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tv   Lockup  MSNBC  August 31, 2013 9:00pm-10:01pm PDT

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due to mature subject matter, viewer discretion is advised. there are two million people behind bars in america. we open the gates. "lockup." >> don't be weak in prison. that's a downfall. >> i didn't like the way you allowed them to punk you. >> facing 15 to life in prison was the scariest thing i've ever had to go through. >> when i walked back here, it was horrifying. it was something i didn't want -- >> i want to see the outside. i want to see some beauty, try to forget about this place. >> studies show that women are
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one of the fastest growing segments of america's prison population. since 1995 the total number of male prisoners in america has grown 29%. the number of female prisoners, nearly 50%. so what does it mean to society and to our justice system? we first visited valley state women's prison in california back in 2000, one of the largest all-female prisons in the world. we returned five years later to see if reforms made any difference to a system troubled by overcrowding and the inmates caught in a seemingly hopeless cycle of abuse, drug addiction, and violence. >> everybody tries to make a family here. this is their family while they're here. but then there is another aspect of the population that can be very violent, very cut-throat. >> why you over here? >> and they're making a game out of it. and the more violent it is, the more fun it is for them. >> get your camera off of me.
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>> they're not people. >> i don't feel i'm a good person because of the things i've done. and i'm scared. i'm scared. i am very scared. >> 250 miles north of los angeles in chowchilla, california, is valley state prison for women. it was built in 1995 and sits on more than 640 acres. while valley state's dormitory layout and spacious green yards might remind some of a college campus, razor wire, guard towers and the electrified fence leave no doubt this is prison. and the 3,600 women who live here are criminals. >> when i first came to prison, i was 19 years old. and i'm here for second degree murder. and i have 15 to life. >> we'll try and fight. >> sharon fennix is now 41 years old.
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>> everything was, like, silent. you had to be very careful in the way you walked and the way you talked and your attitude. you know, i was dealing with women who didn't care. i seen a woman get beaten. i've seen women o.d. >> more than 80% of the women at valley state are in for drug-related offenses. >> i used to use heroin, started at 16 using it. >> i'm addicted to crack cocaine. >> heroin. >> i've been using since i was 12 years old. >> substance abuse is an underlying factor of most of the crimes that are committed by the women here because in order to support their drug habits, you end up committing burglaries, petty theft, various crimes that will result in a felony conviction. and as a result they end up in prison. >> what you mean you need some more food? starving like what? >> like i'm eight months pregnant and lost -- >> you're what? >> eight months pregnant. >> let me see.
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oh, you are, aren't you? >> gloria henry is the warden at valley state. she's run this prison since 2002 and has been working with women in corrections for more than 20 years. >> i have always felt like i have a responsibility to try and return them to the community better than they were when they came in. because you have a lot of these women who come in here, from the time they were little girls they had nobody to teach them how to be a good citizen, how to be a productive adult. they have no life skills. they didn't learn them. what they did growing up was survived. so when they come in here, there's a lot of things that we need to be able to teach them how to do in order to go back into our communities. >> halperson. >> this is the reception area at valley state where the new inmates are processed. >> do you have any old cdc numbers? >> no. >> okay. >> i just haven't ever been. i'm scared.
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it's scary. i'm ashamed of what i did too. >> right now i'm numb. i don't feel anything. because i just got here. so, i mean, i don't really feel anything yet. i don't know how it's going to be. i don't know what i'm going to face because i've never been here. >> some of them i see come in, they're disgusted because they're back here again and we see them, you know, every three or four months or time and time again. >> this is my fifth time. >> your fifth time? >> yeah. my first commitment was a petty theft with a prior. and this is my fourth violation. >> i never said i wasn't going to come back because i'm a criminal. that's what i do. >> after the initial photographs, fingerprints and paperwork, the prison's medical staff examines each new inmate to assess her needs. >> that's the only thing you're under treatment for right now? >> the new inmates must spend their first several weeks in an area separate from the general population before being integrated into a permanent housing unit. >> while segregated, the new inmates are psychologically
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tested to determine in which housing area they will be placed for their remaining sentence. >> some of the women inmates that we see here who are psychotic, have lost touch with reality, may have very bizarre and unusual behaviors, hear voices and those types of things. and we would need to treat them usually with medication and some supportive therapy. we also see people who have major depressive disorders, very sad, maybe suicidal. and these women may need medication therapy and also psychotherapy as well. >> once the correctional staff screens each inmate for medical and psychological needs as well as security risk, she's assigned to her housing unit. the women live eight to a room. >> when you live with seven other different personalities and somebody's day has gone wrong, they're bound and determined to turn it around on you. >> you better be quiet. you're going to get it. >> friendships are lost.
