VICE (2013) s06e01 Episode Script

Raised in the System

- All right.
- How y'all doing today? - MAN: All right.
- MAN 2: All right.
- MAN 3: I'm all right.
What's life like for y'all right now? - MAN 4: Day by day, bro.
- MICHAEL: Oh, yeah? You're trying to make the time go by, you know what I'm saying? MICHAEL: How long have you been in the system? When I first got locked up, is that what you mean? - MICHAEL: Yes, sir.
- So I was 12.
Been in just since 12 to 17 now.
I'm about to like eight, nine times.
I missed the last three Christmases just being locked up on Christmas.
I won't Like just on I'm always locked up on Christmas, so.
I was 15 years old just like five years before I was believing in Santa Claus.
I mean, I'm going on three years, um, but and I got I got 50 more, to be honest.
I got 50 more years to do.
Um So it ain't Me, I got a while left, but I'm gonna I'm gonna try to turn it around.
I'm gonna find a way to turn it around somehow.
I don't know.
MICHAEL: What's up with you, sista? My first time being incarcerated, I was about 14.
I been in and out ever since then.
The last most last recent time I caught, when I was 16, they tried me as an adult.
Growing up in my household was different.
Sometimes no light, no water, no food, so I turned to the streets, for real.
And the streets got me, but now it ain't got me no more.
But I'm supposed go to the DOC today.
How long you gonna be in DOC for? I had 33 years total, they suspended 18.
I did three up here, but they ain't count, so - You have 33 years? - Yeah.
MICHAEL: You caught your first charge at, what, 13, 14? Yeah, like 13, 14.
MICHAEL: And the gun charges, the robbery, and the grand theft auto charges - Mm-hmm.
- that you landed, that is what you are being charged with 33 years in prison for? Yeah.
But I feel, like, for my parents.
My dad, he already 64.
So I'm like, damn, I may not come home.
What if he pass away or something? I can't tell him I'm sorry for all the wrongs I done did, and all that, and I love you.
I can't say that.
He'll already be gone then.
- Yeah.
- Part of me, glad I'm locked up, 'cause I got my shit together while I'm doing them doing them years, but it don't take 30 years for you to get your shit together.
This building we're in right now was actually built in the mid 1990s, when people were starting to respond to youth crime with adult consequences, and people were describing kids as juvenile super-predators.
- MICHAEL: Mm-hmm.
- ANDREW: So, they were building adult-like facilities like this because they thought that was the right way to respond to kids.
And what they forgot was, they were kids.
NEWT GINGRICH: There are no violent offenses that are juvenile.
You shoot somebody, you're an adult.
NEWSWOMAN: Recent statistics may indicate violent crime is declining nationwide, but it's rising among young people.
MAN: They should be caged like wild animals because that's what they are.
If I had my way, I'd borrow the Ringling Brothers' cages and cage these drug pushers and exhibit them, so the kids can see scum.
ED KOCH: This has reached epidemic proportions.
HILLARY CLINTON: They are not just gangs of kids anymore.
They are often the kinds of kids that are called super predators: no conscience, no empathy.
BILL CLINTON: I'm directing the FBI and other investigative agencies to target gangs that involve juveniles in violent crime, and to seek authority to prosecute as adults teenagers who maim and kill like adults.
(APPLAUSE) (BOY SPEAKS) (MICHAEL SPEAKS) (BOY SPEAKS) So, this your first time ever being arrested? - Right? Okay.
- BOY: Mm-hmm.
And you're 13.
So what got you here today? Um, my dad and my mom, they got separated, and then my mom got full custody of me, and I was just staying at my dad's yesterday.
- JIM: Oh, okay.
- BOY: And I thought I was able to stay with my dad, but I guess I wasn't.
JIM: So, Mom said you couldn't go to Dad's tonight? Okay.
So then that's when you had the little tussle with the officer and your mom? How long Mom and Dad been having those problems? BOY: Mm-hmm.
For a long time.
A long time? (BOY SNIFFLES) JIM: It's all right.
We'll get you a tissue if you need one.
There's a lot going on, isn't it? Just keep breathing for me, okay? MICHAEL: This 13-year-old experienced his first run-in with the law: pushing a cop during an argument about which parent he was going to stay with.
But instead of putting him in a jail cell, the officials here in Toledo, Ohio, are figuring out how they can help him rather than detain him.
Your case is gonna be unofficial.
- Do you know what that means? - BOY: Nope.
