Louis Theroux: Behind Bars (2008) Movie Script

OK, let's say this.
Maybe some of the things...
that thrill you...
won't thrill me.
The things that thrill your cameraman
won't thrill you OR thrill me.
See what I'm saying? Just like
the things that thrill me,
obviously, don't and won't
thrill you guys.
But maybe the things that thrill me
aren't going to get me 500 years
in prison.
That's the thing right there.
Do I go through?
This programme contains some strong
'Just outside San Francisco stands
one of America's oldest and most
notorious prisons, San Quentin.
'It's famous for its death row,
but it's main purpose is to house
a transient population
'of nearly 3,000 murderers, sexual
predators and small-time criminals.
'Here they inhabit a strange world
within a world, with its own rules
and its own brutal code of honour.
'And for two weeks
I've been allowed inside.'
This programme contains
some strong language.
You want me to show you
how to put the vest on? Yes, please.
And the reason why we have the vest?
Yes, please, how do you put it on?
The correct way is, you want to do
it like this, unfasten the Velcro.
You slip it over your head
and make sure it goes up high enough
to cover the heart area and your
major organs right there,
the kidney and liver and
stuff like that. That's right.
And what is the necessity
of wearing one of these?
Cos these guys have a tendency
to either spear you or dart you,
and this will protect your
major organs right here.
'I was with Officer Jamie Olejos
in Carson Section,
'also known as The Hole.
'The inmates here are segregated
'from the rest of the prison and
are locked down for 23 hours a day,
'many of them because they
attacked other inmates or guards.'
What's he doing with that?
He's fishing,
passing notes back and forth.
Look how far it goes.
Oh, that's nothing. I've seen
guys go eight, nine cells.
Is that allowed? No.
How come he's doing it in front
of you, then? Cos you guys are here.
You see, they also...
they've got little eyes they stick
out, a little piece of a mirror.
Is that like a periscope?
Yeah, I can sit down and
see when the cops come.
What are you in for?
Assault with a deadly weapon.
Really? Yeah.
How long?
15 years.
And why are you segregated?
I'm a dangerous threat to the safety
and security of the institution.
That's all show.
They're gonna make
all kinds of noise.
That's a milk carton right there.
Do you actually
quite like dealing with them?
Yes, I do. Why?
Because most of the stuff that they
say is amusing. It makes you laugh.
What are the, erm...
the labels hanging down?
That's the fish lines,
they got stuck up there.
And they just stay up there? Yeah.
'Olejos had mentioned an inmate
known as Playboy Nolan
'who was in Carson for spraying
unpleasant substances at the guards,
a practise they call gassing.'
He gassed someone the other day.
The other day...?
Yeah, Nolan did. I gassed somebody?
Last week. Oh, yeah.
Remember when the guy came down
and spit at you? Oh, yeah.
Come on, this way.
So what was your
original commitment?
Well, now, we were car-jacking.
Car-jacking? Yeah, car-jacking.
And, erm...you, er...
you got how long for that?
I got three years for that.
You used a weapon?
Did I use a weapon? Yeah,
they said I had a weapon. Yeah.
During the commitment of the crime.
And they call you, erm...they call
you Playboy Nolan, is that right?
Yeah, they know me as Playboy,
that's what he told you, huh? Yeah.
Yeah, that's what they know me by.
How come? It's just a name that's
been going around for years.
So you assaulted a CO, that's
a Correctional Officer. Yes.
With what? Any kind of liquid
substance you could put together.
Like urine.
Yeah, any kind of liquid substance.
Urine? Any kind of liquid, it's
just the easiest, cos sometimes...
Faeces? He said faeces?
Poo-poo. Oh, faeces. Nah, na,
I ain't going that far. No,
but sometimes... Urine?
Yeah, but sometimes... Your own?
Yeah, it's not nobody else's!
Yeah, but sometimes
I've been in predicaments where I've
had nothing in my cell, and the only
way to get my point across was...
come up with some kind
of combination, you know.
Did you actually gas an officer?
Yeah, I gassed them. Which one?
Which one? A lot of them!
About five or six, huh?
About five or six officers I gassed.
Would you ever gas me?
No, I never gassed you.
Would you ever, though? Nah.
Why wouldn't you gas Olejos? I've
known him for a long time, so...
You seem almost a little proud
that he wouldn't do that to you.
No, I've known Playboy
since...seven years now. Since 17.
Since he was about 17 years old.
I've seen him at his freaking worst,
I mean unbelievable.
Worst, worst, I... He just wanted
me to open his frigging head open,
just tell shut him up, yeah.
I mean, just for no reason.
And now I sense you have
a pretty good rapport.
Oh, we always had. Really? Yeah.
Oh, yeah, this is calm
for me right here, just...
Oh, this is night and day, this
guy was straight up like an idiot.
He was one of the worst ones.
Why don't you just, erm...?
So do you feel bad about all
the things you did? Do I feel...?
Well, in a sense I could have went
about it a better way, right?
But at the time...that was my
only way to get my point across.
Can we see inside your cell? Yeah.
So you haven't got
much stuff in here.
I mean, I keep it simple, man.
It looks like nothing's in there,
because it's simple.
You know, keep the basics there.
Can I touch your stuff?
Yeah, go ahead.
You've got some coffee here.