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over just one bad day in close quarters. >> inmates not only have to get used to their new environment, but also the prison routine. a typical day at valley state starts early. at 6:30 breakfast is cooked and served by the inmates under staff supervision. the majority of inmates spend their day in a variety of valley state's educational, vocational or rehabilitation programs, where they can earn a high school diploma, learn a trade or cope with anger, addiction and abuse. >> when i first came to prison, i started fighting at anything. anything you said to me would make me, you know, react. if i felt threatened. most of the time i'd end up in cuffs. i've had several police tell me you're going to be here until the prison falls down. and through going to groups and therapy, i finally learned that that wasn't the way to do it. i need to learn how to use
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talking skills instead of my hands. and with more help and more good functions, i have the chance to go home. >> life here is about order and routine. by 10:00 p.m. it's lights out. but there are some places at valley state that never go to sleep. coming up -- [ screaming ] >> this is how it is 24/7. you have to be prepared for anything. >> doing time at valley state's prison within a prison. and later -- >> when i was a little girl, i could never imagine myself being here now, today, or even coming to a place like this. >> we checked back with someone who was just out of her teens when we first met her five years earlier and could spend her life behind bars. is that true? says here that cheerios has whole grain oats that can help remove some cholesterol, and that's heart healthy. ♪
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because i didn't like the way you allowed them to punk
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you. >> an act of violence or drug use inside the prison will bring an inmate here to the administrative segregation unit, or ad seg. it is valley state's prison within a prison. while ad seg houses those on temporary lockdown, the other side of the building, known as the security housing unit or shu, is for serious offenders who are considered a more permanent problem. >> i was set up. i was set up. that's what i was. inmates were afraid of me and they put a shank under my mattress. >> they think i'm a threat to the institution. >> inmates in the shu are kept in their cells almost 23 hours a day. they are allowed out for only three showers a week and ten hours in the recreation yard. life in ad seg or shu isn't just a more intense experience for the inmate. correctional officers like diane vasquez are under the pressure of dealing with a different brand of criminal.
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>> working here in ad seg shu is very challenging. you deal with a lot of physical abuse, mental abuse, emotional abuse. it just depends on how much you let it affect you. you hear yelling. you hear cursing. you hear banging, kicking on the doors. this is how it is 24/7. at nighttime they don't sleep. anytime you're dealing with any of the inmates in here, you have to be ready to react to anything. >> 136. >> so you've always just got to be prepared, know your options when you're dealing with different situations. you always have to think two steps ahead to prepare for whatever can happen. >> an arsenal of nonlethal weapons like tear gas and rubber bullets provides stopping power in case of an incident.
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to provide added security for the officers meals are delivered through slots in cell doors. random cell searches are an effective way for officers to find weapons and other contraband before they can be used against staff and other inmates. >> i'm just checking some of the unclear containers for contraband because we can't see through this. so we can take our light. and if there's anything in here besides what's supposed to be in here, we'll be able to see it. there's an unknown liquid in this. that's a shampoo bottle. there should be shampoo in there. there's not shampoo in there. we use mirrors to see where we don't want to put our hands without being able to see. we don't want to get stabbed or poked. >> although the officers search for all sorts of contraband, they are first and foremost on the lookout for weapons. >> it could be as simple as this right here. this is cellophane wrapped around a pen filler. and it's pretty stiff. it could be used as a stabbing weapon. so it's better that we take it. >> when it comes to crafting
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homemade weapons, an inmate's determination can be deadly. >> right here is what we call a fashion block, what it is it's a cut-off pillow case, it's made into a handle. the inmate braids it to where they can hold it real tight. and what they do is they attack another inmate. another common weapon for inmates to use would be a toothbrush. melt the plastic down and they put a razor in there which acts as a slashing device. screws have been melted inside of a lighter. and you hold it. >> keeps the inmate safe. keeps the officers safe. if we can stop it here, everybody is going to get to go home safe. >> hey. >> not all prisoners are in ad seg for disciplinary reasons. cynthia menendez and linda donohue are here to protect them from their enemies.
