tv Young Kids Hard Time MSNBC October 2, 2015 11:00pm-12:01am PDT
>> wabash correctional facility is a maximum prison, cell block to 53 kids, sentenced as adults. >> i'm colt lundy. i'm 15 years old. it's overwhelming just to know there's people in here that could be like my grandpa. everybody treats me like a young one and i'm always treated like a little kid. on the news, they made it sound like i was just horrible, you know, like cold-blooded. my crime might seem like that, but i'm not the person that they may think i am from reading something. like i'm way different than that. for murder sentence for conspiracy to commit murder in the death of his stepfather. he and another accomplice were caught after they fled in a car.
what would cause a child to commit such an act? reports show neither explanation. and neither boy chose to talk to us about the specifics of the crime. >> i got 30 years. it's been five for probation. i never thought that i could actually go to prison. i just thought the worst would be probation or boy school. but you don't realize until after the fact that every decision you make, every choice has a repercussion, whether good or bad. and you just need to keep that in mind because, you know, this can happen to you. >> the worst thing for me is, when you look outside, like it's dark outside, you know, look up at the skies, it's totally black. and then i see like the razor wire, the brick buildings and all of that. and i'm thinking like, wow, this is really prison. sometimes it just hits you.
>> sometimes it feels like a dream. it's like it's not real. >> not home. >> it's definitely not home. >> teenagers like colt lundy and his roommate are not alone. 10,000 kids under the age of 18 are serving time in adult prisons or jails. >> a month ago somebody got stabbed in the mouth. they tried to stab him in the neck but missed and got him neck but missed and got him in the cheek. >> that was the lock sock. you put it in the sock and tie it right here so it doesn't come out and then put another sock around it so it doesn't rip and you've got a weapon. this is deadly. >> a lot of people in here get hurt. >> die, too. some guy not too long ago got beat to death with lock socks, to death.
sentenced as adults are incarcerated inside the massive wabash compound with adult prisoners kept separate in cell blocks. they are isolated from their adult counterparts and rarely leave their own cell block. >> this is like your whole life. i've spent five months in county and if they would have let me out then, that would have been enough wake-up call for the rest of my life. >> but once a youth offender turns 18, they're transitioned out of the youth unit and to the adult population, here or another indiana adult facility. >> you just don't know what to expect. you're just surrounded by people you don't know. you don't know how they are, what they are going to do. your whole life is controlled by somebody you don't know. i mean, any time something could have happened.
>> my name is miles folsom and i'm 17 years old and i'm incarcerated at wabash correctional facility. i didn't care about anything. i started marijuana at the age of 7. i personally think i became an alcoholic. i only drank hard liquor at 13 and when i turned 14 we were just partying all the time. when they sentenced me to 36 years, really, i was speechless. i just looked in awe as the judge walked out of the courtroom. >> at 16, he was sentenced for felony robbery and criminal confinement and he keeps a headline newspaper from the worst day of his life. >> as it set in late last week, 16-year-old moss went to jail
carved i'm sorry on his chest and attempted to hang himself. he was rescued before he died and he was well enough to be brought back to the court to say that he was a changed man. the claim was not enough to overcome the young man's lengthy and violent criminal history. he was sentenced to 36 years behind bars. even 25 years i couldn't comprehend and i wasn't thinking clearly and i wrote a good-bye letter to my family and hung myself. another inmate had heard noises or something from me gasping and he had found me and called for the police and finalhe me and picked me up because it was a slip knot and they pulled it from around my head. >> some might find it hard to reconcile the miles in the newspaper story with the miles inside wabash.
he serves as an educational tutor for new kids. soon to be 18, he's earned his g.e.d. in prison and has a coveted job in the kitchen and clean-up crew. >> this is prison. you can only do so many things. but if you do nothing, then you become nothing. i'm starting to write kids on the outs. they are in a group called risks that i used to be in and that i failed and talk about what it used to be like for me. there's many open cells. one day they could walk in, and i don't want to see that. when we come back, another child behind bars and wabash sees another child behind adult prison walls. [announcer] you're on the right track to save big
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only one prison is their final destination. wabash valley. kids spend their time behind the walls in the wabash youth unit. a 53-cell block becomes the fortress of the mundane. they rarely leave the cell blocks due to the dangers just outside their door. >> at night that's when it really gets to you. you just think like all the things you could have been doing on the outside, everything that you're missing out on. >> the kids incarcerated in indiana do not come in an all-size fits one package. colt is doing 30 years for conspiracy to commit murder. 18-year-old robert committed battery and threatened to hurt a police officer. he's serving a two year sentence.