It's kind of like you don't have a record at court, okay? And then, we're going to talk to you and your mom about some things that may help you.
Hi, Dad.
How are you? - This is a little overwhelming.
Yeah, I know.
- Yup.
This is almost overwhelming.
We don't want him getting into our system.
You know how that is.
DAD: I've been trying to get out of the system since I started, and I'm still in the system, fighting for him.
And I told you, I don't want you being like me.
Done told you that How many times, a million times? MICHAEL: It's so important to help at-risk youth at the first signs of trouble, because kids who touch the system at a young age have a greater chance of serving serious time just a few years later.
Eric's first contact with the system was at 11 years old.
And now at 17, he's facing punishment for armed robbery.
This is the matter of Eric, aggravated robbery felony of the first degree.
Eric is currently on probation for burglary F2 and carrying concealed weapon, this being his third time on probation.
He was on GPS monitoring.
Within one week, he committed this current offense.
So, Eric, this is a sad day.
For whatever reason that would be, you made the decision.
You have the ability to make the changes.
You're just gonna have to make the changes in a different setting.
I am going to commit you to the Department of Youth Services, and I'm gonna give you the maximum sentence of a minimum of three years up to age 21.
- Thank you.
Good luck.
- WOMAN: Thank you.
MICHAEL: For Judge Denise Cubbon, sentencing teens like Eric to juvenile prison is a method of last resort.
She's presided over this juvenile court for 13 years and has seen firsthand how incarcerating kids not only fails to reduce crime, it has set up generations of young people for a lifetime of failure.
The thought for years was that incarceration would rehabilitate people, but that's not the case.
We were sending kids to the Department of Youth Services that's kids' prison by leaps and bounds.
And they would come home and what would they do? What they know best: Continue to commit offenses, because they became unemployable, they perhaps didn't have education to rely on.
The reality is we lost a population of young kids, and to what? Our crime rates were continuing to rise.
Things weren't any better.
If anything, they may have been worse.
MICHAEL: Growing up in a violent neighborhood, I saw firsthand how the young people in my community ended up in the system.
While some went in for selling drugs, I went in rehab for using.
I been in my own version of this growing up, and yeah, it sucks.
Trust me, though, I wish when I was in this situation, I took it more seriously.
I would've saved myself more grief when I went back out.
How you feel about the program, that you're in here? Ever since I was young out there seven, eight, nine on the block, selling drugs.
To me, if I don't change the way I'm thinking, I'm gonna be somewhere worser than here or probably dead.
In the streets, the same people gonna be there, the same drugs.
Ain't nothing gonna change, and you gotta realize that in order to do something different.
Basically they teach us, how you think is how you behave.
If I'm thinking I wanna be big and bad, I'm gonna act big and bad.
But if I'm thinking, do the right thing, I'm gonna do the right thing.
I realize there are certain things I gotta let go of, and I'm in-between what I wanna let go of and what I don't.
- It's a battle within yourself.
- MICHAEL: Mm-hmm.
That's how I feel sometimes.
I come out at war with myself, like I ain't really got no peace at all.
And that bothers me.
MICHAEL: Kriston, one youth with multiple offenses, was most recently arrested for a firearm charge.
What do you think is the cause for all the violence in your community? Everybody wanna fit in, so it became a trend to become a gangbanger, it became a trend to have all that money.
Me and my good friend had a term: If I got regular Oreos, but you got the Double Stuf Oreos, we're coming to get your Oreos, 'cause we need 'em.
So basically, that's how we live.
We enjoy shooting each other.
We enjoy pulling up on your street and shooting at you.
I been around it all my life.
All my cousins You're a baby.
Sixteen, you're still a baby.
You make 16 like you're an old man.
You're still a baby.
What are you talking about? I got socks older than 16 years old.
With over 850,000 juvenile arrests a year and 48,000 kids sitting in lock-up daily, the US has the highest incarceration rate of kids on Earth.
And once these young people are sentenced to juvenile facilities, they've been found to be 38 times more likely to reoffend as adults.
For my nephew Dominic, it took one fatal mistake as a teenager to be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
One day defending his twin brother, who was being accosted by a gang of teenagers, Dom shot and killed another teen with an illegal firearm.
Let's talk about that one moment in your life.
Could you or would you have handled the situation differently? I've often thought about this whole situation, sometimes until exhaustion.
I lay down at night in that cage, and I say to myself, "What happened? Where'd you go wrong at?" But I also think that we don't have to be defined - by that one worst moment in our life.
- Absolutely.
