tv Lockup Wabash MSNBC June 5, 2015 11:00pm-12:01am PDT
due to mature subject matter, viewer discretion is advised. am i evil? yes i am. >> one inmate walks a fine line between heaven and hell. after a decade in confinement -- >> it just strips the humanity away from you. >> one of indiana's most infamous inmates moves to general population. >> i couldn't believe it with his reputation that he has. >> serving 100 years for a
heinous crime, another inmate discovers a unique way to make amends. >> i believe that i've changed to the good. >> be careful. >> that's my favorite rapper. he's the future. >> and a would-be rapper pays the price for attacking an officer. >> i've learned not to touch the police. they will touch you back. >> welcome to wabash. hope y'all could stay longer. >> with more than 2,000 inmates, the wabash valley correctional facility in southwestern indiana has a larger population and more acreage than the rest of the
small town in which it's located. >> carlisle is a very small community, approximately 1,200 is their population. it's comprised of a school. it has a grocery store. it has a gas station, a couple of little restaurants, a dollar store and that's really about all that's in carlisle. >> while carlisle might be a remnant of a simpler time, inside the twin security fences of wabash is evidence of how some aspects of society have grown harder. >> we're seeing a lot more offenders coming in much younger than they were before and much more violent than in the past as well. correctional officers are the backbone of the facility. they're the ones dealing with the offenders on a daily basis. they are frontline. >> i've been hearing about the correction setting since i was 8 years old. i grew up around it. so coming in here was actually kind of easy for me. i already knew what to expect. i've heard all the war stories.
>> officer jarrod mcmillan has been on the frontline at wabash for four years now. the war stories have come from his mother and father, both of whom are also on wabash's correction staff. >> it's the kind of environment that you don't want everybody in. i wouldn't let my daughter here but she's not meant for this. he's a little tougher. and my wife is real tough. they can handle it. >> but the younger officer mcmillan was recently put to the test. as he was escorting one inmate, another inmate unleashed a violent attack. >> he stuck his arm out with a bottle full of feces and urine and started flinging it everywhere, i had it on my face, my uniform, my pants. it was in the corner of my mouth. he actually got it in my mouth. i had to wait for somebody to come take pictures of it. so he could be prosecuted for that. then i went up front and took a shower.
they don't make enough soap to wash something like that out. i received a phone call a couple of weeks ago and they told me everything was clear. >> there is an average of 15 officer assaults a year. this inmate recently contributed to that statistic. >> i just reacted and a verbal altercation turned physical. i was on my way to religious service actually. the officer was telling me, tie my shoes. and then i tied my shoes. he told me to tuck my shoelaces in my shoes. he told me to uncuff my pants. so i kind of got irritated. i'm like, i'm just going to religious service. >> burke's victim, officer james manuel, has a different account.
>> he was acting very arrogant and wouldn't let you speak to him. so i told him basically, i'm not arguing with you and directed him to go back to the housing unit. >> you see how they're doing me? >> a lieutenant who overheard the exchange ordered manuel to cuff burks and escort him back to his cell. >> before i could get him, security turned around and punched me. >> i hit him in his face. while i was doing it, i was thinking in my mind, i just messed up. >> then he hit me a couple of more times with the handcuffs since he had one hanging loose on the other arm. >> me and another officer heard the argument, started walking towards it when we heard it. in the process, the inmate turned around and knocked officer manuel down on the sidewalk. we came over, put the offender down on the ground, cuffed him up and escorted him to seg. >> i had to get stitches, had a cut on my forehead and my nose.
>> burks internally was charged with assault on the officer and resisting. it took three or four staff members to actually restrain him. >> as a result, burks was transferred from general population to the custody unit while officials determine what sanction he will receive. at a minimum, it will include a move to the secured confinement unit where inmates are housed 23 hours a day and lose many of their privileges, including contact visitation. few people know more about how difficult life in confinement is than christopher trotter. after ten consecutive years there, he has been released to a transitional housing unit on his way back to general population. >> probably known him for 12, 13 years.
