds with his past. he is serving two life sentences. >> i caught a guy in bed with my
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old lady and i blowed my top and i kind of hurt him. >> what were you charged with? >> kidnap, murder. i was going to take her to the, to the hospital, i didn't think she was dead. because she was moving. and i put her in the car and that's where i got the kidnapped picked up from. i got to be here until i die. i got double life. and i got to stay here until i die. >> though prison barber shops can possess an almost bucolic small-town charm, simmering hostilities are sometimes found right below the surface. rodney buford is an inmate barber at the riverbend maximum security institution in tennessee. once a week, he cuts hair on death row. >> i was about to cut a guy that
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was an open white supremacist. aryan nation-type person. and he had a nazi sign on his forehead. i heard he killed like three people in prison already, in addition to what happened out there on the street. so here it is now, i'm fixing to cut somebody's hair that maybe hates me just because of the way i look as far as my skin is concerned. >> buford put professionalism ahead of his feelings and completed the cut. but at some other prisons, race is an issue that can't be brushed away. at california's kern valley state prison the grooming tools are racially coded. there are different sets for white inmates, blacks, hispanics and others, those are asians and pacific islanders. >> before you take it out, you have to check with the officers to make sure all the pieces in there.
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and after the job is done, when you turn it in, they have to check it again. let the officer check again. they don't have to worry about, you know, what's missing and what's not. >> inmate minha tor, a native of cambodia, only services the others, like fellow cambodians. >> i give haircut by inmates assigned to another flock. he cut the other's hair. we are the minority of the prison. we're the smallest group in the prison. >> now contradiction a white barber cut your hair? could a black barber cut your hair? >> no. i mean, if you're really cool with the person, yeah. but i prefer to be cut by my own people. to be safe is better, stick to our own. >> safe. and well groomed. >> how good is he as a barber? how good is mina? >> he's good because he did that as his profession on the street. so we got one real barber here in prison. cut.
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due to mature subject matter, viewer discretion is advised. msnbc takes you behind the walls of america's most notorious prisons. into a world of chaos and danger. now, the scenes you've never seen -- "lockup raw." inside every prison there's one question that both inmates and correctional officers must ask themselves. knowing the right answer could mean the difference between life and death. the question, who can i trust?


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