And for me, that's what this is about.
MICHAEL: What year was this? DOMINIC: Probably it's '94, '95.
Look how young I look.
MICHAEL: You looked young, you were young, you were a baby.
How many men that are in here now went into the system as minors, like yourself? You know what? It's been a lot.
Coming to prison, there were a lot of people from our community who were 18, 17.
A lot of young men who were going through different challenges everything from mental health to sexual abuse issues, lack of education, lack of awareness, lack of self-confidence.
Their priorities are twisted.
They're not making it.
MICHAEL: While behind the prison walls, Dominic has decided to pay it forward by counseling and mentoring the other men there.
He leads a group called Exodus, where he encourages them to do the work on the inside, so they can make a healthy and successful transition.
Because of Dom's resolve and his resemblance to the fighter, they lovingly call him "Tyson.
" I'm one of the adolescents, one of the guys who came in at a very young age, 16.
What we are doing down here is changing lives.
If it wasn't for Tyson, I wouldn't be who I aspire to be, who I am now.
I love because of these men.
- Peace.
- MEN: Peace.
MICHAEL: How y'all brothers doing, man? - DOMINIC: How's everybody doing? - MAN: Great.
Part of this process is to remember what we've done.
Too many children, too many grandchildren, have been affected by our conduct.
Most of you guys have well over 10 years served in a maximum security prison.
How many people came to prison at a very young age? I want you to raise your hand.
Think about that.
Think about that.
I came to prison when I was 16 years old.
I'm 40 years old at the moment.
One thing that I value most in this life is my family.
Due to my actions, I disgraced them.
MAN 2: I came to jail at 16.
A lot of people gave up on me.
That kind of messed with my insecurities.
It just was me choosing the streets and going the route I went in.
I became rebellious, and I ran with this rebelliousness to the streets.
I turned 13 when I ran with it, thinking that I was man enough to command those streets.
What are gonna be some of the tools that you use that is gonna keep you out of prison? Basically finding the root, the root of the problem, going way back, where everything started.
MICHAEL: For many incarcerated people across the country, their troubles with crime, violence, and the system started when they were young.
The arrest rates for many crimes, like murder, robbery, and car theft, peak in late teenage years and then begin to fall drastically.
Larry Steinberg is a leading psychologist in analyzing juvenile crimes, and what he has found is that this phenomenon is directly connected to adolescent brain development.
So, Larry, why do you think we have one of the largest juvenile justice problems in all of the developed countries in the world? I think there are a couple of reasons.
One is that we criminalize normal adolescent behavior.
You know, adolescence is a time when kids do a lot of risky and reckless things.
There's a part of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, that's really important for self-control and anticipating the future consequences of your decisions.
This brain system isn't completely mature - until people are in their early 20s.
- Yes.
- (KIDS SHOUTING) - LARRY: We know that teenagers already have an easily aroused reward system in their brain.
You're more likely to get angry at that age.
You're more likely to feel threatened at that age.
And we're now understanding that there's this mismatch between this easily aroused part of the brain and a still immature part of your brain.
We like to say, "It's a time when the accelerator is pressed down to the floor but there's not a good braking system in place," and that's what adolescence is like.
We can't reform criminal justice without reforming juvenile justice, because there's almost nobody - who's locked up in prison - As an adult.
as an adult who wasn't doing stuff - Something stupid when they were young.
- when they were young.
Steinberg has been exploring the psychological differences between teens and adults through a series of experiments on how peer pressure affects impulsive behavior.
The idea here is that the faster you get there, the more money that you're able to get.
But along the way you're gonna come to a series of intersections, and at each one, you're going to have to make a decision.
And if you keep going, you might beat the light and get there faster.
But if the light turns red, you could crash into another car.
Okay? (LAUGHTER) BOY: This is definite no way.
- (CAR HONKS) - ALL: Oh! MICHAEL: Oh-ho! Oh man! What was the difference in the brain activity? Well, what we found in this research was that when teenagers are with their friends, their reward centers get activated especially, but we didn't see any difference for adults.
We then developed this theory that the presence of their friends activates their brain's reward centers in ways that makes them pay attention to the potential rewards of a risky choice and to not pay attention to the potential downside.
Being accepted by peers, that also is something that we find in the world of addiction, which is where I come from.
So one of the really interesting discoveries that brain scientists have made is that people who start using early in adolescence are seven to 10 times more likely to develop an addiction than people who use the same substances in the same amounts, but don't start until they're 21.
