Survivors Guide to Prison (2018) Script

Downloaded from YTS.MX Official YIFY movies site: YTS.MX Welcome to the United States of America.

We call this the land of the free, but this country is home to the largest prison population in the world.

2.2 million Americans.

We put more people in cages here than China, Russia, than anywhere.

We have more people in prisons.

More than we have colleges and universities.

1/3 of all incarcerated females globally are locked up here in the United States.

13 million Americans are arrested every year.

Get your hands off the truck! I'm not doing anything.

Put that in perspective-- imagine all of Los Angeles and all of New York combined arrested every year.

There are countless heroes in law enforcement saving lives every day.

[female reporter] Able to pull her limp bo--

But not a single state in our union has use-of-force laws... I can't breathe! that meet even the most basic international standards...

[woman screams]

With record poverty, drug use, and countless nonviolent social issues left to our police officers to solve with only three tools, we have a national crisis on our hands.

Of course, we need dangerous people removed from our communities.

But how many Americans are really so dangerous...

He's arresting me. that they need to be locked in a cage?

I enrolled my girls in my father's school district.

They sent me to jail. [wailing]

They sent my father to jail, too.

My father never came home.

The law enforcement apparatus is deployed disproportionately against people of color.

If you're a black man, your crack is gonna get

300 times more than your...

We know reform is desperately needed, but how do we reform... Can't record inside. when prisons don't just lock people up inside?

You don't want to tape me with your telephone!

Get it all! I'm a member of the press.

They lock us out. Pack up and go.

Citizens, the media, independent journalists are all routinely barred from recording or documenting anything that's going on inside our criminal justice system.

You're a chicken shit motherfu--

We have to get all our information and impressions from corporate commercially funded television.

[man] If you can't do the time, don't do the cr--

These shows are filmed and edited under tight supervision.

They're not going to prepare you for the inhuman conditions, the violence and brutality you're going to have to face.

You think because you obey the law, you have nothing to worry about.

[Matthew] But recently, the Wall Street Journal suggests we now have so many laws on the books, the average American commits three felonies a day without even knowing it. He didn't do anything!

As an American, you're more likely to go to prison here than anywhere else in the world.

You need to know how to handle an out-of-control police officer.

Yes, why am I gonna-- [grunts]

[Matthew] How to survive an interrogation, how to survive County jail and an extreme prison sentence.

[woman wailing]

To take us through the steps... we're going to follow the stories of two Americans...

Bruce Lisker, an innocent man convicted of murder, and Reggie Cole, another innocent man who endured an even more horrific nightmare.

We're going to get perspectives from investigative journalists, analysts, academics, prison staff, lawyers, cops, inmates.

[Danny] So in the unfortunate case that this may happen to you, this is the survivor's guide to prison.

* They controlling you? They got a hold on you *

* You need a man in a suit to tell you what to do? *

* I'll grab the podium mic and open the knife *

* We don't read between the lines *

* Let alone the stripes and the stars *

* Presidents get popped in their cars *

* I ain't coppin' the drop, real talk *

[door clangs]

[Susan] As an American citizen, you don't have to be a murderer or a rapist or a thief to be arrested.

You can call the police in an emergency and find yourself arrested just because the officer doesn't like you.

[man] My strongest memory of my mom is she was very into teaching and sharing.

We loved each other.

I would've put my own life on the line to try to save my mom's had I known anything like this was going to happen.

And it was a day just like any other day.

I went over to my parents' house.

Normally, when I went over, my mom would come out on the front porch to greet me.

And that day, she didn't come to the door.

I was able to see her on the floor, and she had been stabbed and beaten and left for dead.

[woman screams] And I was just freaking out.

[voices over telephone]

I was hysterical, and I was yelling and screaming at the paramedics to hurry up and get her to the hospital so that the doctors could do something to save her life.

And the police choke-holded me and handcuffed me and put me in the car for my own safety, ostensibly.

You call the authorities when something goes wrong.

I mean, you call for help, and you put your full faith in them.

I was telling the police, "I want to go to the hospital to be with my mom," screaming, crying, you know?

And he said, "No, we have to go to Van Nuys Police Department."

[Susan] The detective interrogated Bruce for two hours.

[Bruce] By the time he was done interrogating me, she had died.

[softly] Fuck.

[sniffles, chuckles]

[Matthew] So what would you do?

Tell the cops whatever they want to know?

Demand they release you. Scream?

Argue. Maybe even fight.

There are a number of citizen watchdog groups...

Who observe and record police misconduct.

Their advice is to always be polite.

Never engage with an aggravated or confrontational officer.

First of all, you disrespected me, this badge, and my department, you understand me?!

When I'm talking to you, you shut your mouth!

Ask, "Am I being detained, or am I free to go?"

It's just it's unusual behavior, is what we're getting at.

[man] I'm assuming I'm being detained.

Am I being the detained or not?

You can go, sir. Thank you.

If you're not being detained, leave immediately.

If you are being detained, the police can legally lie to you.

So, don't get into any conversation or start answering questions, just ask for an attorney.

If you're arrested, never talk to anybody without an attorney there.

[Matthew] Susan Mellon was 42 years old in Gardena California when she was accused of a murder she didn't commit.

The detective assigned to the case was relying on the testimony of one witness.

The whole case hinged on the word of one person, June Patty, and everything June Patty said was inconsistent with every other lead.

Every single lead put three gang members in the house... and no women.

[Susan] I was pleading that I was innocent.

[woman's voice]

When I left my daughter there, I just remember telling her that, "Don't worry, baby, I'll be back for dinner."

[Matthew] Susan's daughter, Jessica.

She said to me that she was gonna be home for dinner, and she was home 17 years later.

[Susan] Not seeing my children, that was very hard on me.

For all those years, I'm still broken.

My heart's still broken from everything I went through.

It's-- I don't know, it's just so scary.

It was the worst nightmare of my whole life.

The bottom line is you have a right to be silent.

Keep your mouth shut because those words will be used against you.

To survive and interrogation, you've got to be ready to stand your ground...

against bullying, aggression, and intimidation.

No matter how intimidating they get, just say, "I want to speak to a lawyer."

And I hope you can afford a good one.

I didn't have an adequate attorney.

It was a drive-by shooting that took place in East Los Angeles.

I looked like the actual shooter.

I "resembled" was the correct word.

I served approximately nine years and eight months in prison.

[Matthew] If you don't have an adequate attorney, your entire future rests in the hands of a detective assigned to your case.

The words of Bruce Lisker were used against him.

And you're dealing with a 17-year-old kid, and they were able to manipulate him and twist things.

My case was assigned to a homicide detective who-- it was one of his first cases.

He hadn't even gone to homicide school yet with the LAPD.

And he jumped the gun and basically decided that 'cause I was a long-haired kid who looked like he smoked pot, which I did, that I was the person who had attacked my mother.

He must have had all of his colleagues scrutinizing him, looking at him.