>> i'm the ccu for fighting. >> he's at the start of a three-month stint in segregation. >> we was playing cards and a guy smacked my face with the cards and so i ran up on him and hit him a couple times and then he's on the ground, i started kicking him. >> so what brought you to wabash in the first place? >> i went to see my brother in the juvenile block. i got in trouble just to come here. >> you got in trouble on the outside to get arrested so you could go to wabash to see your brother who's already here? >> uh-huh. it didn't work out that way. the day before i got there, he went to -- >> what's your first memory of getting in trouble or doing something bad? do you remember how old you were? >> i was 9. i went to school. i got in a fight. i grabbed a cheer, the teacher, grabbed his watch, slit his
wrist open. so they locked me up, sent me to juvenile. >> when it comes to kids and punishment, the question needs to be answered, do kids, no matter what the crime, belong in adult prison? mike dempsey is in charge of the juvenile services for indiana department of correction. >> it is a complicated issue because of the fact they are still juveniles, still young, in mind and body and spirit and everything and yet they have committed some pretty serious crimes against society. the natural reaction, typically for a kid, who is going to an environment like that, they learn survival skills and it's not a positive learning environment either. >> you've just got to basically rely on somebody in here that you can half trust because you
don't trust anybody in here. nobody. other than that, you're on your own. >> we're standing by whenever you're clear. in. they have 30 years to do and i tell them, what the guys told me when i came in, users and abusers are all over this place. >> 32-year-old inmate greg knows what it's like to be a young kid serving hard time. at the age of 15, he was convicted for the murder of both of his parents. he became the youngest person in indiana history to be sentenced as an adult. at that time, there were no separate facilities for younger offenders so he was placed directly into the adult population. >> i said, don't tell them you're 15. tell them you're 17. i'm not a liar. the first guy asks me, i say, i'm 15. he stops and says, what? you know how quickly that spread throughout the prison? you know how many people wanted to be my bunkie for the wrong reason?
it's ugly. it's ugly and a sick environment. >> he was 15. i remember him coming into the sawhouse and i remember talking to him. he looked so young. he still had that baby-type face. >> superintendent knows him well. he was superintendent of wabash 18 years ago when he first arrived. arrived. both are in miami correctional facility in kokomo. he still remembers the tense discussions that took place as staff members prepared to put an eighth grader in a cell with an adult offender. >> they are all two-person cells. the leadership got together and we screened who was going to be in there with him. we've got a duty to protect everyone as best we can and we tried to steer him in a position direction for him. >> it was scary. it was tense. i had never been to prison.
worst case scenario, what if i'm having to defend myself and doing things i shouldn't do just to protect myself? how would i explain that to my family? it's rough for the kids coming in. i feel sorry for them. >> here in a minute, three offenders are coming in. we will process them into the facility. two of them are the youth offenders. >> all right, come on. >> put all your clothes in these bags here. put your shoes in this bag. clothes in this bag. all right? >> all right. >> the majority of them are quiet. not knowing what to expect in
this environment is totally different than where they came from. >> at first when you get here, you're nervous because you don't know what it's going to be like. the uncomfortable level is nine or ten, like all the time. >> hold the sign right here below your chin. >> on any given day in the united states, more than 10,000 kids under the age of 18 are held in adult prisons and jails. today, 17-year-old aaron and harrison shepherd become two of these statistics. >> this is actually good. >> ready? >> yes, sir. >> okay. >> you can't imagine on the outside what it would be like. >> it's crazy, ain't it? >> yeah.
it's a whole different outlook, man. >> yeah. >> home sweet home. >> come to prison thinking they've got to be tough, but they don't. you just got to be yourself. >> right there in 101. >> crazy. >> this is home, man. >> i need to be punished for what i did. i'm never going to take that away. but it should have just been punishment. it's not like i just walked out of society and took a random person. there's a reason this happened. i'm not justifying it but i'm saying there's april understanding behind it. i have been locked up for 1 years, and i've still never had
a chance to get the counseling for why i killed my mom and dad. if everyone has a great opinion, you know, the community, you need to be locked up, where were you before? where were you in school, i'm showing all the signs. where were you then? so -- >> my name's michael stanley and i'm 18 years old at the wabash correctional facility. i have been here 11 months. i've seen high crimes all the time and i thank god every day that i got the time i got because i wouldn't know what to do if i had 30, 40 years. >> what are in you for? >> robbery. >> michael stanley and woods both serving three years. they could be shipped out to the adult population at any time.