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>> we're here because our life has been put on the line. you know, and we have families we want to get home to, too. i was put back here because my life was threatened because my son testified and took somebody away from their family. and they were going to take me from mine. i've been back here a little over a month. and it's just getting harder and harder. i just felt like my whole world was crumbling. when i walked back here, i could just see horror. >> when you're taken out of your cell, you're handcuffed. and it's just -- it's very depressing. it's very humiliating. >> linda donohue was assaulted at a nearby prison and was shipped to valley state for her protection. now her attacker will be arriving at the prison. so linda has been moved to ad seg for her own security. >> yeah. she slugged me. blood all over. i was choking on blood. blood all over the room. i finally was able to get up. she had me pinned. i was able to get up and bang on the door for the officer.
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i'm scared of dying. i've seen people beat worse than what i got beat. >> for both women, the isolation of ad seg has provided a chance to reflect on their time behind bars. >> it was a reality check for me. it was really a reality check. and maybe this is what it took for me to have to realize it. this is not where i want to be. >> you're told not to be weak in prison. don't be weak in prison. that's a downfall. i don't know how to be strong. i just had that one habit and i just couldn't break away from it, you know? it was like taking away the loneliness. >> violence and drugs still take their toll inside valley state. darlene acevedo is serving time for petty theft. but as a drug user, she was sent to the ad seg for feeding her addiction on the inside. which led to an attack on another inmate. she's been in ad seg for 21 months. >> this is the first time i've been sober in my whole life since i started using drugs since i was 18.
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so that's what i meant by reality check. this has made me the me, the real person that i really am. >> darlene's facilities are basic, with a few luxuries like lotions, spices and a television. she spends her time reading, with only pictures of her family to keep her company. >> they give me hope. when i look at my pictures, i know that i have a purpose. >> today darlene will go before a committee to determine if she is fit to leave ad seg. >> she was originally placed in asu on 12/12/04 for battery on an inmate. regarding the assessment of the shu term, icc found no factors in aggravation. it's further recommended that we release her to facility d. >> the meeting brings good news for darlene. she will return to the general population. >> everything is going to be fine. i'm going to make it. when we return -- >> this place makes you hard. >> five years later, we catch up
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when i was a little girl, no, i could never imagine myself being here now today or even coming to a place like this. when i was 16, i was in juvenile hall fighting my case, still didn't think about coming to prison. to be so young convicted of second degree murder, facing 15 to life in prison, it was the scariest thing i've ever had to go through. i didn't know what i was coming to, what it was going to be like. i've heard many stories of prison. so i was scared. i was terrified. >> when we first met janice jaycott, she had just turned 21. she was sent to valley state to serve 15 to life for second-degree murder. >> i set up a drug deal. the drug deal turned into a robbery. the robbery turned into a murder. the girl turned state evidence and the guy was on the run and he ended up dying about a year and a half later.