"How long is it gonna take you to solve this one, Andy?"

And, well, he did it in minutes, didn't he?

[Matthew] In 1994, Reggie Cole was 18 years old living in South Central LA with no criminal record when he was arrested for the murder of Felipe Angeles.

The only eyewitness was a man named John Jones, the owner of a brothel across the street known as Johnny's House of Prostitution.

How long has this place been in operation?

About 17 years. About 17 years?

The police were willing to overlook what John Jones was doing.

Then John Jones would be willing to play along with whatever the cops wanted him to do.

16 years later, a new theory would emerge that the actual shooter was more likely John Jones himself firing from the rooftop of his own building.

But the arresting officer on the case was sure the murderer was Reggie Cole.

It was her first-- her first case, and she needed to close the case in order for her to get her shield, her homicide shield.

To be a doctor, you have to go to school for many years.

To be a lawyer, you have to go to school for many years.

I don't understand how somebody with just a high school diploma or a GED can have that type of power, to be an officer of the law with a pistol that can take someone's life, literally, or with the charges they put on you.

People, they don't-- they don't feel the need to speak up because it doesn't happen to them.

"Oh, that's-- that's messed up, you know what I mean?

But it can never happen to me." Yes, it could.

It could happen to you just like that.

[Bruce] Every staff member, everybody that I encountered I was saying, "A mistake has been made.

I didn't do anything,"

Begging for phone calls to talk to my dad.

You know, from moment to moment, the reality that my mother's dead... would just bring an icy chill.

First thing the next morning, I was taken up front to talk to a psychologist or psychiatrist, and in this cheery kind of a voice, he says, "So, how do you feel about being here at Sylmar?"

And I said, you know, "Are you kidding?"

[Susan] Since the LAPD report stated that Bruce stabbed his mother to death, the doctor determined that Bruce must be psychotic.

Prison healthcare is a disgrace.

I mean, it's more like a horror show.

The medical conditions inside of prisons in California have been so bad for so long.

You're talking about misdiagnosis, just barbaric conditions.

So a district court in 2002 said that an outside agency had to come in and take over the entire medical system in the prisons.

[Matthew] Today, after spending billions of dollars, some California prisons still fail to meet even the most basic constitutional standards for healthcare.

If you have a serious mental illness, the United States of America is probably the worst place you want to be.

If you don't have the money to pay for constant care, you in danger of facing law enforcement.

[voices over telephone]

If you're a schizophrenic or a bipolar, you are 16 times more likely to die when encountering law enforcement.

[male reporter] A 5-foot-3, 100-pound teen fell when he was stunned.

Two officers then jumped on top of him, and while they held him down, the third officer, who ordered the stun guns then shot Keith in the chest and killed him.

And if you don't die, you're ten times more likely to land in prison than a hospital.

The national sheriff's association got together with a treatment advocacy center.

They looked into it.

It turns out, 50%--

50% of the people who are locked up have some kind of mental health issue.

[man] We will not negotiate with terrorists!

[Matthew] In the 1960s, state psychiatric hospitals began closing and the nation's mentally ill found themselves on the streets, often winding up in prison.

If you're mentally ill and you're in prison, you're more likely to get worse, experience increased behavioral problems, and you're going to be disproportionately abused, beaten, and raped.

You're more likely to commit suicide.

And if you're released, you're more likely to reoffend and come right back.

Most prison staff are poorly equipped to diagnose, manage, or treat your condition.

And if you add that all up, you know, it makes me ask the question, who are the crazy ones?


[man] I can't breathe! I can't breathe!

[Bruce] And then I was medicated.

I was given Mellaril, which is like Thorazine.

Numbed my brain.

I was a very docile inmate at that point.

[Matthew] Warning, side effects of Thorazine may include sedation, slurred speech, dizziness, memory loss.

So the odds of fighting your case may be difficult.

Hopefully, you have someone on the outside working on your behalf.

[Susan] Bruce was kept in a single cell

23 hours a day for the next 19 days.

[Matthew] Over their two visits together, Bruce and his father were confident they'd solve the murder.

[Bruce] I met Mike Ryan in a 12-step program that I was in.

He didn't have a place to stay, and I let him stay on the couch in my apartment.

And he basically stopped paying any rent.

You know, worked up my courage and said, "You have to go.

You know, I have to kick you out, man, sorry."

So, I started like taking some of his stuff off the shelves and putting them into boxes.

And he grabbed me and put me against the bathroom door jam and held a knife to my throat and said, "If you ever touch my shit again, I'll kill you."

And he was gone, and I thought, whew, thank God, he's gone.

My mom told my dad the day before the murder that Mike Ryan had been there that day looking for money, looking for food, looking for-- you know.

We know it in our hearts, my dad and I, Mike Ryan killed my mom.

This is-- this is the letter Lisker writes to Monsue after he's arrested.

He's behind bars, and he goes, "Dear sir, I'm sure that by this point, it has become apparent to you that I am not the murderer."

And this is where he turns him on to Ryan as a potential suspect.

When Monsue went to find Ryan to interview him, he tracks him down in a jail in Mississippi where I think he was arrested for breaking into a woman's house.

His story was so full of holes, I mean, you could have driven a truck through it.

He said that he was sleeping on the streets.

He was sleeping in carports until March 10th, when he checked into a Hollywood motel, which is 12 miles away from our house at around 11:00 AM.

Suddenly, at 3:00 PM on March 10th, four hours after my mom was killed and robbed, he has money to check into a motel.

I don't think that Monsue was out to get Lisker.

I think that he developed what detectives call tunnel vision.

I had heard a lot of things about him being narrow-minded.

Once he made his mind up, there was no way of-- of making him change his mind.

And so, that-- that leads to some serious problems when you're dealing with a homicide investigation.

[Matthew] Detective Monsue did a search on Mike Ryan's criminal record, apparently using the wrong birth date.

He had the wrong date of birth for him, and if he had the right date of birth and he checked criminal records back then, he would've found that just a few months prior to the Dorka Lisker slaying, Ryan had allegedly held a knife to a friend's throat over $12, which you would think would cause, you know, a detective to consider him a little more seriously, you know, for the offense he was investigating.

Eventually, like Bruce, you're gonna have a detention hearing.

During which time a judge is going to make a determination as to whether you're going to stay in jail or you can be released while you await your trial.

Well, unless you have a lot of money for attorneys, you're not going anywhere.

Basically, you go in there with your hands tied behind your back because of the power that we give to police officers in this nation.

His word carried the day.

The Constitution is supposed to guarantee a speedy trial and prohibit the use of cruel and unusual punishment.

Myself, I spent 15 months before trial in the county jail in deplorable conditions.

I was in numerous riots, various situations where I had to defend myself.

I made a new word. It's called I was petrinoid.

I was petrified and paranoid at the same time.

Surviving County jail.

The first thing that you're going to want to do is get out.