woods is set to transfer first but no one knows for sure where or when he and michael will go. >> it's going to feel different to be with somebody else. since i got locked up i was going to feel different but wherever he go, i go, we hold it down for each other. as long as he's all right, i'm all right. >> and you think he's going to go first? >> i turned 18 and approved in december and i could leave any time now. >> are you nervous for him? >> i'm not going to say i'm nervous for him but i just want the best for him, so -- >> are you nervous for him? >> no, i ain't -- it's like i already know that he's going to hold his ground, say stay to his steve and -- i don't want to get home to his family, you know. i do whatever i can to keep out of trouble. you know? coming up, a fight to keep a 12-year-old out of adult prison.
i was kind of scared because i didn't know where -- like how violent it was going to be and everything. >> 12-year-old paul gingrich is one of the youngest in indiana to be sentenced as an adult. he was one of colt's friends when fired and paul was sentenced to 25 years and due to his age and size, department of correctional facilities made a bold decision, to place him at a maximum security prison which only houses juveniles. >> he's not our first murderer here but he's not the typical thing that you would see. you saw the paper. you would expect a much larger, scary kid. that's just not the case with him.
he's kind of a little guy. even for his age he's kind of a little guy. it's hard for somebody that age to imagine. >> had you ever been in juvenile? >> no. this was my first time. >> gingrich's age and lack of criminal record caught the attention of monica foster, an indianapolis attorney who's taken on his case pro bono. she's fighting to keep him in a juvenile facility. >> he's never had a juvenile referral. never a juvenile referral. i've never heard of such a thing. 12 years old, we're going to treat him like an adult with zero juvenile referrals. to treat a 12-year-old as an adult is for the system to say, we give up on you. there is nothing that we can do to rehabilitate you. and to me that is selling the justice system so far short. and it is selling a kid like paul so amazingly short.
it's just ridiculous. >> monica and paul's mother, nicole gingrich, hope to keep paul in a youth facility with programs geared towards his age and developmental needs. but as it stands now, paul will transition to wabash as soon as officials feel he's mature enough to make the move. >> i think he should be held accountable for the part that he had in this. and i would suggest counseling, therapy, and programs to help him. >> mike dempsey has other reasons for wanting to keep paul in the juvenile system. >> the fact is, you can't put a 12-year-old child in that type of environment and expect them to have have a chance. you just can't do it and i think some of the offenders who sincerely want to do the right thing and help, yet there's a lot of predators that will eat the weakness up.
they can get into terrible trouble very quickly. life and danger kind of trouble. >> it's different than what i always thought it would be. i wasn't expecting the razor wire. it sucks. you don't want to come here. >> there's a lot of hurt feelings dealing with these cases. i understand people out there are angry and they are hurt. somebody needs to pay for that. but not just one person. they don't need to throw this kid away either. kids don't just wake up one day and say, i'm going to kill somebody. >> a lot of people may think that this is a good place for them and lock them up and throw away the key but it's just not that simple.
>> miles folsom learned how much you can lose once prison becomes your home. >> now i found out that i have a 1-year-old son. >> after two years behind bars, he's prepping for the biggest visit of his life. the chance to meet his little boy. >> man, it feels scary. i'm worried, you know. i'm more scared about seeing my son than i am about being in prison. i don't know if he's -- i don't know if i'm going to try to hold him and he's go to cry and reject me. just thinking about it hurts. >> as hard as it is for miles to serve his time in the youth unit thinking about his son, what lies in store will be even tougher. >> i turn 18 in one week. i was told on my birthday or the next day they will be transferring me over to the adult side.
>> officer maggie miller is used to dealing with the range of emotions that accompany the transition into the adult population. >> they don't say a lot about it. you know, they don't tell me a lot about their feelings, about how it is to transition. but you can tell that some of them get very nervous about it. >> suddenly, michael stanley learns what it's like to be told that he's going to move to the adult cell block. >> it's a pretty good unit. usually pretty quiet. >> is it as big? because i know next door is bigger than this. >> oh, yeah. it's two times bigger. 100 to a side, 2 to a cell. >> basically my counselor came in and told me that i'm going to block. i'm going to pack and talk to my roommate.
i was the first one up to go. i ain't really mad about it, though. >> as it turns out, stanley won't be transferring to another prison with his best friend after all. he will be saying at wabash after all. >> it's going to be cool, dog. >> later today, stanley will walk through the massive prison gates to his new cell block and make the move with someone else he knows. mate alexander. >> i hope the transition is smooth. i'm going to be talking to everybody. i'm associated with everybody. he does, too. hopefully he follows my lead, because i know how to conduct myself around adults. it's going to go pretty smooth. pretty smooth. coming up. >> take it to the south side. >> we're adults now.