Nobody is saying that we should excuse - criminal behavior.
- No sir, no sir, not at all.
But we need to respond in ways that are going to help that person return to the community in a better place.
MICHAEL: We wanted to see what programs in the US are trying to find a better way.
Back in Judge Cubbon's district in Toledo, they are reducing the incarceration numbers by placing each kid in a program that best suits their individual situation.
Tyron was detained for carrying a concealed weapon at 16.
He is now in a probation program that allows him to continue to live in his community and attend school.
MICHAEL: You was locked up? Yeah, I got there catching a gun charge.
Okay, all right.
How old were you when you caught the gun charge? - Sixteen.
- Sixteen.
And what program are you in right now? - CTC.
- CTC? What do those three letters stand for? A community treatment center.
Community treatment center.
What's your situation and what are your obligations? Show up every day, go to school, talk to them about what I be going through and stuff like that.
Life skills.
Are there any adult males in your family or in contact that - Contact in a good way? - Positive, yeah.
Pfft! (LAUGHS) - Not that I know of.
- Everybody in the game, huh? Everybody got an addiction.
Addicted to the streets.
I lost my best friend when I was locked up.
Murdered? Yeah? You ever think about doing something stupid? All the time.
(TYRON SPEAKS) (TYRON RAPPING) TYRON: I got some shit to worry about.
I got this other one where MICHAEL: We followed Tyron to one of his program check-ins.
That's not my cup of tea.
- Okay.
- That's not my flavor of ice, you know? - (LAUGHS) - You feel me though? - WOMAN: I feel you, man.
- You feel me though, "G"? I feel you.
(LAUGHS) - No, you gotta say - BOTH: "G.
" (LAUGHS) - Good morning.
- TYRON AND WOMAN: Good morning.
This is the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas, juvenile division.
This is the matter of Tyron.
So, we'll start.
Yes, Your Honor.
Since the last review, we've been working with Tyron, he's been cooperative with CTC, he has not missed, he has been attending school.
And the concern we have is that he is not returning home in the evenings, and that's part of his condition of the CTC program.
So in the last two weeks, how many nights has he not been home? WILSON: Every night.
The concern is safety again, his whereabouts when he's not in our sight.
- DENISE: Marijuana usage? - (WOMAN 2 SPEAKS) - Yes, he did - Oh.
Okay, yeah.
He did test positive.
(TYRON'S MOTHER SPEAKS) All these good reports is fine, but I don't see them, 'cause y'all ain't gotta live with me.
You sitting up here, and you call yourself a grown man.
I don't know where he's at at night, I don't hear from him, I don't get no calls from him.
And I'm gonna guess that you're frustrated because you're in recovery yourself? - (MOTHER SPEAKS) - Okay.
(MOTHER SPEAKS) Okay, so the floor is yours.
Why aren't you going home? - My mama.
- So, what's the problem? All right, so I don't believe in God.
- (MOTHER SPEAKS) - She want me she be wanting me to go to church.
She be trying to force me to go to church, and I don't believe in God.
She she get mad when I say that.
You see? (MOTHER SPEAKS) - That's my belief, though.
I - Okay, listen to me while your mother is out of the room.
If you told me where you were staying, - I wouldn't approve? Is that correct or not correct? - I already told him that.
- You're not answering my question.
- Yes.
Okay, so, Tyron, we the court and me, personally are giving you an opportunity to take advantage of services Nope, nope, nope.
I'm talking, you're listening, okay? You can sit down.
We know that you can do this, but your safety and safety of others that's why we have to know where you are all the time.
I will give you credit on school, but I'm not gonna give you credit on leaving the house and being disrespectful to your mom.
You have to go walk the steps so you can be trusted in situations.
It's hard.
Yes, this is a high-risk offending kid with a lot of needs, but if we can keep him in the community, we are increasing the likelihood that that kid is gonna be successful.
When did you start seeing your numbers go the other way, go down? In the '90s, we had a population rate in our detention center that varied between 75 and 100 children, daily.
Today, we have 24.
MICHAEL: Rather than be sent to adult-like prison facilities, offenders who qualify enter Lucas County's comprehensive rehabilitation program.
DENISE: Youth who are accepted into the Lucas County Youth Treatment Center are felony offenders.
It is lockdown.
We do a lot of cognitive behavioral work: education, mental health.
Most kids in kids' prison would not have that opportunity.
MICHAEL: We saw the positive effects of this program six months later when we met up with one of our friends, seeing some real change.