So whatever you have to do to get the money, it's worth it.

You definitely don't want to be going to trial in a jumpsuit or in cuffs.

[Matthew] A study of defendants in Kentucky found that individuals in jail were over three times more likely to be sentenced to prison than those who were released and showed up for court in regular clothes.

If you're stuck in jail, be prepared to be completely humiliated and violated.

You are going to be stripped of all your personal possessions and your clothing.

Your integrity, your respect, everything.

Keep to yourself. Be polite and ask permission...

To use the water fountain. The bathroom.

The lights. The sink.

That's it right there.

Mind your own business and be respectful.

Never call the guards if you got a problem with somebody.

Just talk to the person that you have a problem with directly or let it go.

You're gonna want to make a lot of phone calls to your family.

To get advice. Find a lawyer.

To talk to a friend. To find out how to get out.

As quickly as possible.

They can charge over a dollar a minute.

Calls to and from your lawyer, your son, daughter, your mom, or your dad.

I wouldn't want to do any time in the county jail at all.

It's not bearable because they don't treat you with any type of respect.

Like, you're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.

Okay, well, this is a place where it should show that.

"Innocent until proven guilty" originally meant...

[Matthew] Nobody should ever be denied a trial.

And it was created as a protection...

Against torturing people into confessions.

It was established as a shield...

Against mob mentality and witch hunts.

And this presumption of innocence until proven guilty is a foundational notion of civil justice.

The problem is, is that it's a difficult principle to preserve.

You have to be vigilant about preserving it.

[Matthew] David Sirota's an investigative journalist who's done extensive work in America's criminal justice system.

Our media culture, where the camera is on, you've got Court TV...

On the murder count, he is going to walk.

[crowd] No justice! No peace!

People want to see retribution.

They want to see somebody punished.

Who in the heck is in that jury room?

You've got politicians running around.

Just stoking the flames.

When folks mess with Americans, we go after them.

People want revenge. And it's reminiscent of medieval times, people screaming for blood.

And our present culture doesn't seem to value the concept of innocent until proven guilty.

And so, unless you're vigilant about preserving a presumption of innocence, then you're going to lose that presumption of innocence.

Kalief Browder was a teenager.

He was walking home from school when someone accused him of stealing a backpack.

The police didn't do any investigating.

They just arrested him.

And the next thing you know, they putting the cuffs.

I don't even know this dude.

His family couldn't afford the $10,000 bail.

Kalief was subjected to officer assaults, which you can see here, and groups of inmates attacking him.

They was just all bawling on my head to the point where I just had to just grab my head, like, I can't take it.

[female reporter] He missed his sister's wedding, the birth of his nephew, and so many family events.

[Matthew] After nearly three years of unimaginable torture, incarcerated without a trial, he was finally offered a deal.

If he would plead guilty, they'd let him go.

She told me if I lose trial, I could get 15 years.

Take the time served, and you go home today if you say you did it.

I didn't do it. I'm not saying I did that.

[reporter] He went back to jail.

In June, he was suddenly freed with no explanation.

No apology, no nothing.

They just said, "Oh, case dismissed.

Don't worry about nothing." What do you mean?

Y'all just took over three years of my life.

[Matthew] The New Yorker reported that Kalief's relatives said he was inflicted by paranoia, suspecting cops or other authority figures were after him.

Two years after he was released from Riker's Island, Kalief Browder took his own life.

The eighth amendment to the US Constitution is also supposed to guarantee us the right to be free from excessive bail.

Bail is money that you temporarily loan or give the courts as collateral to guarantee that you're going to show up for your trial.

But like the rest of the eighth amendment, this idea that you're supposed to be free from excessive bail is a right that's regularly violated by our criminal justice system.

Meanwhile, the bail bond industry is making profits of $2 billion a year.

What we would need is at least for you to be employed two years on the job.

What you do need to pay is going to be 10%.

[Susan] After 30 days in custody, Bruce finally had the opportunity to post bail.

Bail was set at $250,000.

Neither Bruce or his father had the money.

I was scared shitless. I was so frightened.

The whole way down, I just thought, this is-- you know, I keep using the word "nightmare," but I mean, this could be the end of my life.

I don't know. I don't know.

The most important thing that I can tell you is to protect yourself.

Don't talk to people.

If you're running off at the mouth, you're usually going to dig yourself a hole.

If you want to survive in jail or prison, take the advice of old-timers.

[Matthew] This is Tim.

He's going to elaborate on the most important rule of all.

[man] I want you to pay attention!

In 1986, Tim was 19 years old.

He got involved with a girl who was in some trouble.

[Tim] She's living with this guy.

She starts insinuating that she's being sexually abused.

But like a dummy, I'm contemplating going and getting her stuff.

She says that he's got a gun so, you know, we got to be careful.

The guy that we're going with, he's like, "Well, that's cool.

We'll just take our own guns."

They start wrestling over this gun.

I step out of the bathroom. Fight or flight.

No excuses. Just dumb.

This is-- there's no excuse for what I did.

There's no excuse. Pulled out my gun.

I start shooting. He falls behind the door.

I pull Rob out of the door, kick the door, and I shoot him again in the head and was sentenced to 25 years to life in the California prison system.

Tim's first advice to new fish is simple.

Start with, you got two eyes and two ears and one mouth.

So you should be seeing and hearing a whole lot more than you're saying.

If you don't take that advice, you're usually going to dig yourself a hole because while you're talking, how many other people are listening and watching?

Keep it zipped up, and don't think that any of those dudes are your friends.

[Bruce] I was put in a cell alone when I started hearing this scraping sound.

It gets louder and louder, and it persists and finally, there's a hole in the wall now.

And I'm like, "Leave me alone."

"Hey, youngster, you know, what's up?

My name's Bobby." He said, "I'm a Christian.

You don't have to worry about me, I'm okay.

Want a cigarette? Do you smoke?"

And he wants to Bible study with me.

And he was, you know, reading the Bible about hope and about, you know, truth.

Basically, I had told him everything that I was arrested for.

"What's your attorney doing for you?"

I said, "Well, not much.

I'm sitting here still, you know?"

He goes well, "I'll help you with your case.

Anything that I can do," and, you know, by the way, do you have any money that I could-- you know, I don't have any money and, you know, if you can help me out with some money."

My dad put money on his books for him, and my attorney comes down and has a tape recorder and pushes play, and it's Robert Hughes on the tape saying I met Lisker in the 7000 module of the county jail and, you know, he ran down how he killed his mom.

My jaw is just on the table. I can't believe it.

This was my friend, this Robert Hughes, this Christian, this good guy.

My case was the fourth case, fourth defendant against whom Robert Hughes had come forward and claimed a confession in the span of about a year and a half.

[Matt] I think for about a decade, prosecutors had this corrupt alliance with jailhouse informants who would either make up or try to solicit confessions from fellow inmates and then use that information to try to get some leniency on their own case, their own sentence.