when i heard he was going to open pop, i couldn't believe it with his reputation that he has. i didn't think they would let him out. >> oh, man. this is what i do all day long, drink ice water. it's been ten years since i had a cup of ice water. i was like, dang, i never knew that water tasted so good. but it does, just ice water. and these are the little things we take for granted. >> trotter, whose name is infamous in the indiana state prison system, will now be around other inmates and staff without handcuffs and shackles for the first time in ten years. he originally came to prison nearly three decades earlier on a four-year sentence for theft. but then trotter received 142 years as a result of being one of the instigators of a major riot at another prison.
he has spent a total of 16 years in confinement but says these last ten nearly broke him. >> that was some of the most torturous time i ever did in my life back there. and it took everything i had to keep it from dehumanizing me, demoralizing me and institutionalizing me. it strips the humanity away from you. i guess it's a good thing that i can get emotional. it goes to show you that i'm not dead inside. i still feel. coming up -- >> i've always been told if
like those at many other maximum security prisons, hundreds of inmates at indiana's wabash valley correctional facility seek to make a statement about themselves through tattoos. some might use their ink to keep other inmates at a distance, to advertise their gang affiliation or the heinous act that brought them here. 37-year-old bill abbott got two of his more prominent tattoos prior to coming to wabash. little did he know how ironic they would become. >> my horns. >> why? what did you do bad? >> it was my way of life at the time. not no evil or devil worshipping or nothing like that. i've always been told by all the christian family that i've known
that if you're not serving god, you're serving the devil. i thought, that's going to be hard to do. if i can get them covered up with a halo, i would. but i don't think that will work. >> can you show me what's on your forearms? >> it says, am i evil, yes i am. it's the name of a song by metallica. they've been one of my favorite groups since i can remember. >> abbott has been in and out of prison since he was 18. >> a lot of thefts. possession of stolen property, receiving stolen properties. if it wasn't bolted down, you can't bolt it down, i'd buy it or sell it. >> but this time, abbott is at wabash for a more serious crime. he's serving 40 years for arson. he's convicted of burning down his hometown's historic catholic
church, built in 1924. it happened in the predawn hours of easter morning. >> you have these tattoos, including horns on your head and "am i evil, yes, i am" on your forearms and then you get pulled in for burning down the church. >> yeah, which didn't help any at all. >> abbott says his troubles began the night before in a bar. >> i was pretty lit up. i ended up coming across two other individuals i hadn't seen for quite a few years and decided we was going to do some criminal mischief, i should say. and we decided to break into the church. >> why in the world would you think of a church to break into? >> that was the alcohol talking and acting mostly. >> what did you take from there? >> a couple of pairs of shoes. they have tennis shoes for basketball and stuff like that.
there was a couple of pairs of shoes and i had actually threw them in a bag. >> abbott says he left before his friends and didn't know the church had burned down until hours later. >> everything was still standing when i left. the next morning, my niece and my nephew and brother-in-law came in and told me to turn on
the tv. i turned on the tv and every channel i flipped it on showed the catholic church on fire. >> fingerprints on a church wine bottle led the police to him. despite his claims of innocence, abbott says he took a plea deal to avoid testifying against his friends and being labeled a snitch. >> going to prison having a snitch name is like having a child molestation name. you just don't have it. they don't last long here. i wouldn't want to have the name snitch. i can't do it. >> abbott's not alone in his claim that he is serving time
>> if burks had a fan club in the control unit, james greenburg might very well be its president. >> meech, that's my favorite rapper. he's the future. >> hands up like i'm reaching for the heavens, one false move then i'm reaching for my weapon. just being in the presence of demetrius is a blessing. >> as far as anybody in the industry, i don't see anybody on his level. maybe lil' wayne, drake, kanye west. but not many people can hang with meech. >> what's your nickname? >> white boy. because i'm mixed and i'm the lightest person from my neighborhood. my dad is black and mexican. my mom is white. >> burkes was friends with greenburg. >> i must be a violent offender,
as y'all say. you know how people ride with guns on the streets, that's why i have my knife. you never know what's going to happen. i can't say you need one. but it wouldn't hurt to have some on standby. >> he is serving 15 years for dealing narcotics and resisting police. but up until his arrest, greenburg found drug dealing afforded him luxuries such as his grill. >> i went to the dentist in st. louis, paid $1,100 and got eight teeth. >> was it worth it? >> to me, yeah. >> why did you want to spend that kind of money on your teeth? >> i was getting money. so i figured i had to reward myself for getting all this money. >> had he invested that money in brakes for his car, he might have avoided getting caught? >> my brakes was messed up on my car and the police seen me riding through a light and i had
to skid. it was like that. and police hit their lights. i knew i had a warrant, so i took them on a high-speed. catch me if you can, i'm the gingerbread man. i ended up getting out of the car and running. i was trying to jump a fence but it was too high for me to clear. so i supermanned it. some of my pants got caught on it. that's when the dog came up. i said, hey, i ain't going nowhere. hurry up and get me off this fence, though, because my pants was all stuck on it. he was lucky -- they wouldn't have been able to get me, though. i'd still be out there. >> did you have those baggy pants that were like sagging in the crotch? >> well, yeah. yeah. it was baggy. >> money bags. >> what's happening with y'all? >> like his friend burks, greenburg is also an aspiring rapper. >> when he says lasagna, i say baloney.