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this place makes you hard. it can make you bitter. i don't think it rehabilitates you. 90% of the women go out harder than what they come in. >> janice was pregnant when she was arrested. her son was born six months prior to her being sent to valley state. >> i don't know what it's like to be a mother to him. to me i'm just the woman who gave birth to him. i'm not his mom. my stepmom and my father have raised him. >> janice is now 26, older, wiser, and looking toward the future. >> four years ago i was a wreck. i was real rebellious, i didn't care about nobody. i don't even think i gave a damn about myself. to where now, four years later, i'm more mature. i care what happens to me. >> janice also cares about the child she left behind. she hopes to be paroled within five years and, at last, be a
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mother to her son before it's too late. >> i think as he gets older and he comes to understand and realize where i'm at and i'm not home taking care of him, i think he's going to be real rebellious about it and he's not going to want to listen to nobody. i'm terrified he's going to make the same mistakes as i did. >> at valley state prison there are 385 women serving life sentences. >> actually, four years ago i couldn't see ever leaving here. i couldn't see leaving here. now as my board date approaches, i see that there might possibly be a light at the end of the tunnel. only in the last year or so have i felt like maybe this isn't what god has planned for me, to stay here for the rest of my life. >> marta yulin is also a lifer at valley state. she was convicted in 1998 for vehicular manslaughter. she drove drunk and killed four people. >> i wanted to die myself. it didn't only affect the four people in that car, but myself
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and my two children don't have their mother right now. the effects ripple on down and affect so many people that it's unbelievable. the pain will never go away. >> marta is serving 15 to life. when we spoke to her in 2000, she was convinced that prison was the end of the line but longs to reunite with the family she left behind. >> i have a very supportive daughter who's 20, who's putting herself through school, and i have a 23-year-old son in iraq right now who should be coming home soon. he's having the hardest time dealing with me being here. and we basically had no communication since i've been in prison. but i'm faithful that god's going to turn that around. i know that god's always there. he wraps his arms around me and comforts me and tells me he's
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going to see me through this and that he's forgiven me, because i can't forgive myself sometimes. >> i've become a very angry person rather than, say, somebody who's looking at things and finding things better. there's nothing rehabilitating here. it's a drudgery really. >> when we last saw barbara erdman, she was 65 years old and one year into her ten-year sentence for murder. >> my husband had left me after 30 years, and i was having a very tough time with it. and all of a sudden i decided i was going to be me again. and i went over to his house. he had moved out, and i went over to his house where he lived, and i wanted to tell him to keep whatever pension and stuff he had and just sign the
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house over to me. and he got very irate and starting beating me up. but when i backed up, his gun was on the counter. he carried it once in a while. and i picked it up and tried to scare him. and he backed off. but then he came at me. and i pulled the trigger, i guess. i really don't remember it clearly. it went off and he died. >> barbara had more difficulty adjusting to her time in prison than the others. barbara will soon be 71. >> no. this is not life. i'll tell you that. you're definitely being punished. that's for sure. it's a nightmare. i still have not gotten over the shock of being here.
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and everything is so different. people are so different. they're not people. and i think i was still in shock at that time. i didn't really realize what was going on, and what it would be like to be in here. and it's horrible. it really is. i don't laugh as freely. i don't live really, is basically what it is. i try very hard to keep my spirits up, but there's some times that you just can't. if it wasn't -- if it wasn't for my family, for my granddaughter who i've got pictures of, i wouldn't make it. i don't know what would happen.
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>> as these women get closer to freedom, they remain mindful of the fine line between getting out and actually moving on. >> when i get out of prison, i'll be the kind of person that carries a good job, be the best mother i can be. that's my number one priority, is to be a mother to my child. i cannot bring those children back. i cannot bring the gentleman and his girlfriend back. and i can't wipe the tears of the family members or my own family members. but i can keep trying to move forward and do the best that i can do for others. and try to replace it that way. that's the only way i know how. >> that's what i need to do, is just focus on the fact that in two years i will be out, and maybe there's something i can do on the outside. i want to see the outside. i want to see some beauty. try to forget about this place.
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♪ every now and then i get a little bit hungry ♪
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♪ and there's nothing good around ♪ ♪ turn around barry ♪ i finally found the right snack ♪ ♪
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hey there, i'm veronica de la cruz. and here's what's happening. president obama has sent to congress a draft of a resolution authorizing military force against syria. the president gave an address saturday announcing his plan to seek congressional approval for a strike in retaliation for syria's suspected use of chemical weapons against its own people. california's rim fire is now the fourth largest in state history. firefighters now have the stubborn wildfire around yosemite national park 20% contained. i'm veronica de la cruz. now back to "lockup." medical care for all prison inmates is notoriously inadequate. at valley state prison for women, health care is indeed one of the facility's biggest