There was a shift in my attorney with the tape of Robert Hughes.

He gave up on me. I saw it in his eyes.

I saw it in his eyes.

[Susan] Bruce had been incarcerated now for a year.

As long as it's been, which was incomprehensible to me that anybody could spend a day, let alone close to a year behind bars for something they didn't do, now I have another year to wait potentially until my trial.

One of the times that I came back up front, juvenile hall, when they were receiving me, said, wait a minute, the date of birth here, this guy's over 18.

He can't associate with other minors.

Because Bruce is now an adult, they put Bruce in the box, which means solitary confinement.

The statewide prisoner hunger strike began 11 days ago as a protest over solitary confinement conditions.

And now more than 2,300 inmates are refusing to eat.

Solitary confinement is a prison within a prison.

You're locked in a 6-by-9 cell.

Everything is made of concrete, even the bed.

You're locked in there 23 hours a day, one hour out for recreation.

You can be put into solitary confinement for anything.

You know, prison guard might just get pissed off at you.

[Matthew] Shane Bauer is an American who was arrested in Iran for accidentally hiking across their border.

They put him in solitary confinement.

I would definitely say that the situation in California is more extreme.

The cells in California are smaller than the cell I was in in Iran.

There's no windows in the cells in California.

The hole is considered torture by Amnesty International and the United Nations.

This is Anthony Graves.

He's an innocent man who was wrongfully convicted and spent 16 years in solitary.

No one can begin to imagine the psychological effects isolation has on another human being.

95% of Americans who spent time in solitary report developing a serious psychiatric condition.

Guys become paranoid, schizophrenic, and can't sleep because they're hearing voices.

You're more than five times more likely to commit suicide.

I was there when guys were attempting suicide by cutting themselves, trying to tie a sheet around their necks, overdosing on their medication.

In Iran I know of nobody being in solitary confinement for more than two years, which is an extremely long period of time.

But in California and Pelican Bay State prison, the average time is seven and a half years.

[Susan] For two years, Bruce had been waiting for his trial.

He'd gone over it in his head day after day what the judge would say, what a jury would think.

When they heard the transcript of Detective Monsue's interrogation of Mike Ryan, that's all they'd need to hear.

All the lies, all the inconsistencies, there would be no way he wouldn't be found innocent.

Except the prosecutor filed a motion to deny Bruce the right to make any mention of Mike Ryan's name at the trial.

[Bruce] On the grounds that we couldn't tie Mike Ryan to the crime.

The judge turns to my attorney, "What evidence do you have that Mike Ryan is tied to this?"

He says, "He was in the county. He could have done it."

And the judge goes, "Is that all you have?"

Because he didn't take the time to read the transcript.

He was just on autopilot.

He was not paying attention. He wasn't engaged.

He says, "Yeah, that's it, that's all I have."

We couldn't tie Mike Ryan to the crime.

That was the framework for my trial.

It is an absolute joke the resources prosecutors have versus defense attorneys.

[Matthew] Justin Brooks is the director of the California Innocence Project, a nonprofit group dedicated to helping wrongfully convicted Americans get out of prison.

Prosecutors have a police force at their disposal as their investigators.

They're-- they get the case from the first moment it's being investigated.

They have access to all the people who are involved in that.

Defense comes late to the date. We are at a total disadvantage.

The sixth amendment to the U.S. Constitution is supposed to guarantee the right to effective counsel.

But as we're seeing in America, you have to buy your rights.

You're more likely to walk free if you're rich and guilty then you are if you're poor and innocent.

[Bruce] The evidence is Detective Monsue telling his lies, Robert Hughes telling his lies, and no alternate suspect.

And so I'm screwed.

They're charging me with first-degree murder, which carries 26 years to life in state prison.

It's longer than I'd been alive.

A day and a half in, my attorney comes to me in the holding tank and says, "The judge is willing to entertain a guilty plea in exchange for a youth authority sentence."

I talk with my dad, I said, "Guilty plea, what-- you know, I'm not going to take a guilty plea."

And he said, "I-- I hear you."

And a close friend of my-- of the family, my father's best friend, comes to the juvenile hall and says, "You have to-- you have to accept this plea."

I said, "No, I'm not going to accept anything.

I didn't do anything. I'm not gonna you know--"

And he says, "Look," and he pounds his hand down on the bench that we're sitting on, and he goes, "They are going to convict you of first fucking degree murder unless you plead guilty."

And he's practically crying, as am I right now.

He goes, "Look, do whatever you have to do to get home."

You are the law.

The defendant is not guilty.

No man is above the law.

What we see on most TV shows is not reality.

Our justice system isn't what you think it is.

[Matthew] Rolling Stone magazine considers Wayne Kramer of The MC5 one of the top 100 greatest guitarists of all time.

He battled drug addiction and in 1975, went to prison for two years for selling cocaine.

He's since provided guitars and taught music to inmates at over 50 correctional institutions throughout the United States.

People think that, you know, you have a right to a trial and everybody goes to trial and there's the good prosecutor and the defense attorney, and they battle it out.

That ain't the way it works.

The way it works is the prosecutors stack up the charges on you and force you to plead guilty to a lesser charge to keep from doing life or double life or triple life.

People don't get trials. What they get is a deal.

People suggest that anywhere between, you know, three or 10 and 15% of people behind bars could be innocent of the crimes of which they were charged.

Michelle Alexander is a civil rights lawyer, Stanford law professor and the author of The New Jim Crow, one of the most highly acclaimed studies of America's criminal justice system.

The reality is, is that thousands of people every year in the United States wind up pleading guilty to crimes they may not have committed because they are either railroaded by police officers who give them false information or coerce confessions or because they were afraid of facing, you know, harsh mandatory minimum sentences and believe that, you know, their best chance is to just take a plea.

You're an average Joe.

You don't know anything about, the prison, the politics in county jail.

You don't know anything.

So they put you there with these people, and this is how they force you to take deals, you know.

You're around people that you see on the news that are, "Oh, those are horrible people, and the same guy you just saw on the news is your bunkie.

Of course you're gonna take a deal.

Get me away from these people. This is the system.

This is what they do to you.

They understand that if we put this guy in here, if you did it or not, it doesn't even matter because you're looking at the end result.

I can't take another fucking day in this place.

Whatever you say, I'll do. So just let me out.

Once you're arrested and charged with a crime, understand you will be taking a plea bargain nine out of 10 times.

You have to. The system is against you.

The US justice system isn't like any justice system in the world, a system where 95% of the cases are resolved by plea bargain.

You know, it's no longer a trial system.

It's a plea bargain system.

If the enormous percentage of defendants who plead guilty suddenly one day said, "We're not pleading guilty," the system would grind to a halt.

The court system does not have the capacity for the current number of defendants that are passing through it.

The whole purpose of plea bargains from the perspective of a prosecutor raises his conviction rate.