>> during outdoor recreation which confinement inmates must take in enclosures, they become young meech and white boy. ♪ ♪ >> we got to stop it. we got to rewind that one. coming up -- >> see that? >> after a decade of confinement, christopher trotter tries to fit in. and later -- >> most of us men never sewed before when he came into this
y'all see them? i'm done. see that? yeah. >> that some pretty boy guns? >> come on, man. >> sharing a meal with others is something christopher trotter hasn't experienced in about a decade. one of indiana's most infamous inmates and known for violent behavior, he's now back in general population at the wabash valley correctional facility after ten years in solitary confinement. >> how long is ten years? i don't think i could have did it. that's a long time. >> and to still that the mind that he has, he's really strong, headstrong. >> most people probably done
went crazy back there. wouldn't know how to handle it. >> he did what he had to do. he came of it a better man, stronger, i think. >> anytime you go through adversity, it either makes or breaks you. you learn from the situations that you go through. i believe that we all are going to be better men in here if we just take the chance to, hey, don't make the same mistakes that we made the first time. >> back in his cell, trotter writes poetry to something else he missed out on. >> after ten years of isolation, i'm meeting you for the first time. >> the night sky, his confinement cell had no window. >> and your beauty is blissful. you never say a word and i find the silence peaceful. just being in your presence is a joy to my heart.
people take things for granted, you know? and this is a window. i would never think a window would make a big difference, but it does, a window. like i said, i call a lady night. and she mooned me the other night. the first time seeing the moon in ten years. i was like, wait, that was cool seeing her backside. and then she smiled at me and i was like -- it was a a twinkle in her eyes and i seen the stars. i was like, whoa, you know? just peaceful. just peaceful. >> the simple pleasures trotter has gained are about to be taken away from demetrius burks. >> just another day in paradise right here. 204 ccu, a.k.a., hell. >> burks is currently in the
ccu, the custody control unit. but prison officials have decided to give him 15 months in the secured confinement unit for attacking a corrections officer. he will live in the same type of sell trotter did for the last ten years. >> i've learned not to touch the police because they will touch you back. >> the transfer could come any day. but burks might have even bigger problems. >> the case will also go to the prosecutor for their consideration of charges to be filed on the outside against burks. >> if the prosecutor pursues the case and burks is found guilty, he could get another six years added to his current 55-year sentence for murder. >> it is what it is. just messed up. but it's prison life. coming up -- >> i try myself to sleep a lot just thinking about it because he's still my baby.
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whether smuggled in or fabricated from everyday items, inmate-made weapons are a constant concern to officers at indiana's wabash valley correctional facility. with so much effort focused on keeping weapons out of the prison, it might come as a surprise that in one housing unit, scissors are given to inmates nearly every day. >> how are you doing? >> may i get a pair of scissors? >> certainly can. how's the sewing project going? >> pretty good. got it about halfway done. >> that's good. that's what we want to hear. >> thank you, sir. >> keep up the good work, you hear? >> all right. one of the main things we do in our unit, which is kind of unique, is we have taken up quilting. most of us men never sewed before when we came into this unit. most of us never sewed a button before.