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challenges. for prisoners it's also been a hot-button issue for years. each day just after breakfast the inmates on medication line up for their daily doses. all drugs are regulated. psychotropic, prenatal, even cold medicine. the inmates have long considered health care to be one of valley state's biggest problems. despite being fully operational on our first visit in 2000, the facilities were understaffed and overburdened. there were less than ten physicians to care for more than 3,500 inmates. >> the medical care here sucks. >> medical sucks. >> medical sucks. >> we need better medical. >> i've been here eight years and never had a physical. they won't give me a physical. they said because i'm young and i'm healthy i don't need a physical. >> because of standards that are
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set by the community, there has been a significant increase in funding for the health care services for women and we have been able to add to our staff both in terms of physicians, nursing, mental health staff. is it still -- is it perfect? no. do we have enough staff? no. do we have vacancy issues and problems we're working with? yes. but we are significantly better off in terms of our ability to deliver quality standard of care today than we were a year ago or five years ago. >> most of the difficulties stem from the inherent differences between male and female populations. above all, pregnancy. >> pregnancies in a prison provide a very unique problem for us because many of the women that are pregnant are in very poor health. they're ill when they are pregnant. they come here and they're depressed. they have a number of issues going on in their lives. >> approximately 175 babies are born each year to inmates at valley state, building b-1
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houses the expecting mothers. >> i'm having twins. i don't know. i think i'm having a boy and a girl. i hope. that's what i want. because i have a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old at home. so -- >> when an inmate is ready to deliver at valley state, she's brought to nearby madera community hospital. correctional officers are posted outside the delivery room. but that isn't the only thing that separates these moms from the others in the hospital. >> when the babies are delivered, the mothers don't get to bring them home. >> a family member must pick up the newborn within 48 hours. otherwise, the baby is placed in foster care. >> this is my son, manuel. he was the first born. and he weighed a pound and nine ounces. >> when inmate amelia gutierrez was sent to valley state for a parole violation on an assault charge, she was seven months pregnant with triplets. >> i had a really rough experience being here. you know, i had a high-risk
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pregnancy. this is no place to be. >> amelia's delivery was dangerously premature. she had to be airlifted to a hospital capable of providing adequate care to her new family. but soon after delivering the triplets, amelia was given traumatizing news. >> i'm very grateful, because you know, two of my -- from the triplets two of my children are still living. and my son, unfortunately, passed away. which was really hard. because, you know, i couldn't be there for him like i should have been. the hardest thing was to lose my son and, you know, just being away from my children, period. it's, like, really tearing me up inside because, you know, i never wanted to be -- i feel like i'm the worstest mother. this is not my home here.
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i'm not calling this my home. my home is with my children. >> an unfortunate fact of life at valley state is that 85% of these women are mothers. they display their photos on cell walls or lockers. >> this is hunter and sierra. >> these are my girls. i love them so much. >> one of the more sobering differences between men and women's prisons is that many of the inmates who end up here never see their loved ones again. >> in the women's case they're very frequently abandoned. there are not men in their lives that cared about them enough to stay with them during this difficult time. they come here and their families don't take the time to bother and come and see them. there are not as many men out there that want to communicate with and write to and send love stories and love letters to women that are locked up. >> it's saturday. usually a prison's busiest time for visits. yet inmate anza heathcock and
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her family have the room to themselves. >> without them being here, i don't think i could make it through this. you know? looking forward to their visits, looking forward to their letters. it brightens my day, it really does. >> anza's fiance and three boys are visiting her. >> missed her a lot. just happy that we can go see her today. >> we're supposed to get married when she gets out. >> all the time she's been gone, it's like we never get to talk to her or anything else. alls we do is get to write her. when she gets out, she can probably come to our football games. >> you know i will, be there at every one videotaping it. you know i will. just can't wait for me to get out of here and start living our lives like we should. huh? i know that's my goal. i'm very blessed to have somebody take care of my kids. i know where my kids are. a lot of women in here don't even know where their kids are. they don't have family or the family just kind of shut them
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off. you know, since they're in here. i'm fortunate enough that i've got someone who loves me and that will come 200 miles, however many miles, come see me. >> we'll see you next week. >> you better be here every week. >> anza heathcock was released from valley state prison in november 2000. her sons are teenagers now living at home with her. and anza is still in a relationship with her fiance. although advocacy groups sponsor bus trips to bring families to see their mothers, such trips are rare. barely 1% of inmates have a visitor on any given day, meaning anza was among a precious, lucky few. >> it makes life in here livable. you know, gives me something to look forward to. when we return -- ♪ the power to heal