lundy has lived his life behind adult prison walls at the wabash correctional facility. he's serving a 30-year sentence after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in the shooting death of his stepdad. >> afterwards, i couldn't believe what happened. how could i possibly be in this situation? you know, i went from a's and b's to being in jail. like i didn't even know what to think at the time. every day i just think if i would have just done one thing different. i mean, it's a waste of time to do that. because you can't. once it's done, it's done. there's no going back. >> lundy's 12-year-old friend, paul, was sentenced to 25 years in wabash for his role in the crime. but due to his age and size, officials placed him in pendleton juvenile correctional facility which only houses
juvenile offenders. >> most are here for 6 to 12 months tops. so i think that takes on a different dynamic with someone like paul who is already 12 and knows and recognizes the fact that he's essentially going to have to grow up and go through puberty in a correctional facility. in those particular cases, the juvenile facility is the one best prepared to help him through that kind of growth. >> it's for precisely these reasons that paul and his lawyer, monica foster, continue to fight to keep him in the juvenile system. >> we are trying to go to the indiana supreme court to get an appeal so i can get down to juvenile again and change my sentence. >> sentenced as an adult but held at pendleton, he's held in a legal limbo. >> is he a legal adult in a juvenile facility.
so we're learning how to deal with this and what this situation brings to us. technically not until he's 21 we could do that. >> i think the juvenile system is fully capable of dealing with this situation and, in fact, they are fully dealing with it right now. he is in the juvenile justice system. if the judge's order stands, he won't be here for very much longer. but he's thriving in this system. he's doing terrific. >> where did that attitude change come from? >> having worked in prison systems many years, miem dempsey knows special steps must be taken dealing with young inmates. >> there's a child involved, regardless of the offense they may have committed, you still have to weigh the fact that this is still a 12, 13, 14-year-old child, and they are not fully developed. you also have to weigh that
against the nature of the crime that was committed. it becomes very difficult. >> along with the possibility of being moved to an adult prison, paul must grapple with the reality of spending at least the next decade behind bars. >> i don't think about the days. i just take it day by day. just try to make it -- like i go by each meal. sit, try to be good each meal. >> if you want to build a permanent class of people that commit adult crimes, send them to adult facilities because that's what you'll end up with.
>> i'm out of here. >> oh, man. >> it's been nearly a year since 18-year-old michael stanley and alexander arrived on the youth unit at wabash. today they transition to the wabash adult population where they will trade a unit of 53 kids for a cell block of 1200 kids for a cell block of 200 adults. on transfer days, kids often mask their fear with bravado. >> remember, the secret word is no. >> i got you. >> uh-oh. i feel like i'm going home. >> master control. >> take to the south side. >> basically want to see what is going on. >> it's clear. >> how long they been locked up. too long.
people don't know much about prison besides what they see on movies and stuff like that. but the food is horrible. you have to wear a jumpsuit every day. you only come out of your cells a couple hours every day. you have to be on guard all the time. you don't know what's going to happen. you don't have any freedom. freedom's the worst part. >> right here goes the door on the left. >> for the next few years, m cell block at wabash valley will be home for 18-year-olds alexander rankin and michael stanley. >> small. it's small as hell. >> you ain't going to get the people in bars that want to fight, probably you don't care about other people. i'm a people's person. i get along with everybody, you know what i mean.
i catch on very quickly. so i be able to know which one is so no one get really past me. >> 18 years earlier, greg went through the same transition as a 15-year-old. >> well, they are going through probably feeling extremely paranoid that a lot of guys are checking them out. i mean, that's no lie. for me, i was 15 years old and baby faced. at the time you had the guys in there for sex crimes, that have molested guys my age and i'm doing time alongside of them. i'm in the shower with them. >> when i was 21 years old, walking in to be a correctional officer for the first time, i was petrified and i was just going in there to work. so obviously particularly for a kid going into an environment like that, without question it's going to be the scariest thing that they've ever gone through. >> it's extremely sensitive and
crucial that you think for yourself and do what you think is right and not what you think someone else wants to you do. that you know within yourself is wrong. >> while stanley and rankin face new challenges in their adult cell block, 12-year-old paul gingrich has similar issues even in a juvenile prison. >> the difficulty is keeping them safe. typically they are much larger and you like to pick or mess with the smaller kids. he is the easy target, even in al juvenile facility. >> do you think about wabash at all and what that is like? >> i try not to. i don't know what to be expecting when i go down there. >> for now, wabash will remain a mystery for paul gingrich but for others, like 18-year-old robert, it's like a second home.