KRISTON: This was like a wakeup call.
Like, I can't I can't go back out there and make the same decisions that I made because I know the outcome.
I feel like I'm the one taking that step outside the box when I go to school, get an education, go to college, start my own business.
Gangbanging or being in the streets, it's gonna lead me to one or two boxes: a cell or a casket.
So why continue to do the same thing? I think about what suit I'm gonna buy when I get out, not what gun I'm gonna buy.
Mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm, mmm! There's always a method to my madness, young brother.
I'm trying to die of a heart attack from being, like, 80 or something.
I'm not trying to die from being shot.
What? MICHAEL: It is crucial to rehabilitate youth like Kriston as soon as possible because of where they can end up if they commit more serious crimes down the line.
This is Grandma House.
This is maximum security for women.
MICHAEL: The women that come here for, like, the most heinous crimes.
- Yeah, yeah.
- MICHAEL: All on this facility? - Yeah.
- And they put you here as a 15-year-old girl? MICHAEL: Felicia Pearson is probably best known as "Snoop," one of my costars on The Wire.
Before Felicia's career in TV, she served time in a maximum-security prison for second-degree murder.
What was going through your mind at 15 years old Like, "How the hell I get in this motherfucker? (LAUGHS) How the hell I get in here?" I'm thinking that I gotta go to war as soon as I come in here, because I'm locked up in here with adults.
(SCOFFS) It ain't no place that a child supposed to grow up.
MICHAEL: Felicia's troubles began early in life.
She was born to a crack-addicted mother and was raised by foster parents in East Baltimore.
This is where Mama brought you home from the hospital? Yeah, right here.
This the house.
She planted this tree.
This is a good luck charm.
You know what I'm saying? For real, man.
Anybody that just stab it, kick it I don't care what you do to it, some bad luck gonna come to you, I promise you, man.
And this is where Pop used to get the switches out the tree (BOTH LAUGH) and whip my ass! Yeah! MICHAEL: Did you know where your biological mother ever lived? FELICIA: Yeah, over west.
They let me be with her, and she had took my clothes and stuff, and my counselor was like, "Nah, you can't come back.
" BOTH: Yeah.
Come on.
- That the last time you seen her? - Yeah.
They said she had got locked up when I was locked up over at city jail - Yeah.
- but I ain't know who she was.
I probably wouldn't recognize her because Wait, wait, wait, wait.
You and your biological mother - were locked up at the same time? - Yeah.
And she just probably walked right past me.
I think about that shit all the time, man.
MICHAEL: With no positive role models, she fell deep into the street life of drugs, violence, and ultimately murder.
I was sitting on the steps round there, everybody like, "Fight, fight, fight!" So we used to run to a fight.
You know how it is - Yeah, we all did that dumb shit.
- Yeah.
- So I runs around this corner - Uh-huh.
they fighting over here, I'm over here like just watching it, you know what I'm saying? Shorty comes out swinging.
So I'm standing remind you, I'm standing right here, and she swinging and jump, so I say, "Yo! Ho, ho!" They say she hit me, I don't remember.
You know what I mean? So I whips out.
Like, "Yo, back!" She's seen it.
Pop! MICHAEL: Felicia's story is not uncommon.
Many young kids who grow up surrounded by violence and poverty end up making similar mistakes.
I was feeling alone in this world.
I didn't care about nothing, like absolutely nothing.
I didn't care that if I die, I didn't care.
- You was angry.
- Yeah, angry.
Angry at the world.
Angry at myself.
MICHAEL: What Felicia learned is that kids look for mentor figures who can actually relate to where they come from.
You basically told me that pretty much everyone you ever had to look up to in this community either were gangsters, did time.
What effect did that have on you, mentally? - It had a lot.
I looked up to 'em, you know? - Yeah.
And I thought that was the right way.
Our youth now most definitely need people, like big homies, mentors.
Kids now, they look at you, and be like, "Well, if you've never been locked up, - how can you tell me anything?" - Yeah.
If you haven't been down this road, you can't tell me shit.
MICHAEL: Using reformed offenders as mentors has actually proven to be one of the most effective ways of reaching our at-risk youth as evidenced by an innovative mentorship program in what was once one of America's most dangerous places: Richmond, California.
The CHP is working closely with Richmond police after a rash of recent highway shootings.
NEWSMAN: Five bullets came from a white Mazda NEWSWOMAN: A brother and sister shot to death in Richmond.
NEWSMAN 2: A man and woman were shot and killed in North Richmond last night.