Yeah, that's coffee right there.
And you've got a lot of ramen
noodles over here. Yeah.
And then... Why so many noodles?
You've got like about 20
packs of noodles back there.
20 packs, because the food here
is not...
Over the years
it's really changed a lot.
They used to have a lot more
flavourings. The food's not so good?
Thank you very much.
Oh, I can't shake your hand.
Hey, it's a joke!
'Out in the general population
of the prison,
'inmates get yard time for just
a couple of hours, twice a week.
'Other than showers and mealtimes,
these are their only moments
'outside their cells, a chance
to socialise and make allies.
'Escorted for my own safety
by Lieutenant Eric Messick,
I was in West Block yard,
'where most of the inmates are
doing time for parole violations.'
Tell me what you're doing over
here, you're just relaxing?
We're the white guys.
Are you the white gang? Yeah.
Would you be part of a, er...?
Are you part of a skinhead gang?
What is it? The Woods.
What does it say?
BBA. Barbarian Brotherhood.
Barbarian Brotherhood?
Do all the different races
have different areas?
Yeah, that's the black area over
there, the Norteno area over there.
White area over here,
Indians over there.
We keep it segregated. How come?
Because we don't wanna
programme with them...pretty much.
Keep a clear line.
Yeah, white power,
you know?
I ain't programming with them.
I mean, in the outside world
people tend to rub along, you know,
different races get along
more or less, and so how come
inside it doesn't work like that?
It's for no confusion,
so we don't get confused
between races and stuff.
We stay away from them
and they stay away from us.
It don't mean we're racist, we just
don't want to live with them. Is
there someone here who's in charge?
No-one's gonna say that.
No-one would say that?
Why wouldn't anyone say that?
Then they'll high-profile us
and then put us in The Hole.
If they think someone's in charge
they're gonna slam you down
and give you internment.
So someone here might be in charge
but you wouldn't say?
No, can't say stuff like that.
Are most of you here on violations?
Almost at least 50% of us
are cos of meth, at least the
white guys. Robbing a pharmacy.
Robbing a pharmacy? Robbery. Really?
Yeah. How many? 31.
31 what? Counts. Really?
Yeah. How long did they give you?
I'm on a 90-day observation,
I'm still not sentenced yet.
So how long do they...?
With 31 counts,
how long could they give you?
Er, 38 years. You look
quite young, how old are you?
19. 19? Yeah.
We're all pretty young.
How did you hook up with these guys?
Cos he's white, we take care
of our own.
He looks kind of new, you know,
did you spot him and think,
"We'll look out for him"?
Yeah, we work in the
kitchen together.
We try to take care of everybody.
Yeah, we work in the
kitchen together, too. Yeah.
For new arrivals at the prison,
their first port of call
is Receiving and Release.
San Quentin is a clearing house
for prisoners
from all over Northern California,
who either serve short stretches
here or are assessed
and sent on to other prisons.
Most have been in and out of
institutions their whole lives,
bouncing back on parole violations
or serving longer stretches
on serious crimes.
Would it be OK to ask
why you're in here?
Drugs. What kind of drugs?
Methamphetamine. What was
your original conviction for?
Assault on an undercover officer.
What is something that
you do on the side?
Well, I mean, that was just
something that I did on the
side, stealing cars, you know.
Really? Yeah, just kind
of like a hobby, you know.
Not really something that I should
be doing, but kind of like a hobby.
What is it that makes you
kind of keep coming back?
It's too easy to do the time.
There's nothing there to give
you any kind of incentive
to do the right thing.
You mean it's too easy to do
the time like it's...in what way?
I don't know, to me it's
worth taking the risks
to live the way I want to live.
'I was on my way to meet
a new arrival in Badger Section.
'This is where inmates are sent
if they're considered
especially dangerous
'on account of the seriousness
of their crimes.
'The senior officer in Badger
was John Gladson.'
How do you do?
Hey, how are you doing?
Nice to meet you. Good.
And who's down here on this floor?
This is the Level 4,
so these are the real bad guys.
When you say Level 4s, you're
talking about... These are the guys
who are the most dangerous.
They're Level 4s because they
have done something very serious or
attacked another inmate or a guard?
Yeah, that's how they
get their Level 4.
Murder, rape, rob...
you know, robbery,
extorting stuff from other inmates.
That's how they get up
to be Level 4.
Are these guys Level 4
up and down here now?
Yeah, everybody out that you see
is a Level 4
and considered extremely dangerous.
How are you doing? Are you Anthony?
Yeah. How do you do?
Who are you? We're from the BBC.
We were just going to chat to
you because we've heard that you'd
just got here on Friday maybe,
and this is your first time ever
in prison, is that right?
Yeah. And we wanted to see how
you were getting on, basically.
Oh, it's cool, it's like
a playground here, man,
it ain't nothing, man.
Ain't nothing scary about this.
And how did you wind up here?
Er...you know, with the trial, you
got life. What did you get it for?
What'd I get it for? Yeah.
Oh, murder. How did it come about?
They said I killed my best friend,
man, so...that's how it came about.
Maybe it's a silly question,
but did you do it?
Oh, no, man. What happened, then?
You know, somebody set him up
and just put my name in it.
And your sentence is for how long?
Oh, 50 years to life.
15 to life? 50 to life.