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>> -- while some look to god for love in prison, others look to each other. ♪ turn around ♪ every now and then i get a little bit tired ♪ ♪ of craving something that i can't have ♪ ♪ turn around barbara ♪ i finally found the right snack ♪ ♪
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good morning, sisters. >> good morning. >> bless you. >> bless you. good morning, sisters. >> one of the basic philosophies of the penal system is repentance. so it's no surprise that at valley state prison for women so many inmates turn to religion. >> we come to worship you. we come to praise your name. >> anyone that comes to god usually comes because what motivates them is pain, emotional pain, spiritual pain. >> i've come to know the lord in here. which is something very, very --
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it's surrounding me. i feel so much peace with myself. i know he forgives me for being a rotten person. i know he forgives my sins. and i know i can do anything. >> there are several religious options for the inmates, from this native american ceremony led by a cherokee healer. >> connect to your center. we send our blessings out to our families that we miss very much. >> only god is in that place. >> to this catholic service where inmates are anointed with holy oil. >> you will be healed of all diseases. >> so many of our inmates have never been touched. the touching part is a real key for them, the very fact of the anointing and the blessing. the very fact that i can touch them on their forehead and on their hands, i get this sense of relief for them, that somebody really cares about them enough not to touch them in a violating
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way or an abusive way. >> because so many inmates have been physically and mentally abused, they come into valley state unaccustomed to nurturing relationships. >> one of the things that happens in the prison system for women is that women will sometimes build themselves a family. so a woman will become a father. a woman will become an uncle, a brother. and they will be pulled together into a family structure. >> they decide this is an older lady, you know, i look up to them, so this is like my mother figure. they start calling them mom. this is, you know, a lesbian female, this is my dad, you know, whatever, whatever. >> loraina diaz is serving six years for manslaughter and an assault on an officer. >> something that they don't get at home, something they've never had. and in here the relationships are much more close because you're so enclosed and you've got to see -- you see these
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people every single day no matter what you do, you know. so you build these bonds with people. >> many of these inmates become so close that their relationships go beyond mere support. >> women have a much stronger need for touch and to be close to each other and to talk and to have close relationships. >> married in prison? yes, i'm married in prison. >> to who? >> to a woman. >> you got married? >> i've been with the same woman for five years. >> many of our women prisoners who would not be gay or lesbians in the free world are, in fact, drawn to each other here in a supportive, family-like concept, and that ultimately may lead actually into sexual, lesbian sexual relationships. >> when i first came to prison, about a year after i was in prison, i started being with women. probably for affection. now i don't be with women because it wasn't who i was. i was being lonely. i didn't know how to keep myself occupied.
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so i was with women. >> it's about being close to somebody, having somebody give you love. it's not -- even some of the lesbian relationships in here, you know, a lot of females come in here and they have husbands, they have five children at home or whatever. but they come here, and they receive love from somebody. you know what i'm saying? they find somebody who they care about and cares about them. coming up -- inmates look to their future. >> it's going to be a whole new world. you know? >> both inside and outside the prison walls. >> part of me doesn't ever want to be part of society. pr. 60 mo. done and done. [ dad ] in that driveway, is a german-engineered piece of awesome. that i got for 0% apr.
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friends and the people i hang around with in order not to come back to this place. this place is really not a bad place. they have a lot to offer you here if you take advantage of the situation. they've got schools. they even have college courses here that you can take and
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things like that. you can get yourself into something positive. you know what i mean? >> we can provide all the education and academic programs in the world. but the individuals who come through our gates have to be ready to accept those programs, has to be ready to say i need to change who i am and how i live. >> to help give inmates a marketable skill upon release, valley state has 15 vocational programs from welding to landscaping to cosmetology. inmate marlene stollsmark used to be a drug dealer. >> outside world, i ran a lot from the law, sold drugs to get by. you know, it was easy money instead of -- i didn't really know too much of doing anything except running the streets and this is -- when they came here, they asked me, well, what are you interested in? i said nails, hair. and they put me in this program. it was good. a lot of us that's here really don't know nothing except what we've learned to bring ourselves