MICHAEL: The violence in Richmond was so bad, the city decided to do something radical: to reach out directly to potential violent offenders.
A controversial program is actually paying people not to shoot each other.
The Office of Neighborhood Safety is a government agency with one single focus: reduce firearm assaults and associated injury and/or death.
How did you start to do that? In 2009, the city saw - 45 firearm-related homicides - (GUN FIRES) - (SIREN BLARES) - and more than 180 nonfatal shootings.
And we determined that there were actually 28 people responsible for 70 percent of that 2009 activity.
That was an aha moment for me.
We can wrap our arms around that.
- Yeah.
- Like many cities, we were focused on what are known or called "hot spots," "spots where things happen.
" - Mm-hmm.
- But I thought it'd be smarter to appreciate that hot spots are hot because of hot people.
So rather than focus on a location, focus on helping people.
You've got to know who's perpetrating that gunfire, and you've got to be willing to partner with them.
And so I asked the city manager if he would allow me to create a classification called Neighborhood Change Agent, someone who's not only been incarcerated in his or her past, but someone who has a gun charge in his or her past.
MICHAEL: Change agents recruit kids to enroll in an 18-month fellowship where they are steered towards a better way of life.
What made you want to be a part of this program? Everything I did on the inside was telling me I needed to work with people.
This is definitely something I was meant to be a part of.
Our job is to target those young men - who will solve their conflicts with guns.
- Mm-hmm.
JAMES: We in the streets every day, we meet them in their hoods, and we engage them, we try to build a relationship and hopefully show them different ways to solve conflicts.
You don't give up, huh? No, never give up.
Because you never know when that window's gonna open, and we want to be there to come through when it does open.
MICHAEL: That window opened for James with a young, formerly jailed youth named Deandre, who is now a member of the fellowship.
- Deandre, Michael, man.
- Nice to meet you, man.
- Same here, brother.
- JAMES: Been making some tremendous strides - as far as doing something different in his life, man.
- That's what's up.
- That's what's up, brother.
- I'm real proud of him.
I noticed there's some, um, artwork on your garage walls there.
- What happened? - I mean we was out, sitting in front, then somebody came up, started shooting from right there.
Thought we was somebody, but we wasn't.
That's just life in Richmond.
It can happen just that quick.
That quick.
I got the bullets right here.
- MICHAEL: Crazy.
- DEANDRE: Got one in the mailbox there too.
You gotta be kidding me, bro.
(CHUCKLES) MICHAEL: What was the first thing that you clicked in your head when you said, "I want a relationship with these brothers?" What really got to me was I standing outside one day on the corner, and James ride up and asked me like, "What are you doing with yourself?" And I really thought about it, like, "He right.
What am I doing with myself?" And with Deandre, he reminded me of me, so I stayed on him.
I still stay on him.
We here.
We're gonna be here for the long haul.
MICHAEL: Once the fellows respond to the program for six months, they help them form a "life map, and they start to get paid.
Why not incentivize a life map? After six months of positive, healthy participation levels, they become eligible to earn up to $1,000 a month for nine of the remaining 12 months of the fellowship.
So we're talking about up to $9,000 over an 18-month period.
Do you know the cost to incarcerate a violent youth offender - in the state of California per year? - How much? Over $200,000 a year, - per inmate.
- Per inmate.
Average stay, three to five years.
You do the math.
MICHAEL: And with an annual budget of only $980,000, ONS has helped drive the annual homicides in Richmond down by 70 percent since it started.
This success has opened up a pathway for the young men in the program to pursue gainful employment.
- Thank you.
- You're welcome.
- Now I need a belt.
- Yeah, you do, - to keep your pants up.
- Hold your pants up, - you can hold your life together.
- (LAUGHTER) All right, so you're good, now you got to put that in, online, everywhere.
What won't you do? If they called you right now and they wanted you to clean windows I'm cleaning windows.
Would you clean the toilet? - Yeah, of course, I'll clean the toilet.
- Okay.
I'm at a point right now where I don't have a choice.
But you did have a choice.
You just gave up a job, that was a choice.
Why would you do that? - That just boggles my mind.
- Dude, I was in the freezer.
- I can't work in no freezer.
- So, there we go.
Now we found out what won't you do.
You won't be cold.
You do know that homeless people be hella cold, right? - Yeah.
(CHUCKLING) - You do know if you don't get a job soon, - you gonna be homeless? - Yeah.
What if it's an oven? Can you be at 130? - I can be hot.