50, 5-0? Yeah.
Wow... That's a long time.
Yeah, you know... Gotta do it.
And then... Officer, if you...?
I mean...
What's that?
This gentleman's just told me that..
he has 50 to life, 5-0 to life.
I mean, would you have
any advice for him?
Yes, don't be
tipping up gangbanging but...
Try and do your own time,
don't do somebody else's time.
And you know what, 50 to life
can be dropped, you know?
That's a little steep. What does
that mean when you say, "Do your
own time, not somebody else's"?
OK, well, what happens is
the gangbangers try to get
the fellas to, uh...
the young guys to do their bidding
for them, stab people or...
or, you know, extort money
from people, things like that.
So that way it keeps
a guy like him, a youngster,
in trouble all the time,
so if he ever does go before a
Parole Board, they would look at it
and say, "Hey, you know what?
You was in trouble all the time."
Given this is your first time
in prison, you're facing
a long stretch,
you don't seem too intimidated
by the whole experience.
Nah, it ain't intimidating. No.
You said it was like a playground.
Yeah, it's like a playground, man,
it ain't intimidating,
know what I'm saying?
You can't let nobody punk you, man,
you know what I'm saying?
I ain't the one,
I weren't the one on the streets,
and I ain't gonna be the one here.
Meaning? Meaning that you can't
make me do what I don't want to do.
Yes. And I ain't scared of
nobody...period. So that's it.
You know, if I was in your shoes,
if I was in your shoes,
21 years old in here, here
in San Quentin, in what's probably
the most intimidating part of it,
in the Badger Section,
I would find that intimidating.
Yeah, well, I mean, you know,
we're two different people, you know?
The type of life I grew up around
is way worse than this,
you know what I'm saying?
I've got to wake up hearing gunshots
and people getting killed on the
streets, and this ain't...
this is nothing, you know?
Is this pretty normal?
This ain't nothing here, man.
Is that pretty normal, Officer,
for a new inmate, even if he's new
to the whole experience, that he
wouldn't even be fazed by any of it?
No, most new guys are fazed by it,
and they're overwhelmed,
a lot of them, with what's going on,
but Anthony here better not show
any signs of being overwhelmed,
because he's with the... you know,
he's with the real criminals,
and so he has to keep up
a good front, and that...
He can't show weakness.
Why? Weakness is, uh...they got
people that prey on weakness.
And how would they prey on it?
You know what? This is prison, they
got all different types of things.
They'll take their canteen, you now,
the stuff that they buy from the
store, things like that.
If you show any weakness,
that stuff's gone.
Even sometimes your manhood,
you know, so...
You know, he's doing the right
thing, he's staying strong
and not showing any weakness.
That's what he has to do
in order to survive.
And just to be clear,
your contention is that
you didn't do anything wrong,
you were wrongfully convicted?
Of course.
Yeah, of course, man.
I didn't do nothing, anything.
I'll take you back.
Breakfast time at San Quentin
is a carefully regimented operation
where more than 2,000 inmates
are fed in a series
of 20-minute sittings,
and given brown-bag lunches to eat
later in their cells.
'I was going to be eating with two
of the members of the Barbarian
Brotherhood who I'd met in yard.
'I was hoping to learn more about
the way the gangs work inside prison
'and looking forward to my
first taste of prison food.'
What IS this?
It looks like potato shit.
Potatoes, and what's this? It's
supposed to be like gravy. Gravy.
Do you see the politics
of the place right now?
Well, it's all blacks at one
table, all whites at one table.
Everybody keeps an eye out
and watches.
They all watch in case
they see anybody taking trays
or food off other people's trays.
You've got to watch for that shit.
If you were black and you offered me
some of that food,
I couldn't take it.
It's just part of the rules, man.
Prison rules?
If you did, you'd get beat up.
Who would beat you up?
This guy.
You would really do that? Yeah.
We've got to get you.
You do?
Until you're not doing bird...
and then we get you.
Probably just, like, two or three
dudes will just attack you.
Three dudes would come up and
attack me? And do what, pummel me?
Yeah. How bad?
Till the cops stop 'em.
You really mean...
You really mean it?
Why would you do that?
Tell him, Nick.
It's just how it is.
Hungry, man!
'It was hard to believe
they could be so brutal
about something so trivial,
'but I wondered if these strange
codes of conduct were a way
of creating gang loyalty
'and camaraderie in surroundings
designed to keep inmates apart.'
So what's the plan now,
you go back to your cell?
Yeah, for the rest of the day.
For the rest of the day?
Yeah. And that's it? That's it?
See you later, guys.
'A little later Eric was taking me
back to West Block.
'The prisoners were now
locked down in their cells
for the rest of the day.'
You're up there on the, er...it's
called the gun rail, is that right?
Gun rail.
And what have you got in your gun?
Regular bullets? Yeah, .223 rounds.
.223 rounds?
Yeah, they have a ballistic tip
on them so that if I do fire,
they don't ricochet off the cement.
They're a non-ricocheting bullet.
If someone managed to jump
from here down to there,
would you be authorised
to shoot at them at that point?
Yeah. And that would be
shoot to disable or shoot to kill?
No, shoot to disable,
shoot to stop the threat.
'I was in West Block to meet an
inmate who was due to be released.
'His name was Bradley Warlidge.'