So prosecutors typically have in the high-90 percentile conviction rates, including those plea bargains because of course, from a legal standpoint, we know that nobody would ever plead guilty to something they didn't do.

And so, we agreed that I would plead guilty in exchange for a youth authority sentence.

We went back into trial, we entered the plea, and I went down for a 90-day observation at the youth authority in Norwalk.

The challenge is if you're innocent and you plead guilty, you better be a good liar.

You go down there, you talk to psychologists, and they ask you, "So, did you do it?"

Well, you have to say yes because it has to be consistent with everything.

"Well, how'd you do it?"

I didn't have adequate answers for these questions.

So, they didn't buy it, in a sense.

And, you know, rightly so.

And they sent a report that was dispositive, a negative report back to the judge.

And he said, "I didn't realize that youth authority wouldn't be able to help you, and so I'll allow you to take back your guilty plea and go ahead with trial.

Or I'll sentence you to state prison right now."

So that began another period of waiting.

[Susan] It would be well over a year before Bruce would get another trial date.

23 hours a day in a cell in isolation, no contact with other juveniles, only counselors, one hour out for recreation.

And while they might not be able to introduce an alternate suspect, Bruce demanded his lawyer knock down every argument the prosecution could make.

The prosecutor said Bruce could not have seen his mother's body through the back window of the house.

The sun's reflection in the glass and the furniture would've blocked his view.

His defense was the crime scene pictures were taken on a much sunnier day.

The prosecution claimed all the bloody footprints in the house matched Bruce's shoes.

Bruce's defense said his fingerprints were not found anywhere in the crime scene.

There was no evidence that he wiped anything down or made any attempt to cover his tracks because Bruce had nothing to hide.

The prosecution called Robert Hughes, who claimed Bruce confessed in the 7000 module of county jail, and the defense compared Robert Hughes to a used car salesman who wasn't to be trusted.

Then, one day, they rapped their keys on the door and they said, "Lisker, it's a verdict."

And my dad was there.

He was there just every court day, and he was right there in the front row, and we were just, you know-- eye contact, but you can't really talk because you're not allowed to-- it's not a visit, you know, you're not allowed to visit with your--

But he was-- he was there, and the jury comes in one by one, you know, excruciatingly slow, sits down, and the judge speaks.

"Have you reached a verdict?" "Yes, we have.

In the matter of People vs. Bruce Lisker, we the jury find the defendant..." and they said "guilty."

And it was just--

the bottom literally fell out of my world.

That's it. It's over, isn't it?

It's my life.

When you've been falsely accused, your only hope is for your attorney to directly challenge the veracity of the police.

My attorney seemed unwilling to go that far.

He never outright said, "Isn't it true that you're just lying about all of this?

Here's the investigatory work that I did that proves that you're just a liar."

And he never did that.

[Matthew] And this is part of a larger problem that David Sirota calls the authority bias.

Authority bias meaning the government, an institution says somebody did something, and they must've done it.

And what's strange about it is that this is a country that in one way the American zeitgeist is, "I don't trust-- the government can't do anything right.

I don't trust anything the government says."

And yet at another level, at the very same time that that's the dominant rhetorical paradigm in our politics, there is this authority bias where, when the government accuses somebody of a crime or says somebody's a wrongdoer, reflexively, millions and millions of Americans think it must be true.

Am I free to go? No, you're not.

Your freedom is secondary.

You're not allowed to be holding me.

Would you like to be placed under arrest?

You're not allowed to arrest me.

In the 1960s, Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram ran an experiment to see how often human beings would obey an authority figure and follow orders, even if doing so ran completely against their personal code of morality.

How is it possible, I asked myself, that ordinary people who are courteous and decent in everyday life can act callously, inhumanely, without any limitations of conscious?

450 volts.

In Milgram's experiment, participants were told by a scientist in uniform to electrocute a subject for each wrong answer on a test at ever increasing voltages.

Are you all right?

[man] Please continue, teacher.

Do I keep giving him shocks? Continue.

I'm up to 390. Continue, please.

[buzzer buzzes]

The participants had no idea the subjects were just actors.

And although many protested, Milgram found a strong majority, over 65% of participants would shock the subject to the point of killing them if instructed by an authority figure.

330 volts. [lever clicks]

[man screams]

Let me out of here! Let me out of here!

My heart's bothering me! Let me out, I tell you!

Let me out of here!

You have no right to hold me here!

Let me out! Let me out! Let me out!

Milgram concluded that very few people have the psychological capacity to resist authority.

[man] The way we have the system set up, the policeman's uniform, gun at their side, the badge, they're treated with the same deference as our military.

It's like they're infallible.

With judges, we drape them in robes like priests and literally put them up on a pedestal.

The system hierarchy, which has almost no real checks and balances, no accountability--

Or transparency, is so deeply entrenched in our culture--

Most people would never even think to question it.

We never see how flawed it is.

How do we resist the natural instinct to obey?

Don't blindly trust authority figures.

If you're given an order that feels questionable, check your conscience.

The time to argue with a police officer is not the side of the road.

Pick your battles wisely.

If you can challenge authority without risking more than you're willing to lose and something feels wrong, don't obey.

Don't obey even the smallest commands if you feel that they're wrong.

The more that we accept and obey, the more we become blind followers. And now you're under control.

[Matthew] In a world which is absolutely insane.

To free ourselves from this authoritarian system in which we've now found ourselves is going to take a massive effort.

And if you're afraid, I get it. Find an ally.

Milgram's experiment told us there's is great psychological power against authoritarianism in groups.

Unfortunately, these techniques are not taught in school.

[Bruce] And so if you're innocent and you find yourself in prison, it's hard to have any hope at all.

[Susan] A year later, Mike Ryan robbed another woman at knife point and was sentenced to six years for armed robbery.

But other than Bruce and his father, nobody had connected Mike Ryan to the murder besides other inmates like Jeff Deskovic, another wrongfully convicted man trying to prove his innocence and losing hope.

I remember reading about Bruce Lisker's case in the magazine Justice Denied.

They allow people who allege that they've been wrongfully convicted who have a plausible story to write about their case with the hope that more public attention will come.

When I read about Bruce's case, it was reaffirming to me that I was on the right path because even though he hadn't been exonerated, he was still looking for help, he hadn't given up.

[Matthew] You can't give up, no matter how long it takes.

And it could take a long time.

One of the biggest factors in why the US has the largest prison population in the world is the length of our prison sentences.

The average sentence for burglary in Canada and in England is around six months.

In the US, it's around a year and a half.

In other developed countries, a drug offense might land you a year, year and a half in jail.

In the US, it's five to ten years or more.

If you're a black man in America, your sentence will be 20% longer than if you're a white man for the exact same crime.

The federal law still holds marijuana as equal to heroin, which is unfathomable.

These bullshit laws that are old and prehistoric needs to be changed.