- Okay.
We a tropical people anyways, right? (LAUGHTER) If the man does not work, he does not eat.
SAM: I don't care if you cold, you can't quit no job - until you got another one to go to, bro.
- True.
Like, that's just a rule of thumb.
Step in the right direction, brother.
Proud of you, man.
It's good to see you, brother.
It's good to see you too.
You got a support system in here.
It make me feel good, because I never had that type of support before.
- Yeah? - Yeah.
I wish I had this when I was coming up.
- I'm glad I had it.
- I love you say that.
MICHAEL: Programs like the one in Richmond help ex-offenders get back up on their feet, because when you don't have help, prospects can look very grim.
My cousin Niven and I grew up together in the Vanderveer projects in East Flatbush, Brooklyn.
Niven was incarcerated for second-degree murder for a crime he committed when he was 14 years old.
Isn't it odd after all you've been through, all I've been through, we could still, at the end of the day, come back to this little projects' roof.
We experienced it all in here.
Yeah, I stood right there watching 9/11.
That was crazy.
You know where I was? - MICHAEL: Where? - I was in solitary confinement.
I was in the box for like 18 months.
That's why I never forget it.
MICHAEL: Niven did a portion of his time and was released on probation.
The problem was he had no skills or support.
And to make matters worse, because of where his felony conviction happened, by law he was not allowed to return home.
So he ended up in the last place he wanted to be.
This is where they dropped me off when I came out, man.
This was my first stop.
I heard about it the day before I came home.
Guys was telling me, "They sending you to the Armory?" They said, "Yo, it's crazy in there.
That shit looked worse than Attica.
" Why would the system make you live in the shelter? I don't understand the science behind that.
You do a crime in your neighborhood, you banned from that neighborhood, and that might be where all your family at.
In your case, that's exactly what happened.
You went in, you did your first straight 13, you came home, so what happened? I end up dipping in and out of the projects in the neighborhood, messing with some of my mans and them, because I had nothing else to do.
I let the streets take me.
I end up getting rearrested for a drug case.
Long story short, I ended getting 11 more years because of my prior record.
- (SIREN BLARING) - Once you have that felony stamp, you got the big "X" on your chest, you barely get a job, the jobs that you get is way below standard, you can't live off them, you can't survive, but I'm living check to check, man.
MICHAEL: After nearly a lifetime in the system, Niven was able to find work as a custodian.
For many former offenders, they simply can't find work, so they go right back to the streets, what they know best.
Back in Richmond, they know this, so even after the fellowship ends, change agents continue to help members navigate through life.
SAM: So he applied for a government security clearance to be able to get on to refineries or ports.
It's easier to talk to somebody who been through some of the stuff that you've been through.
If it wasn't for them, I highly doubt I'd be here right now.
I was involved heavily with the streets, back and forth to jail, just having somebody in your corner who won't let you slip.
I'm going to go through the whole thing to make sure.
Here, take You can't fax a staple though.
ROHNELL: He's just always there when I need him.
I mean, he only a phone call away.
He has a daughter.
I just recently had a daughter.
(INDISTINCT CHATTER, LAUGHTER) MICHAEL: The hope is that programs like this can create a path, not just for this generation but for the next.
SAM: These young people aren't growing up, thinking about what college they're going to go to when they're in the second grade.
They don't even see a benefit of graduating high school.
I don't know what a doctor needs to do to become a doctor, because there ain't no doctor living in my community.
I don't know how to become a lawyer, 'cause there is not a lawyer living in my community.
I know how to be a gangster, I know how to sell dope, I know how to pull that pistol, because that's what I see every day.
The epitome of success is I got out the hood.
You ain't gonna leave no bread crumbs for somebody else to follow? MICHAEL: Creating the path right now is vital, because a quarter of African-American children - Say hi.
- will have a parent incarcerated at some point, raising the risk of them entering the system themselves.
Having a kid really just brought me to life.
Before that before I had her, I was just like, basically, I ain't got nothing to live for.
I might as well just stay in the streets.
You feel me? MICHAEL: Many of the young men we met were already young fathers and in jeopardy of perpetuating the cycle all over again.
DENISE: Uh, how old is your son now? - Nine months.
- DENISE: Okay.
You have a child that you want to participate in the child's life, but right now, the child has to be safe all the time.
Man, I gotta Yes.
MICHAEL: But we can help stop the cycle of kids entering the system before it starts.
You're welcome.
- Good afternoon.
- STUDENTS: Good afternoon, Dr.