How are we doing? 'But he
preferred to be called Debra.'
My name's Louis, I'm from the BBC.
Hi. You're getting out on Friday,
is that right?
Yes. How about that?
How do you feel about that?
Erm... I'm excited about it.
So do you consider
yourself a-a wo...?
A transgender woman.
Transgender woman.
And so tell me a little bit
about how you ended up here.
OK, well, I guess, um...
I've been doing this for
like almost 20 years. What?
Coming to prison. In and out?
Yes. What were your convictions for?
For robbery and a stolen car,
being with guys that were criminals
and going along with them.
And how long were you in this time?
Three months.
Three months? How's it been?
It's been OK.
Aside from always having
to worry about getting moved.
Is there someone in there now?
Uh-huh. Who?
My partner. Your partner?
And how did you find each other?
They just moved him in the cell,
and one thing led to another.
Hello. How are you doing?
I'm great.
And what's your name, if I may ask?
My name is Robert. May I open it?
Yeah, let me put my shoes on.
How are you doing? Good.
What's your story?
Why are you in here?
Well, right now I'm going...
I have to go back to the County
to get my sentence, and I think
I'm probably going to end up
getting three years. For? Erm...
..automobile theft,
uh...assault on an officer,
driving...while intoxicated, uh...
hit-and-run with injuries,
so on and so on and so on.
So how do you feel about
Debra leaving on Friday?
It's... I'm happy for her.
Really? Yeah, absolutely.
She could do better on the streets
than she could in here.
What is it that works
about the relationship?
I don't know, it just does.
She's real special,
you know what I'm saying?
Shut the fuck up!
Do you think this relationship
could survive outside here?
Oh, it will. Yours?
It will, absolutely.
Absolutely. Yeah.
That's interesting, cos I know a lot
of times something like this could
be circum... you know, situational.
Yeah, circumstantial and
situational, the circumstances
Forced together, making do?
Yeah, just making whatever,
but I don't know. A lot of...
There's a lot of, uh...
There's a lot of people
that...they try to separate us,
you know what I'm saying?
Like today, they tried
to separate us, you know?
People are jealous of us,
you know what I'm saying?
People really hate on us. You mean
people in here can be close-minded?
Absolutely. Do they judge you?
Yeah, of course they do,
of course they do.
Of course people judge me, you know?
But that's not always it,
they usually try and...
somebody wants to get one of the
girls in their cell or whatever.
Right. What it is is, you know,
these guys are like... They're
starved for companionship. Yeah.
You said one of the guys would want
to get one of the trans in his cell.
For what? For what?!
For relationships. Hello!
Like mainly it's a lust, you
know what I'm saying? They lust...
That's true, though, isn't it?
They get to have a relationship,
they get to have a little house
and go to work every day
and come home every day
and... You know?
You said, Rob, that you'd like
to continue the relationship on the
outside. Do you feel the same way?
Yes. Do you? Hmm.
I'm almost 40 years old.
He's barely 30.
Right, that's what I mean.
So why not?
No, he's a lot better than that,
it's a lot more than just that.
I actually like this guy.
Thanks, guys. All right.
Can you tell us what's going on?
Can you say what's going on?
Well...I knew it didn't
look good in here so...
But, no, I don't know yet.
What have we got? What's there?
What's there?
What do you think is going on?
I'd just be guessing right now so...
It must have been a false alarm,
You know what?
That's the first time I've seen you
look a little bit worried.
Well, that's because I didn't
like the way it looked in here,
the moment we walked in here.
They're down to... I think there's
only about three or four officers
in the whole unit right now.
If there was like a mini riot
in here, they would lock
this building and we'd be in here.
That's correct. We would have
been locked in there for a while.
And would I be deputised
at that point?
I would at that point
have to do everything to try
to get us out of here safely.
'I was a few days into my stay
at San Quentin,
'and so far what had struck me was
how, in spite of the harsh realities
'of prison life, the inmates
could still form relationships
as comrades and lovers.
'And I even sensed a kind of
warmth between them and the guards.
'I was also surprised
how open they were with me.
'They seemed almost grateful
that someone from the outside was
taking an interest in their lives.'
How are you doing? Good!
'I was back in Carson Section,
this time to meet an inmate
'who stood out even among these
hardened criminals for the
brutality of his crimes.'
OK? 'His name was David Silver.'
I understand you're serving
quite a long stretch here?
Oh, yeah, very, very long.
I would say, uh...probably enough
for all of us.
What's your stretch?
What are you serving?
First I've got to do 521 years
and then 11 life sentences.
How come, erm... How come so much?
Cos I was on a...
a brutal...
type of thing,
multiple home invasions.
Brutal in what way?
Well, you figure I got convicted
for 12 home invasions,
home invasion robbery, uh..
..multiple victims,
uh...brutally hurt, uh...
shot, uh...
..then almost drowned, uh...
Just a lot of torture tactics.
Why were you doing torture tactics?
That's, uh...
Well, of course in a home-invasion
robbery you're there to rob,
and, um... if you don't feel
they're giving up
the information you need,
you've got to pretty much torture
someone to get the information
you want out of them.
Were you getting money for drugs?
No, I don't do drugs,
I don't do none of that.
It's just, uh...to live a...I don't
know, a better life, in a sense.