>> i always get into trouble. i've always been in juvenile. i've been in placements. i went to vegas with the bull camp. i've always been in trouble. >> he landed in prison on charges of battery and threatening to kill a police officer. he's currently in segregation for starting a fight. >> name off for me all the people in your family who are in prison. >> my brother, my cousin, my brother kinney, my cousin jamal, my uncle williams, my cousin james, my uncle ricky, i don't know where he is, though. >> is your mom in the picture at all? dad? >> my father got killed. he died right in front of my face. >> your dad got killed in front of you? >> yeah. >> how? >> well, we was at the house and someone knocked on the door and my daddy opened up the door and
dude was like you [ bleep ], pushed him i guess, started shooting, and my dad ran back where we was at and fell -- he stopped -- he started fighting for breath and stopped breathing. >> how old were you? >> 14. >> what did you do after that? >> made threats. that's all i could do. >> my parents, you know, they had the paperwork to bring him down with them but never had the visit. never had the visit. >> this isn't a kid that we should say, there's no hope for you. it's just -- it's unfathomable. >> when i get out, i'm not ever messing up again because i know what it's like in here. not just on tv but really what it's like to experience it.
my parents had the paperwork to bring him down with them. but tell me son i love him and hopefully if i get out, he never remembers any of this because he's still young. >> just a lot of people. looks like day one all over again. >> i just hope some of my friends are listening to me, you know, some of my friends that were out there running the streets with me and doing all the bad things we did, tearerizitear terrorizing people. it can all change in one day.
>> lawyer monica foster continues to fight to have his case appealed. >> i susfeekt hapect to have a t least by early next year. this isn't a kid that we should say there's no hope for you. it's unfathomable. >> i like to keep things in perspective. i've almost been locked up a year now and i remember what it's like to be outside and do those things and i just -- you got to keep that mindset like i'm going to be able to do them again some day. you can't be thinking about negative things and if you do, you're just going to sit in here and destroy yourself every day.
>> for me, we actually say -- sk it sounds frustrating because i've said it so much. to say i forgive myself, it took 13 years. i can tell a story about what happened. i know what i was thinking and feeling and i knew i didn't want to do it but i felt trapped and no one was helping even though i was pleading and it hap pened ad i'm able to tell myself now that i have something to offer and i'd like to think i have more to offer because i've actually been on both sides. >> i'm remorseful for what i did and it takes more than that. once you've done something, you can say sorry all you want but there was a crime done and you have to serve your punishment. you learn from everything in
your life, everything you do, cars, you know, who you become. like i said and it you do nothing, you become nothing. >> if somebody would come here and just give me a second chance, i'd be so happy because i know now that when i get out, i'm not ever messing up again because i know what it's like in here, really what it's like to experience it. >> i don't wish nobody bad and i don't wish nobody would ever have to be locked up. but people do what they do so all they can do is learn and next time you see me, i'm going to be doing something positive. for sure. dear crew, how have you been
doing? i hope good. i was thinking about it the other day and i'm not same person described in that old newspaper article. sometimes i read it and it seems crazy to say that was me. i was solost. i have learned over the years i'm a person of extremes. when you have a person like me in the wrong path, it gets bad quick but if i'm doing the right thing, i can't be stopped. i can't explain to you how a place like this can make a person feel. i can promise you you never appreciate how beautiful a world is until you see it behind the fence. i hope i can show you the person i've become, until then, i'll keep my head up and keep smiling. >> dear karen, since the time you were here, i have changed a lot. you really have to learn fast or
you will get ripped off and what not but i'm doing pretty good. it was funny the other day someone was dreading to have to spend three hours at their grandparents and i thinking how wonderful that would be. it's like a whole different world behind these bars and i remember how i was and think of how many kids are out there being dumb. they don't even realize it only takes one bad choice. that's all it takes to take away a chunk of your life to this horrible place. i would say you're not untouchable. nothing is worth being locked away from your family, friends and freedom.
thank you. >> good luck. >> you, too. >> good luck. >> open 501. >> like a dog like in a cage. there ain't nothing you can do. >> during the crime there was a lot of panic, fear. things just got out of hand, you know what i mean? >> once you pull that trigger, it feels like it starts to twitch and you can't let go.