I teach at the university, but I do a lot, a lot of work in the community.
I started off doing interviews with kids your age who had parents who were in prison.
The conversation that we're gonna start talking about today is gonna get kind of deep, and I want you guys to really kind of know that I'm here with you.
By a show of hands, are there any kids in the classroom who have anyone in their community that spent time in prison or in jail? Are there any individuals in the class today who experienced incarceration in their family? Last question.
Are there individuals in this class who are children of incarcerated parents? When you start talking about these sort of things, it's kind of heavy, you don't know where to start, so that's where you get The Prison Alphabet, the coloring book that we're going to talk about today.
Why not target the children of the incarcerated parents early on, engaging them, and meeting them where they are and letting them know it's okay to talk about it? Because we're not talking about it, - it turns into this large snowball.
- The elephant in the room.
- Yeah.
- That kind of thing.
You ever see anybody get arrested that you know? They actually took my father and my uncle, right there in front of me.
Now that I'm actually thinking about it and I'm talking to someone about it, it hurts, it hurts a lot.
And you know that's okay, right? It's okay to say you hurt.
It's okay.
Why'd you pick the phones? You have family members inside? Who you got? Do you miss him? Is your daddy alive? What happened? Yeah.
That's a pretty, pretty big statement you made there, Michael.
I think you could do it, though.
What do you want to be when you grow up? Everything's gonna be all right as long as you keep your head focused on wanting to be the one that breaks the mold in your family, that changes the pattern of the way things happen.
All right, man.
(SIGHS) - Did you hear him? - MAN: Yeah.
(SNIFFLES) That's really fucked up.
MICHAEL: This young man knew to take his pain and his past and use it to be a blessing in someone else's life.
I'm sorry.
Um I can't.
So, I want to call up to the front some of the individuals who I did not hear from.
See, the entire thing that this conversation was about was really digging in from your heart, and now it's onto papers, and then we start to share.
So we're gonna start with you.
Incarceration had a horrible effect for me when my mom got locked up.
It put me into a bad place.
One, it broke me, because she was my have, and I just broke down.
Two, it left me with my dad, who beat me until who beat me until my skin was black and blue.
I told my mother and my father I felt bad that they didn't show love, and they both apologized to each other.
(APPLAUSE) I'm going to share what I heard from that story, and that's the ability to maintain bonds.
We don't dictate who our parents are gonna be, how they treat us, but we do dictate what we think about the hand that we've been dealt.
And what I'm hearing today is, that's a hand and a breath of forgiveness, of strength.
That's the good things about stories: You don't have to go in and erase anything that's ever happened or add anything in.
You just have to own it.
And the thing that you want to do with it is not make it a crutch, so you don't want to be, "Oh, my mom was locked up, that's why I fight.
My dad was in a gang, that's why I don't listen to teachers.
" That's lame! At the end of the day, you want to own your story, so that you can throw that crutch, and now you're just walking.
What made you feel safe to open up to Dr.
Muhammad and me? MICHAEL: I saw a lot of things while making this documentary.
The loss of innocence in America broke my heart.
And just like the mantra that my nephew Dominic lives by, "A setback is just a setup for a comeback.
" (INDISTINCT CHATTER, LAUGHTER) MICHAEL: After more than 20 years of pristine records - and giving back behind bars - Come here, bud.
my nephew Dominic was granted clemency for the remainder of his sentence.
All right, thank thank you.
- It's beautiful, man.
- MICHAEL: Yeah.
I'm ready.
This is what I've been preparing for for 20 years, seven months, 18 days.
I'm ready to go.
I'm ready to make an impact in the community in a very, very positive way.
I stand there with you, bro.
MICHAEL: But the main thing I've learned on this journey is that yes, our young people should be held accountable for their choices.
But until we find other ways of dealing with our children besides locking 'em up, another generation will be doomed to the same fate.
Every single kid will mess up.
It's called adolescence.
But if we can reach them before they're put in a cage (CHATTERING) if our courts can rehabilitate and coach them before they get too deep in the game, and if we can show the at-risk youth that there's a different way, then maybe we can stop this cycle.
We've been loving on youngsters that ain't never seen love before.
We're showing young people that they matter, that they're important, that we need them to have a brighter future.
We're helping these young folks understand and believe that they count and they have something to contribute to society.
MICHAEL: The programs we saw for now are just a glimmer of hope and not the standard, but they show us that we have a chance of preserving our future.
You all right, bro? All right, Mike.