To have more better things
instead of...
I mean, look at me, you know,
not too many people are gonna hire me
to work for them, you know,
so sometimes I have no other choice
but to resort to crime, you know?
Unless I want to slave in a field
somewhere, but I'm not gonna do that.
Were there any fatalities involved,
did you actually kill anyone?
No, nobody died,
but some people...
probably were at points
where they wish they would have died.
It is pretty serious.
A lot of them, you know,
you figure, there's a shoot-out
with the police at the end, uh...
..you know,
people were pretty shaken up.
Some things were...will never
be forgotten, you know.
I guess...there was victims
where they had their heads
held under hot tubs...
for times...at a time...
Um...some were saying they were
sexually assaulted with a pistol.
How old were you when you were
convicted of this latest round
of different crimes?
This, 29. 29? So you're
about 33 now? Yeah.
And so had it become kind of a
career for you at that point?
Well, yeah, I went to YA
at age 11. What's that?
Oh, California Youth Authority.
Stayed there till I was 20,
so...you know,
that's, that's time. Then...you know,
I went to prison at 22,
you know. I've been doing...
It's pretty much
all I'm used to, unfortunately,
er... it's just now I guess I don't
worry about getting out no more,
I've just sort of made my bed
and...live on through.
Boy, look how packed it is.
We've got a lot of guys
out here today.
'I was back with Officer Gladson.
'It was yard again,
this time for Alpine Section,
'a block that houses inmates who
are segregated from the rest of the
prison for their own protection.'
Can we get in there?
You know what, I'm not sure if they'd
let us in there or not. Really?
Yeah. Cos, er... Usually it's so
confined, there's too many people.
I'll ask, em...
Do you mind if I ask Eric?
I'll ask Eric.
OK, all right.
Yeah, Louis,
we're gonna go out there.
We'll keep it light, though.
Sound and camera and Louis and you.
This is the handball court
here, Louis.
So who are the guys in here?
Officer Gladson, these guys are...
What kind of characters are they?
These guys are mostly gang dropouts.
Er, some sex crimes,
you know, with children. But...
And there's some guys
told on other people in court.
But mostly it's gang dropouts.
We talked to this guy before.
Can we go and meet this guy? Yeah.
How you doing? Yeah, pretty good.
Could you explain
your tattoos to them?
This one? Yeah.
It's says skinhead.
In what language?
It's the Germanic runes.
But you're dropped out
of all that now, right? Yeah.
How come you dropped out?
Er, because something happened,
I'm moving forward, something
happened where they wanted me
to stab my celly and I only had 59
days left, just because he borrowed
a black guy's dominoes.
That's why they wanted you
to stab him? Yeah.
Because he borrowed
a black guy's dominoes? Yeah.
Why didn't you do it? Why?
Why didn't you do it?
Because my mother was getting ready
to pass away. And you wanted
to get out? I wanted to get out.
I only had 59 days left. That seems
so absurd, the idea that you
would have to stab someone just for
borrowing a black guy's dominoes.
Doesn't it seem ridiculous to you?
Yeah, it does, it does
for something so minor.
But now, now it's like
my eyes are open to it, so...
Do you see these guys as people
just like you who, who have made
different choices, or is it
like a different class of people?
Yeah, I could have made, there was
a... There were, like, 100 times
I could have made the wrong choice
and ended up at the wrong place,
when I was growing up.
I could have ended up
like my brothers.
Why didn't you?
You know what, I was actually...
I wanted to, I didn't want
to hurt my mom's feelings.
Do you make any friendships
with the guys?
Oh, I get to know them real well.
I don't... You don't...
We've got to keep a hands-off
approach with these guys, you know,
as far as you can't really
become friends, but you get
to know a guy over years.
You get, you get friendly with him.
But this is probably a
religious programme going on here.
Guys will have their own
religious programmes.
That's what's going on.
So, what were you doing just now?
We just had a Bible study on...
What was it on? It was on, er..
Being true to yourself.
Being true. Being true to...
True to yourself, being true to
Jesus, letting us know that Jesus
Christ is our Lord and Saviour.
What was your original conviction?
Allowing a demon
to take over my life.
In what way?
To, uh...torment me
through dreams and visions
and, and...
physical assaults,
by opening the door to Satan,
to demonic forces.
What was your conviction?
I'm not going to say.
You're not going to say? No.
For what reason? Why won't you say?
Because it's not important.
Whoever opens the door to a demon,
whether it's by drugs...
Oh, we've got to get down.
OK, get down, get down.
OK, let's go over here.
You guys go ahead and walk in front.
PRISONERS SHOU What was the...?
We've got shots fired
on the East Block yard.
Shots fired on the East Block yard.
That's quite a big thing, isn't it?
Oh, yeah, that's a gigantic thing.
So what do we do?
Huh? What shall we do?
Er, we can't go there,
so it's death row.
So, you guys, we've got
a shooting... Shots fired?
Well, we have the guns.
So we have a shooting
on the East Block yard right now.
Probably some type of serious
assault, one inmate on another,
and the armed gunmen have had
to discharge their weapon
to stop the incident.
What was weird was when we were out
there and we were coming back...
The atmosphere had been
quite friendly, and then
the atmosphere went a bit ugly.
Did you feel that?
Yeah, when the alarm went off.