I met a woman that had a first offense, nothing more than $5 worth of crack cocaine and was sentenced to jail in 1979 and didn't come home until 2014.

And she said to me, "I don't know how to use no phone.

I don't know how to send a text. I don't know how to email."

I'm sorry.

High incarceration rates and longer than necessary prison terms have not played a significant role in materially improving public safety, reducing crime, or strengthening communities.

In fact, the opposite is often true.

And as it turns out, we've known this for a long time.

In the 1970s, criminologists had developed this consensus that, you know, prisons just didn't work.

But this consensus was interrupted by a political movement, racial anxiety, racial resentment, and also to capitalize on, you know, growing public fear as crime rates were beginning to rise.

And, you know, as politicians found that this get-tough rhetoric, you know, sold well to the public, all of the research and studies that suggested that prisons didn't work were shoved lightly to the side, and we went on a prison-building boom unlike anything the world had ever seen before.

And this was compounded by the war on drugs.

The drug war was born with a particular group of people in mind as the enemy.

We must wage what I have called total war against public enemy number one, the problem of dangerous drugs.

Poor people, particularly, black people were defined as the enemy in the war on drugs.

They were defined that way politically but also through media imagery.

[male reporter] The nation's crack cocaine epidemic is taking a new and dangerous turn.

[Wayne] White people, brown people, and black people all use drugs and sell drugs at the same rate.

But if we look at who's serving time in America's prisons--

[Matthew] The law enforcement apparatus is deployed disproportionately against people of color.

Oh, look at that.

And the war on drugs also bears a major responsibility for racial bias in our prison system as African-Americans are arrested for drug offenses at 10 times the rate of whites and serve longer sentences.

Although people of color make up only 30% of our populations, they make up 60% of our prisons.

By the most conservative estimates, if we keep going the way we're going, one in four black men born today will go to jail at some point in their lifetime.

An estimated 5.3 million Americans are denied the right to vote based on a past felony conviction.

And that impacts men of color more than anyone else.

This has got to change.

You know, with any war, there is some collateral damage, and although white people may not have been the original targets, they may not have been the inspiration for the war, many white people, particularly poor and working-class white folks, have found themselves swept in.

I'm very patriotic. Love my country.

Not real happy with my government, but I love my country.

Paul Rickett is a US Army veteran who served in the Gulf War.

I was out like about three weeks when I got busted for LSD.

I never sold acid. I never made a dime off of acid.

I took acid on the weekends.

I reimbursed my buddy for what he paid for it so that he wasn't giving it to me for free.

If you want to call that trafficking, then I guess I'm a trafficker, But it was personal use.

We would just fry and play Frisbee and listen to rock 'n' roll.

Drug offenses are another major reason for America's overflowing prison population.

The US locks up more people for drugs than any other country on the planet.

There are over half a million Americans locked up for drugs on any given day, and Paul was one of them.

He was facing a lot of time.

[Paul] Facing 10-year mandatory minimum.

Then they offered him a deal.

For not forcing the government to go through the time and expense of trial.

All he had to do was plead guilty.

And after some painful consideration, I took it.

And after all those years in prison, one thing bothered Paul the most.

You know, here we are in this modern society where we're a melting pot and everybody's getting along for the most part.

And then in prison, you know, it's completely the opposite, you know.

As soon as you get in there, if you weren't a racist when you went in, they require you to be one as soon as you get in.

Every single jail and prison in America, every one I've ever been to, it's all divided up by race.

Everything's segregated in there.

You have the white phone, and you have the Mexican phone, and you have the black phone, and you have the Asian phone.

It seems the racism that helped spark the explosion of America's prison system still burns like a raging fire within its walls shamefully hidden from the public eye.

[Bruce] It was a very strict code of, depending on your race, this is what we do.

Even the prison guards promote this.

Some people theorize that it's a way for the guards to keep control over us because if we all got along, then who would really be running the prison?

Us or the guards?

There's one guard for every 100 guys.

Prison society is further divided from race into gangs.

So it helps to either be in one or be from the right neighborhood.

On my ride to prison, the guy that was next to me, he was just a regular dude from Long Beach.

He played basketball at Poly high school.

He was a regular dude. He had a flat top.

You know what I mean, and, you know, he was going to prison for-- he had took a deal for--

I believe it was like spousal abuse.

Him and his girl-- it was a terrorist threat.

In the United States, a terrorist threat covers any statement that contains the threat of violence against another person.

In this case, Reggie is talking about an argument a man was having with his girlfriend where he threatened her.

He told her he was gonna beat her ass or whatever it was, it was a terrorist threat.

There was no physical violence or anything, but he took a deal for 18 months, and he was only supposed to do like eight months.

You take a deal for 18 months, you're gonna do five or 10.

So he fell for the bullshit.

The first night we got there, they ask who's from South Central.

I'm from South Central. Where you from?

Explain to them where I'm from. Your homeboys are over here.

They're gonna direct you where you're supposed to go.

This guy, he didn't have anybody.

He was just from Long Beach, you know?

He just was a regular dude, you know?

And that night I'm on my bunk, and I'm listening to what's going on and I'm-- at first, I thought they were playing because that's what it started off was this is the whole gimmick.

Everything is a ploy to lead to something else.

That's why they tell you don't let anybody touch you in jail, and he didn't know this.

He didn't understand that you're not supposed to wrestle with somebody in the cell because this is what they're doing, trying to see if they can get you in a vulnerable position I'm on my bunk, and I'm listening to it, and I'm thinking, damn, ain't somebody gonna come help this dude?

I mean, and they didn't.

That night in his cell, they raped him.

[Matthew] According to the Department of Justice, nearly one in 10 prisoners suffer sexual abuse while in American jails and prisons.

A quarter of those also reported serious injury like chipped or lost teeth, being knocked unconscious, broken bones, or worse.

So let's keep that in mind the next time a talk show host, a government official, or anybody makes a joke about prison rape.

The fact that we find these jokes acceptable shows just how far we've gone in normalizing rape as a just punishment for any offense.

As long as we keep imagining that people in prison are subhuman, that they're predatory and incorrigible and nothing like you and me, why would we lose any sleep about what their lives are like or what's happening to them?

There are now over 5,000 jails and prisons in the United States, more than we have colleges and universities.

In many parts of America, particularly the South, there are more people living in prisons then on college campuses and a multi-billion-dollar business has emerged.

Brace yourself.

This is going to sound too barbaric to be real, like medieval times, a science-fiction horror film, or a French historical musical.

The 13th amendment of the Constitution outlawed slavery, but it still allows for forced labor if you're in prison.

Today, there are roughly 1 million American prisoners working for corporations and in government industries.

There is no minimum wage, so you could make as little as a few cents an hour.

Bruce worked in the kitchen for years then in clerical jobs making a maximum of 32 cents an hour.

It sounds like another time or a Coen Brothers movie but it's happening right now.

There are no benefits, no organizing, and no strikes.