i never had a thought sometime in the future i would like to be sewing somewhere, no, i didn't. >> mitch swallows lives in a special housing unit where inmates overcome their criminal pasts through classes that focus on morals and life skills. >> we have many that have come into our program. i found that sewing was a great way to relieve tension, to gain understanding and respect. so it's helped a lot of people. >> it lets you be so creative. it is just really a cool thing. this is what i call one of the starburst quilts. next step is i'll put a straight line on here and square it up. then we'll put the borders on it and the back and the batting. and we've got a quilt. >> swallows was an unlikely candidate for quilting. when he landed in prison 27 years earlier -- >> i was convicted of two attempted murders, four criminal confinements, a rape and criminal deviant conduct.
i ended up with a 100-year sentence. i never really got involved in community service projects or stuff like that. it just starts transforming the way you act, the way you think. i think it's opened my eyes a lot to compassion, more to helping those around me. >> all quilts made by the inmates are donated to various organizations in the community. >> this is our main project. and this is for the homeless, for battered women's shelters, for flood victims. a couple of years ago, we had a major flood in this area. we sent quilts there. this is our quilt that we normally do. >> other quilts are donated to a special group of indiana families. >> along with our main focus is also our military project. every serviceman or woman who has lost their life serving in iraq or afghanistan, we have done a personalized quilt for and the army national guard has come and picked those quilts up and they deliver them to the families.
it makes you feel like you're a part of something greater than yourself. i think i've switched from being "it's all about mitch" to realizing that there's a lot more out there and i left a lot of damage in my wake that i need to fix. i've been working trying to do that. >> mr. swallows, outstanding. that's all i can say about him. he's been down a long time. no anger, nothing, just doing what he's supposed to be doing. >> there you go. >> thank you, mitch. have a good night. >> appreciate it. >> see you first thing in the morning. >> all right. >> as you can see, they're really children's scissors. but we do thousands of quilts with them. last year, we did over 1,000 quilts. the year before, 916. we made some great quilts. to the gentlemen's credit, they do it with these. it's unbelievable. >> still at the end of the day, even children's scissors are
safely secured. >> all scissors clear. i put them right here. they're going upstairs. they have to be in the control pod before we change shifts. >> the prison is not taking any risks with demetrius burks either. he will soon be transferred to the secured confinement unit to start a 15-month stay for assaulting a corrections officer. he has lost virtually every privilege he had. but he is allowed monthly visits. >> i'm fixing to go see my mamma. i don't know y'all. i ain't even going to lie. >> his mother, maria burks, and stepfather, tony conner, have come to see him today. >> good morning. visits are extremely important to me and to him because he needs to know that someone is there for him. everybody can't make it up here. but i send messages and lots of love.
nobody's forgetting about him. he has family and we love him. >> although the visitors center is a short walk away, security is stepped up for confinement inmates. burks is shackled, escorted by two officers and driven to visitation. the visit will be noncontact, meaning he'll be separated from his family by a pane of glass. >> i get to see my baby, i don't even care. i'm a mamma's boy. it don't even matter. at the same time, it would be better. unfortunately it's got to be through the glass, though. it is what it is. >> i need to see him. i need to make sure that he's okay. when i come to see him, i make him stand up, turn around, let me see your body, let me check your out, make sure you're eating well. he's going to say, mom, i'm okay, don't worry. but mom's going to worry anyway. i need to see for myself. i have to come here so i can see him to make sure he's okay. i cry myself to sleep a lot just thinking about it because he's
still my baby. hey, baby. >> how you doing? what's up, man? what's up with y'all? >> how are you doing? >> i'm fine. >> okay. >> white boy specifically said tell mamma meech i said what's up. >> what's up, dog? how are you feeling? >> chilling, man, chilling. >> you looking good. look fit and strong. >> stand up. let me look at you. stand up, turn around. let me see. you all right? okay. >> burks has not seen his mother since he assaulted officer manuel. but he told her about the incident over the phone. >> when will you be able to sign up for school again? >> probably after all this is said and done and whatnot. >> after this is settled? okay. you know we want you to get back
in your classes and make sure you concentrate on that. >> you just have to keep your head on. keep your head on. you'll be all right. >> yeah. >> i want him to stay positive, stay focused, go to school, learn all you can, get all the education you can get so you can get out of here and be a different man because he's a good person, he's a very good person. baby, we've got to get out of here. >> mamma, don't try. >> shut up. >> you know how your mamma is. she's got to cry. >> okay. we're going to go. >> i love y'all. >> i love you. >> remember what i said, son, take care of yourself, okay. >> all right. >> tell me what the hardest part of it is. >> what we just saw. >> you all right, baby? >> walking away, seeing her leave because my mom is emotional. so my mom cries at the drop of a hat. i just hate seeing her cry.