We started getting heckled
and people were saying,
"Get out of our yard..."
Well, it's because of the area
that we were in. Why?
Er, cos...the area over there,
those guys have...
Some of them have crimes that
they don't want people to know
who they are or where they're at.
Child molesters?
Yeah, you could say that.
Release the hounds.
All right.
'It was dinnertime at San Quentin.
I'd arranged to eat with a couple
of inmates from Alpine Section -
'a gay man called Chris Mitts
and a transsexual named Didi.
'Since meeting Debra
and her partner Rob,
'I'd been curious about the romantic
relationships between prisoners.'
Are you wearing a little
bit of make-up? Huh?
Some mascara? Yeah.
How come?
On the streets, I'm just,
really just a gay boy.
I don't really act or dress
feminine, but I've learned that
in prison, for homosexuals, instead
of being the masculine gay male,
having the feminine side,
although it does seek,
bring a lot of unnecessary attention
on myself and a lot of it negative,
I think it makes it a little bit
more easier to be openly gay.
The more womanly you become,
the more respect you get?
Not necessarily respected,
I just think...
Instead of being, like, someone
wanting to beat you up or hurt you,
they're like, "Oh, that's a girl,
"I ain't gonna..."
Excuse my language, "..fuck
with her," or stuff like that.
You know, it's an image,
it's not reality, you know.
I'm not really a girl,
but in a sense
when I portray myself that way,
it makes things go
a little bit more smoother.
How are you feeling, Didi?
Well, as far as I'm
concerned about it,
she's right because you cause
more negative attention
on yourself when you try to hide
being a homosexual, and they find
out that you're a homosexual.
Later on.
I don't know, I guess
it's a psychological thing
when they feel
that you're playing a game and...
Like, we don't have to show
them or nothing, but that's
just the way prison life is.
People that are feminine and use
make-up, like we essentially do,
attracts a lot of attention
from inmates seeing
that female affection,
we have that female aura,
and they seek that and want that.
Have you found anyone? Em, yeah,
I have as a matter of fact.
He's sitting right there,
with the glasses, right there.
He's really a special guy.
He can't take his eyes off you.
No, he can't.
I can't take my eyes off
of him either, most of the time.
But a lot of prison relationships,
it's an unhealthy environment
for that kind of thing.
I've hesitated in the past,
but this just happened
so I'm going with the flow.
Is it like...? Being gay, right,
and, and behind bars,
you sort of have your pick
of hundreds of men, in a way.
Do you know what I mean?
Is there a case for saying it's
quite a good place for you to be?
This is still an unhealthy place
to have a relationship, period.
I mean, this isn't an ideal place
to have a relationship.
'After dinner
Chris took me back to Alpine
to meet his new boyfriend, Ronnie.'
How are you doing? Pretty good.
You're Ronnie? Yes. I'm Louis.
So you and Chris here
are kind of an item now?
Yeah. I mean, it's very seldom
that you'll see something like this,
especially in a penitentiary.
Why are you in protective
custody, by the way?
Me, I'm an ex-gang member.
Which gang? I was a Nazi
Low Rider for 14 years, yeah.
Now you're in what basically,
you know, to me would seem like a,
it's like a homosexual relationship?
Yeah. Would you consider it that?
I guess you could say that, yeah.
And yet you're a former
Nazi Low Rider? Yes. Isn't that
kind of a contradiction?
Yeah, I've been a dropout
for seven years now. Yeah.
What would your Nazi Low Rider
buddies think if they saw you now?
Er, they probably
wouldn't be too happy.
And, Chris, aren't you...?
Chris, aren't you Jewish?
Yeah. Jewish? Yeah.
And you're a former Nazi?
Yeah, a white supremacist, yeah.
It was the second
most notorious prison gang
in the state of California.
From the Nazi perspective,
doesn't it make it even worse
that Chris is Jewish?
No, not really,
because I look, you know what I mean,
I look at her as a human being.
That would be like this white guy
right here, you know what I mean?
I really don't
look at her like that.
But you're not a white supremacist
any more?
No. He's looking at this. I look
at what's in the heart, not...
Not the skin colour,
you know what I mean?
So you two haven't started
rooming together yet? No.
Does that mean you don't know if
the physical side of it will work?
Well, no, we, you know,
we haven't went that far yet.
What you laughing at?
It's more than sexual.
It's not just sexual.
Yeah, it's the companionship,
we love to talk.
Especially when you're
in a penitentiary
there's not too many people
you can actually talk to and hold
a normal conversation with.
It's different when you find
somebody you're compatible with.
Did I ever think that I would be
compatible with a person like this?
No. I'm almost 38 years old.
No, not in a million years.
But, I mean, sometimes you don't
have no control over what happens.
He's been married for almost
13 years. You're married?
To someone on the outside? So what's
she gonna think when she sees this?
Well, it's, if she watches the
programme, I'm in real trouble,
you know what I mean?
It's the chance that you've got to
take sometimes, you know what I mean?
Especially... It's a chance
you've got to take.
And when you... Have you got kids?
Yeah, I've got two kids.
13 years of marriage and
now this out of nowhere.
That's pretty special to me.
'The end of my time at San Quentin
was drawing near,
'but there were some prisoners
I wanted to see again.
'I was on my way to Carson yard
to catch up with Playboy Nolan.