And if you refuse to work, you can get put in the hole.

This is big business for state and for-profit prisons who sell inmate labor to Fortune 500's like Chevron, Bank of America, AT&T, and the US military.

Nearly half the population in prison make military uniforms, body armor, helmets, and provide labor as subcontractors for Fortune 500s.

They make office furniture, man call centers, take hotel reservations, work in slaughterhouses. or manufacture textiles, shoes, and clothing for pennies.

Prison labor is part of why some state and private prisons yield a multibillion-dollar profit.

Not only are prisoners used to make products, prisoners themselves are sold as products.

Since the 1980s, the prison population has boomed.

Now, 150 private prisons are paid billions by state governments to house prisoners.

Private prisons do so well, some of their biggest investors are banks like Wells Fargo or Bank of America.

Many private prisons demand 90 or even 100% occupancy, meaning the taxpayer foots the bill for every bed, even the fucking empty ones.

For-profit prisons are incentivized to incarcerate more people and for longer periods of time to fill their quotas, and to make sure that happens, they spend millions pushing tough-on-crime bills.

Today, nearly 10% of America's prisoners are held in private prisons.

They also spend millions influencing immigration law.

Half of detained immigrants are held in private prisons for indefinite periods of time, often years, exposed to brutal conditions. and because they're not Americans, the government gives them no right to even the most basic legal representation or medical care.

The prisons are private companies.

Why would they want to decrease violence, okay?

Why would they want to improve the quality of life of these people?

And then we call it justice, okay?

It's blood money. It's bad karma.

It's going to come back and haunt us to the point of extinction.

[male reporter] Three housing facilities were set on fire.

It apparently all started over inmate frustration over the quality of medical care.

[Matthew] Perhaps needless to say, being treated like chattel and used as forced labor for pennies an hour is not that popular on the inside, but that's not the worst of it.

The socks they issue you are used.

The underwear they issue you is used.

You gotta buy things like shaving equipment and food and sweats and socks, underwear, T-shirts.

The canteen, or commissary, is more expensive than any convenience store on the outside.

It's definitely advisable to have money so that you can get started.

If you don't have 50 to 100 bucks coming into your books or your account every month, then you're gonna need a hustle.

This is Philip. He was convicted of robbery.

As crooked as we are out here, we're as crooked inside there, too.

Whether it's drugs, whether it's alcohol.

You got people that they don't drink, but they manufacture prune-o all day.

In San Quentin in the boiler room, they found a still.

Friends that I knew had actually gotten so far as to, like, get the copper tubing from industries over, and so we had copper tubing.

[Phillip] They were making moonshine in San Quentin.

[Bruce] Mainly they drank it.

Did I have a hustle? Sold drugs.

Through our visits through a correctional officer.

Prison is like a networking college for criminals.

[Phillip] The majority of the guys in prison are there trying to learn how to do crime better.

This is just kind of a school for criminals to learn more to be criminals.

And that's not an exaggeration.

A 2011 study from Ohio University showed that after spending time in prison, those continuing to engage in crime see their criminal earnings increase on an average by $11,000 a year.

Jody Lewen is the executive director of the Prison University Project.

There are thousands and thousands of people in the system.

All they want is the opportunity to get a good education and to be hired by somebody where they can have a job where they have meaningful work and a livable wage.

In the late '80s, early '90s. there were probably 350 programs in the prison system nationwide.

[Bruce] I took my dad's advice, he'd been saying for a long time, "Look for some computer training.

Is there any computer training in there?"

Because he knows, you know?

Finally, when I get to San Quentin, I said, "Do you have any computer training?"

It was great because I mean, those who know the least obey the best, you know?

And there's this rebellious kind of a spirit in there.

They have you under their thumb up and to the point of being able to put a bullet in your head if they wanted to.

Stand still and be quiet. Face that wall right now.

So there's this rebelliousness. I could exercise my brain.

They can't stop me from doing that.

And so we really got this pride about our education, particularly in that computer programming class, and it was an honor to be able to fight the system, as you might say, by educating each other.

And then seeing me graduate that eight years later, my dad was really proud of me.

And our relationship just blossomed, just became so deep and so meaningful.

My dad was everything to me.

And it was just about two weeks after I graduated that he died.


* Oh, let us stay

* Stay true

* May we love and listen

* And hear our hearts sing

* And keep on giving

* And may we stay true, let us stay... *

When I sign this crime bill, we together are taking a big step toward bringing the laws of our land back into line with the values of our people.

In 1994, Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, which, among many other things, barred people in prison from receiving Pell grants.

Most of those programs folded almost overnight.

To be realistic, I mean, unless you're getting a college education in here, it's probably not gonna help you too much.

But if they have skills such as welding-- welding, on this yard is just phenomenal.

We've seen guys go through the welding program, and they're making 30, $40 an hour out there on the streets and they're writing letters back to the instructor over here.

Those are the things that these guys need.

They need jobs so they won't be robbing, stealing, turning to the dope, you know, doing the drugs and that type of thing.

So, that's-- that's what I would change.

Critical reason number one why people are ending up in prison is for lack of, really, quality educational opportunity.

Since 1970, in the state of California, we've built 22 prisons and one university.

We literally have more faith in punishing people and controlling them violently than teaching them.

Let's imagine a parent who raised a child like that.

What would we say about them? What would we think of them?

We'd think of them as the most unfit parent imaginable.

Ironically, we might even call the police.


[Bruce] By not having an education, by not having programs, by not having positive things for the guys to do.

It's really about terror and intimidation and people basically fighting for survival and often committing extraordinary violence in order to protect themselves or to stay safe.

[Tim] It's kind of like the weak dog in the pack.

If others spot weakness, they're gonna pounce on you for a couple of reasons.

You pounce on that guy, that gives you a little more status.

So, I had to ask myself, are you gonna be a victim?

No, I ain't gonna be a victim.

Well, that really only left me one choice in my mind.

That means I gotta be the victimizer.

At some point, for some reason, might be legitimate, might not be, someone's gonna test you.

Even if you lose, you're gonna have to stand up for yourself.

A guy comes over, and it's your day to get your package, and he tries to take your package from you that your people sent you, if you let him do it, there's gonna be

10 other dudes, "Oh, yeah, he let that guy take his package, I'm gonna go get his TV," right down the line until somebody's after your ass.

And that's not good.

But if you stand up that first time and they see you'll stand up for yourself, even if you lose, people will respect that.

"Oh, don't mess with him. There's easier prey."

"Yeah, but I can get him." Doesn't matter.

Don't mess with him.

Why do you have to go and get that guy and get a couple lumps for it when he can go get that guy's stuff over there, don't cost you nothing.

It usually only has to happen once or twice but just as importantly that you didn't go to the man for help... you're gonna be all right.

Now if you're suddenly thinking, this isn't so bad, a black eye, a few scratches, and you're in the clear, think again.