it's a blessing because there's a lot of guys where people don't come see them at all. i'm blessed to have such a loving and caring family. it's always good to see anybody outside of these walls really. coming up -- >> she had all kinds of picture that is i've done for her. jesus pictures, all kinds of religious pictures i like to do. >> one inmate doesn't let burning down a church get in the way of his christian-themed art. and childhood memories prove not enough to keep demetrius burks out of serious trouble. >> the neighborhood i'm from is right on the same street as the prison. i don't understand why it couldn't have been like a sign like "don't go here." heroes charge!
at a wabash valley correctional facility in indiana, inmates often find comfort in the simplest of pleasures. bill abbott finds it in caffeine. >> taster's choice. i'm a coffee drinker. as long as i have five or six shots of coffee a day, i'm usually pretty good. that's my choice of drug. i don't know what i'd do if i didn't have coffee. that's what gets me to drawing. this is pretty much what i do all day long. i draw a lot on cards and sell them, draw anything that maybe somebody specifically might want, a portrait of somebody in their family, they buy all the material and i do it. i get paid that way. i had to put my name on the wall. looks a little bit more presentable. >> abbott also uses his art to connect with his mother. >> makes her day when i send her like a "thinking of you" card.
she has all kinds of pictures that i've done for her, jesus pictures, pictures of jesus, all kinds of religious pictures i like to do. >> she's religious? >> yeah, christian. >> as though his devil horn tattoos aren't ironic enough for a christian-themed artist, abbott is also serving 40 years for stealing from and burning down a historic catholic church in his hometown. and while he claims he didn't do it, he does admit that he stole some shoes from the church before the fire started. >> there's definitely something mentally wrong with me when it comes to klepto, taking little things, probably wouldn't think much about it. some people wouldn't understand why certain people take certain items, i guess. i wouldn't be able to explain it. the psychology part wouldn't add up with me. >> but even in prison, abbott still has a certain appreciation for shoes. >> i shine my shoes usually for appearance to make myself look for presentable.
it's not that nice to walk around scruffy-looking. i'm done with that one. usually i do this right before they open the door at lunchtime to go to chow. i usually put a little bit of heat on them, just heat the ends of them up real good. the hotter you get the leather, the better the shine because whenever you put the wax on, it just soaks it right into that leather and puts the finishing touch right on it. if we do this on an everyday basis, you'll get them to look like that. >> christopher trotter has decided it's time to spiff up his physical appearance as well. but he's not focused on his shoes. he began growing his dreadlocks shortly before he entered solitary confinement ten years earlier. >> these are my jesus locks, you know?
and they symbolize my struggle being buried alive on the shu. >> he's decided to say good-bye to them. >> you want me to cut all your hair off? >> yeah. >> bald like mine? >> huh? >> you want it bald like mine? >> yeah, yeah -- >> just a little bit longer? >> yeah. see how it works out. it's going to be hard. but they've served their purpose. it sustained me and now it's time to move on. >> i'm going to start. >> remember what i told you. it's kind of cruddy, right? >> as long as it don't have any creepy, crawly things. >> ain't no telling what's in it. >> you've been letting your hair grow for 11 years? >> yeah, being back there on that shu. i always told myself, whatever came first, if i get off the shu or i get out of prison,
whichever comes first. >> that is serious stuff. first time you've seen it like that, huh? >> yeah. it feels good. it feels good without it. it feels good. my loc's represented a struggle. it wasn't just to have locks because everybody's got locks, you know? i don't have no mixed emotions. i'm looking forward to the next chapter in my life. >> okay. how do you like that? >> looks like i'm about 15 now. it is weird because i ain't seen myself in a long time because this is how i used to look before i had my -- before i grew my dreads. it's been a great day.
it's been a great day. every day is a good day for me now, though. every day is a good day for me now. no that i'm out of that shu, now that i'm out of that shu, every day is a good day for me now. and i'm not taking it for granted. >> while trotter recently completed a decade in the stark solitary existence that comes with life in the secured confinement unit, demetrius burks has only begun his 15-month stay there. >> another day, another dollar. >> it is the consequence he will pay for assaulting a corrections officer. but it was the murder of an innocent man that brought him to prison. >> when you're out there living that life, you're really not thinking about the consequences until they occur. >> but burks had a regular reminder of the consequences of crime. he grew up in the shadow of indiana state prison, home of the state's death row.