'He was getting out soon, and since
our last chat I'd found out he was
'a marked man, having dropped
out of an infamous prison gang.
'Risk of reprisals meant his yard
time was restricted for his own
protection to a metal cage.'
Are you doing good?
I'm doing good today. So this
is where you get your yard?
This is where we get our yard once
a week for about 1 or 2 hours.
And it's like a little cage
in itself.
They call this a walk-alone?
They call this the rats.
They call this the what? Walk-alone.
Oh, yeah, the walk-alone.
Did you say rats?
Yeah, I thought that was what you
said. It is the walk-alone section.
What were you gonna call it? No, I
heard somebody said the rat section.
By active gang members, you'd be
considered rats? Yeah. Would you?
Yeah, they consider us the
worst of the worst. Do they?
Cos we don't wanna affiliate or let
ourself be pushed into politics.
Which gang were you in? I was a
Northerner. Why did you drop out?
Basically, because of the
politics, and I just don't like
being told what to do.
A lot of individuals like to...
I just don't like that,
I like to do as I choose, you know.
I mean, there's gang members
out on that yard right now. Yeah.
If they got...
If we put you in there right now...
Oh, there would be conflict.
What would happen?
There would be a big, big fight out
there. Really? Big melee out there.
They'd try and get you?
Not if I get them first.
What do they do here?
What part of life do they control?
The whole point of being in a gang
is to orchestrate unity
as one together.
If I need food from someone,
my white brother would give it to me.
If I need, if I need security,
back-up, my white brother
would give it to me.
Same with the blacks,
and each individual gang.
You've got a beef with someone?
They'll back you up,
just like your brothers. Drugs?
Drugs, they take care of for you, all
that kind of stuff. But when you...
Are there drugs in the...
Are there drugs in prison?
Are there drugs? I... Me personally,
I would say there's more drugs
in prison than there are...
Than people think.
There's a lot.
There's a lot of drugs?
Everything... Is that bad to talk
about. Can we talk about that, Eric?
Go for it. Yeah?
And so...
And do the gangs control that,
by and large?
Majority of the people, the gangs
control the drug flow, but...
you've got to understand, just
because I'm on this side of the gate
and I'm not gang active,
don't mean I'm any lesser
of a man than them out there.
I could still fight like them, I
could still make money like them,
I could still attack, I could
still programme just like them.
I just choose to do it on my own.
Do you worry when you get out that
the gang might still be after you?
The threat is very high
because when you drop... I dropped
out of the Northern Structure.
My name goes onto the bad news list,
and those people right there
are supposed to be killed,
they're supposed to be through.
Supposed to be killed?
Supposed to be killed.
So the gang you were in,
the Northern Structure
put you on a bad news list.
And it's literally a list that's
been written down by someone? It's
a list that's been written down
from every single prison,
from every single higher person,
higher up,
and they put your name on that list.
And the objective of the
individuals on the streets
is to control the drugs and the money
and to kill these certain people.
And don't get me wrong,
when I was out there this time...
You watch news stuff on the
streets, and you see dudes
with tattoos killed, murdered,
it's just a wake-up call,
like, it's reality out there.
That's a gang hit? Yeah.
What was it that got you involved
in the gang in the first place?
It was my brother for one. He's a
part of the Northern Structure, he's
still affiliated to this day, right?
But not only that.
Me growing up on the streets,
that acceptance feels good.
You know, like when someone says they
love you, "Brother, I love you, I got
your back," this made you feel good.
They haven't got your back any more.
No, no, no, no, no.
I've got my own back.
But it's all right, though, man,
I'll be all right, I know that.
Been, I'm alive this long, so...
Who says I won't live 50 more years?
'It was sobering that Playboy would
always have a price on his head.
'I wondered whether
he'd ever be able
to leave the prison life behind.
'Back in Carson Section, I caught up
with Officer Olejos.'
What do you see happening with
Playboy Nolan? He'll be back.
He'll be back in here?
He'll be back. Do you think?
I know so, he'll be back.
The wise guys can't
function on the streets.
They have a hard time, they have
a hard time following the rules
and the responsibility, that's the
big thing. They have a hard time
with responsibility on the streets.
They don't know how to adjust.
They won't learn those skills?
They don't want to.
It's not that they can't,
they don't want to.
I mean, why would you want
to learn a skill when you've
got free room and board here?
Wouldn't you agree it's
better on the outside?
Here in prison you're somebody. Out
there on the streets you're nobody.
'It was my last day at San Quentin.
'The one part of prison life
I still hadn't seen was
the release of prisoners.
'Back at Receiving and Release,
the daily ration of inmates
'were getting ready to leave and,
in theory, start their new lives.'
How many are going out today?
We've got 27 total going out today.
27, that's quite a few? Yeah.
And you've worked this job
for a while? Five years.
From what you know and understand,
looking at these guys out here,
do you have any sense of...?
Do you think all these guys are
going to stay out, maybe half?
Do you think
most of them will come back in?
I would say at the most probably...
With 27 guys going out today,
I would probably see about...
more than half come back.
How soon?
It could be a matter of days
or a matter of months.
All human beings are creatures
of habit, and these
guys are creatures of habit.
They go back to their old
neighbourhoods, they tend
to fall into the same...
with the same groups of people
that still disobey the law,
and they get caught up.