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here. if we had known a trade or something, we might have did that instead of doing what we did to get here. >> at the end of her ten-year sentence, marline hopes to open a nail shop of her own. >> i'm hoping it will give me a normal life where i don't have to look over my shoulder and wonder am i coming back. i don't think anybody really thinks about coming to prison and having to stay here. but it's the choices in life that we make that bring us here. hopefully i don't make that same mistake and come back. >> i came in in my very early 20s. i'm pushing into my 40s now. my sentence was 15 to life. >> inmate christy camp was convicted of second-degree murder. she works in the print shop. she dropped out of school in the seventh grade, but earned her high school diploma here at valley state before working on a vocation. >> any type of learning a trade is going to give you a sense of accomplishment, boost up your
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self-esteem, give you job skills that you can incorporate when you leave. >> christy has been denied parole multiple times, but she hopes her new skill will make a difference if she leaves valley state. >> when i think about paroling, it's going to be a whole new world. you know? i've been in almost 20 years. i'm looking forward to residing in a community and being a community-oriented citizen, a homeowner, living the american dream just like everybody else. so that's what i plan on doing. >> because a large part of the population at valley state is here for drug-related offenses, the substance abuse program remains many inmates' only hope. >> good afternoon, family. my name is vonita. >> hi, vonita. >> first of all, i want you ladies to put your legs down and i want you ladies to relax. >> vonita lee used to be a drug addict herself. today as a counselor she has a unique appreciation for the struggles the inmates face. >> it hurts me. it hurts because i feel
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irresponsible. i feel hardness. i feel like, you know, unworthy. but you know, i'm working on that right now, you know what i mean? >> how has it made you feel when you see other kids with -- your other peers with pictures and they're showing pictures and you're not showing any pictures of your kids? >> it feels -- it's like an emptiness, you know. >> these women are part of walden house, valley state's residential community for substance abusers. today's topic is the effect the inmates' addiction has had on their families. >> me and my kids don't have like that relationship or that bond that a mother and child are supposed to have. >> so right now, if you can tell your kids anything, what would you tell them? >> i would apologize for not being the parent that i was supposed to be. i would tell them that i love them very much. i would tell them not to make the same mistakes i did. >> i would like to give all you ladies a big stroke because you guys did some processing.
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i want to stroke the ladies that was here for support. it's important that we let these ladies know that the work that they're doing is very important because some of these ladies have held this stuff in for like 20, 25 years, and it's so hard for them to be productive out there in society because they have all this garbage inside and they've finally come to a place where they can release it and be safe about doing it. >> i lost my mother while i was locked up. i'm not real close with my family right now because the trust was lost. >> some of these ladies haven't cried in many years. and when we see the tears, we know it's cleansing them and it's helping them become that productive member of society. and it's very important that we hug them. that way they know that they're doing the right thing and it's okay to cry. >> good job, good job. >> yeah. >> yes. >> single file. >> okay. >> what i want, i want you to give me your whole name. >> are you guys ready for your last patdown? >> these women are being
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paroled. yet despite their hopeful smiles, odds are the majority will be back. >> what a parolee will leave with is their personal property that they have, and generally $200. unless they've worked somehow and saved money or have had family or friends that have sent money for their trust account to give them something for a start. but generally it's $200. >> for many, the prospect of leaving valley state on parole doesn't bring hope, but fear. for inmates like lorena diaz a life in prison is all they know. >> i'm scared to get out, you know. i'm scared because i don't know what i'm going to do, and i know how different i am now. and it's just -- it's a weird experience. >> i don't feel like i'm a good person because of the things i've done. they want you to be that good girl. they'll let you loose and let you become part of society again.
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part of me doesn't ever want to be part of society again. >> i think some of them actually like it here, and they get their families, you know, they create their families here, their friends. it's like a reunion. it's nothing new to them, and it's their comfort zone. >> it's traumatizing, just to look 19 years down the road. when i'll be eligible for parole. i'll be too old. i won't be able to collect ssi. any vocation i take now won't be any good by the time i'm old enough to parole from here. you know. technology changes every day. i have no idea what half the cars look like out there, let alone a computer. so it's going to be scary. >> on our return to valley state, we found life remains very much as it was on our first visit five years earlier. while there may be new programs and increased funding in some areas, fundamental issues like drug addiction, recidivism and
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abandonment are unchanged. that's our report. thanks for watching. i'm john seigenthaler. due to mature subject matter, viewer discretion is advised. there are 2 million people behind bars in america. we open the gates, "lockup." >> this is what you call a dog cage. >> a lot of them complain that the walls are closing in on them. >> i'm just keeping my eyes open, that's about it. >> and i'm pregnant. i -- >> contraband. >> my sentence is life without parole. there's no way you can say sorry for something like that. >> they didn't allow me to go to the funeral, the viewing or even to the hospital. >> a lot of women here messing up. they lie on you.


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