>> the neighborhood i'm from is right on the same street as the prison. it's like i always seen it. i don't understand why it couldn't have been like a sign like "don't go here." you know what i mean? coming up -- >> it brought me to tears. my heart wept with pride as i opened each fold of that quilt. >> the mother of a slain soldier expresses gratitude. and -- >> demetrius? >> yes, sir. >> i'm tom hanks. i'm a detective with the indiana state police. >> demetrius burks gets more bad news.
chief among those was that he would learn to quilt. and that quilting would change his life. >> i believe that i've changed to the good, i think it has shown within the level of trust that i have amongst the staff. it's a terrible thing that i done. it's something that i've worked on hard in order to know i'm not going to repeat. it's something i've got to live with and feel regret for. >> but now his quilts bring comfort to others and swallows learned just how much comfort when the mother of a young indiana soldier who died in the iraq war wrote him a letter. >> it says, dear man of the wabash valley correctional program, how very honored to receive the quilt you made in honor of our son. i want you to know that i was having a very sad day the day i received your lovely quilt. i felt as if the world was moving on and people would soon forget the bravery and sacrifice my son made on may 14th. i was sure they would forget the
kid with the big smile, the soldier who bravely stood his watch, the son who i was so proud of. then your quilt arrived. it brought me to tears. my heart wept with pride as i opened each fold of that quilt. i want you to know you made this mamma look up that day and thank god for wonderful people such as yourselves. a lot of us are here because we messed up our freedoms and for people are over there fighting for those. and to support them in this right here, it's awesome to be a part of something like that. >> it's too early to tell if demetrius burks will have such a revelation. but six years into a 55-year sentence for murder, burks has a history of testing authority. >> burks has a lengthy conduct history for drugs, threatening, intimidation, tobacco. >> but he went too far when he assaulted officer james manuel. >> before i could get security, he turned around and punched me.
>> i hit him in his face. >> he hit me a couple of more times with the handcuffs since he had one loose hanging on the other arm. >> i was thinking in my mind, i just messed up. >> the assault landed burks in confinement for 15 months. but the fallout continues. today, investigator frank littlejohn and detective tom hanks of the indiana state police department are about to pay him a visit. >> i'm here to serve a warrant for class "d" felony battery resulting in bodily injury on an offender down here. >> if burks is found guilty of these new charges, he could have another three to six years added to his sentence. >> sometimes for whatever reason because of how many years they're doing, they think the prosecutor won't pick it up. we've made arrangements and we have burks out waiting for us and mr. hanks can read him the warrant.
>> he'll get a copy. then i have my copy here and i will read him the warrant verbatim. then he's released back to the custody of the facility. demetrius? >> yes, sir. >> i'm tom hanks. i'm a detective with the indiana state police. this is your copy. i'm going to give to it this officer. i'm going to read this to you. arrest warrant, the state of indiana, authorized the warrant on demetrius burks, no social security number listed. count one, battery, resulting in bodily injury, class "d" felony. if this is set for initial hearing, the warrant does not expire. >> that's a "d" felony, sir. >> it's going to be count one,
battery resulting in bodily injury, class "d" felony, correct. okay? >> yes, sir. >> all right. thank you. >> he got an initial hearing i think video conferencing that will be conducted with the courts, it will be done here. he'll probably request a public defender and he'll be assigned an attorney to represent him. they'll start negotiations with the prosecutor. see if they can work something out in a plea agreement. if not, it will eventually go to trial. >> how do you feel about getting these outside charges? >> no comment. i want to speak to my public defender. >> he seemed a little surprised. i don't really understand that because with the injuries that he inflicted upon the officer, he should have expected that something was going to happen.