How do you feel about going home?
I'm nervous because I haven't had
no human contact for two years.
I've been in a cell
by myself for two years.
No windows, no sunlight...
Just locked up.
24 hours a day, locked up.
So what happens now, you wait here
until they...? When are they gonna
actually let you go?
Whenever they decide to show up.
'Another of the inmates
going out today was Debra.'
How are you doing?
All right.
Just wanted to say a quick hello.
Have you said goodbye
to Rob this morning?
Yes. Yes. And what was that like?
It was kind of sad, but, you know,
I'll do what I'll do
and I'll see how this goes.
Yeah. Yeah.
He seemed to be hoping to continue
the relationship, didn't he?
Yes. And you feel the same way?
Yeah, sure.
I mean, you know, I've been
doing this for a long time
and I don't have very much faith
in these guys as far as
long distance goes,
but he's new to this,
this whole environment.
And he's not really...
he's not one of these guys.
I think he... I don't know,
we'll see. I sure hope so.
I hope it's... You know.
So you're a little more
realistic maybe, are you? Yes.
I mean, I believe that his heart
is where he says it is, you know?
But time and...and conditions
change, so we'll see what happens.
It seems unlikely
that HE'LL find anyone else,
inside, doesn't it?
Well, you never know, I don't know!
Better not!
'I wondered whether Debra
would stay out this time and
how much he even wanted to.
'I realised that many prisoners had
spent so long institutionalised that
San Quentin was now their home.
'With little contact with family
and friends, their real
relationships were here.
'And as much as the prison walls
kept others out,
'they also forced those
on the inside together.
'Before leaving San Quentin,
I had one last inmate
I wanted to see again.
'Armed robber and self-confessed
torturer, David Silver.
'With 521 years to serve
plus 11 life sentences,
Silver would never leave prison.
'It seemed hard to fathom such an
existence, or even whether a life
like that was worth living.'
How are you doing?
All right, all right.
Did you get your bit of yard time?
Yeah, the little bit I can get.
Yeah. You know, don't get much here.
Are you in, are you actually...?
Have you got handcuffs on?
No, I'm cool. It's just a kind
of a habit to stand this way.
Yeah. You know, you get handcuffed
so much, you kind of pick up
that little habit.
When we spoke last time, one thing
I don't think I asked was, you know,
whether you felt remorse? Yeah.
About what you did. That's
something you didn't ask me and...
Yeah, I feel remorse all the way
for some things.
I was wrong... wrongfully convicted
for some things,
but the things that I was convicted
for, I accept all responsibility
for my own actions and, you know,
now that it's said and done,
I've had a lot of time to
think about a lot and, you know,
naturally, you know, I mean,
if I don't feel bad, then
I'm just a cold hearted person.
Can you say anything to make me
understand why you did those things?
Well, to understand it you'd have to,
you'd have to somewhat think
it was OK to do it.
So I don't think you'll
really ever understand it.
Have you ever wondered whether there
might be something wrong with you,
I always wondered was there some kind
of chemical imbalance that I got,
but then, you know, I think,
no, I know better, you know,
so I don't think it's something
that I act without thinking.
You smiled when I asked
if you thought there was something
wrong with you mentally.
So you had thought about that
a little bit. Oh, yeah, yeah.
If I never thought about that,
then there probably WOULD be
something wrong with me!
Do you feel you've got
a life in here?
You can make a life in here.
You can actually...
You can make a life that's
comfortable as it can get in here,
if you put your mind to it.
As far as, hey, I can,
I can look, you know...
It's a sad way to look at it, but in
reality it makes you more sane to...
I could just say, "Well,
you know what, I'm on my 401K.
"I'm always gonna have food,
I'm always gonna have shelter,
I ain't got to worry about
"the stresses of losing my job,
I ain't got to worry about none
of that type of stuff no more.
"I'm gonna be taken
care of until I die."
I can look at it that way
and try to ignore the other things
in life, as far as all the things
that just make you smile, like,
you know, out riding on, you know, on
a boat in the water or whatever, you
know, other little things in life.
As long as they don't exist to me,
I'm here, then they won't bug me,
unless I want to put myself,
you know, torture my mind and...
So you just narrow
your horizons a bit?
You know, the only thing
that you don't have in prison...
..is freedom to an extent, right?
And there's no, you know,
women, as far as...
But then that, you know,
that's just little...helps in life
that, you know, you can
get over all that, you know.
If you can't, then, yeah,
you're gonna make your time
a little more rough for you.
But after so long, that stuff's
not even important no more.
Shirt off. Huh?
I'm going in.
Shirt off. Shirt off. Shirt off?
When did they start this shit?
Right, back out.
Obey the law now!
# Dot King was whittled
from the bone of Cain
# With a little drop of poison
in the red, red blood
# She need a way
to turn around the bend
# She said, I wanna walk away
and start over again
# There are things I've done
I can't erase
# I want to look in the mirror
and see another face
# I said "never"
but I'm doing it again
# I wanna walk away,
start over again
# No more rain
# No more roses
# On my way
# Shake my thirst
in a cool, cool pond
# There's a winner in every place
# There's a heart that's beating
in every page
# The beginning of it
starts at the end
# When it's time to walk away
and start over again
# Weather's murder at 103... #