The American public in general has been so profoundly brainwashed into thinking that what we're doing with our prison system is somehow normal or rational or... just, I find that overwhelming and exhausting just-- because the more you spend time in-- inside and the more contact you have with people who've been directly affected, the more depraved the system appears.

Over 20%, one out of every five inmates, are physically attacked every six months.

I wasn't in San Quentin a week, and I watched a man die right next to me.

I watched two guys just walk up and just stab him to death.

Part of me wanted to scream in fear.

But I had a bigger fear of, man, what would these guys think about me?

So I pretended like, man, this ain't nothing.

I wanted these people's acceptance.

They tell me, "You know how to make a knife?

Stab that guy there." And I did.

So instead of getting a traditional education or job training, prison's a great place to learn how to make a knife by dropping a razor blade onto the melted end of the toothbrush.

[Jody] What happens when you have vast numbers of people in a system like that or in a location like that who have medical needs, mental health needs, educational needs, substance abuse, all of these things. and there's nobody who really knows how to handle that, so violence itself is often a failure of communication or alternatives for coping.

There are all sorts of complex social pressures on people to be violent in prison.

So a lot of the violence you see in prison is not an expression of the character of the people in prison, it's people reacting to the situation.

And this is something so few people understand.

If you took 1,000 people off the street and put them at Corcoran or Pelican Bay or Soledad...

some huge number of them would end up committing violence because of the situation that they've been placed in.

Five years into his sentence, an older inmate whose nickname was The Devil, wanted Reggie to take the blame for a knife the guards had found in the yard.

But Reggie refused.

The Devil attacked Reggie with a knife, slashing his neck.

Reggie later would say he knew then either The Devil was gonna kill him or he had to kill The Devil.

About 15 minutes after Reggie was attacked, he jumped over a correctional officer and stabbed The Devil with a prison shank.

I sit back every day, and I second-guess myself.

Could I have went about the situation any other way?

And no matter how many times I tell myself, this was the only thing that could have happened, it don't sit right with me in my cell because I should have never been there in the first place.

I'm innocent, man, and you turned me into what y'all say I was.

Y'all been lying on me this whole time, and you turned me into a murderer because I had to.

[Susan] After that, they put Reggie in solitary confinement, and he went from a life sentence without possibility of parole to facing the death penalty.

So he gets put on trial in the death penalty case, and his lawyer starts looking into his original case and gives me a call and says, "You know, I think this guy's innocent of what he went to prison for in the first place."

And the second reason Reggie got out besides the prison stabbing was this miracle of there happened to be a book that had been put out about the LA homicide division.

The author of the book had documented a ride along with the LAPD detective.

This homicide investigator's first night that she was on the job.

The very night she investigated the murder, she would ultimately arrest Reggie for.

And we're flipping through the book and reading it, and there's all this stuff in it that was never disclosed to the defense.

That's all documented that all indicates pretty clearly that Reggie's innocent.

But it would still take the Innocence Project 10 years to get Reggie out of prison.

A grandmother doing life for murder was released from prison yesterday after 17 years when a judge said she did not do it.

[Matthew] Susan Mellon recently filed a lawsuit against the detective who arrested her for hiding evidence.

That detective is the same one who arrested Reggie Cole.

[fire-engine siren wailing, horn honking]


You know, we-- you know, as a society, we see the bad guy and the good guy.

Well, that's cops and robbers.

But when the cop becomes the robber, the game is over.

The game is over. That's corruption.

It was a horrific twist of fate that led to Reggie's release.

Bruce was more fortunate.

His father's death led to an unexpected turn.

Providence was his big thing, and he had, you know, great life insurance.

It was 184,000 that my dad left me, and I was able to parlay that up to about 236, in the stock market, and then it was just 100% of my time dedicated to my case.

[Susan] And that enabled Bruce to hire a private investigator.

We had, essentially, a growing war chest of evidence that I hadn't committed the crime or at least that all the evidence that was presented was false evidence.

I had received a complaint from Bruce Lisker.

I flew up to the state prison where Bruce Lisker was.

I spoke to him.

When somebody is accused of murder or you're arrested for murder, it's tape-recorded.

Everything is tape-recorded. I couldn't find his tape.

It had been taken out of evidence by Detective Monsue, and it was never put back into evidence.

[Matthew] Detective Monsue had said the footprints outside the house matched the footprints on the inside.

Lieutenant Gavin found the footprints weren't actually looked at by a scientist or any qualified expert.

So he took matters into his own hands.

So I contacted our people, scientific investigative division.

So he takes out this big magnifying glass, looks at it, looks at the other one, and he goes, "These two don't match."

See this is a great embarrassment for any large organization that you've convicted somebody for murder and then five, 10, 20 years later, it turns out that the person's actually innocent.

And this is what my lieutenant said--

"That motherfucker is not getting out of prison.

Do you understand me, Sergeant Gavin?"

They will do everything they can to stop you, prevent you from coming forward with the information you have.

[Susan] Upon reviewing the comprehensive work of the private investigator, the LAPD Internal Affairs Department claimed Bruce's complaints were unfounded and that no misconduct had occurred.

You can't have an internal investigation where we all investigate ourselves.

Tha-- that's like a joke.

I'm not against the authorities or anything like that.

I'm just against the system that has no checks and balances.

Who the fuck his checking y'all?

I believe that internal affairs should be separate from the police department.

There is no way that a Police Department can investigate themselves.

Currently, there are no independent organizations whose job it is to investigate police misconduct.

And there's no oversight of prosecutors, either.

Prosecutorial misconduct is a major factor of wrongful convictions.

It's a single thread that runs through almost all of the wrongful-conviction cases.

[Matthew] Jeff Deskovic has a Master's in criminal justice, specializing in wrongful convictions.

He's also a survivor of prosecutorial misconduct.

I spent 16 years in prison.

I was wrongfully convicted at 17.

I emerged at 32.

Jeff eventually won a lawsuit against Putnam County, New York, for his conviction, which enabled him to start his own foundation.

And I'm the founder and executive director of the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation for Justice.

There's no deterrence. There's no oversight.

There's no punishment for prosecutors.

So they can break the law.

They don't face criminal penalties, even when they engage in withholding evidence of innocence, threatening witnesses, coercing witnesses.

No matter how serious the misconduct is, if the prosecutor commits that after an arrest has been made, they have what's called prosecutorial immunity.

They're above the law.

We need prosecutors to really uphold what's become just words, which is, you know, they're there to do justice.

They're there to do the right thing.

It becomes more like "we're there to win," especially when prosecutor's offices actually keep statistics on conviction rates.

Well, you should be credited that you looked at a case where the police thought they had a good case but a good prosecutor looked at it and said, "You know what? There's some mistakes made here.

We should drop the charges in this case."

We should incentivize that.

But instead, we actually incentivize the opposite, of getting convictions and getting conviction rates.

All of a sudden, justice gets lost in that process.

And whether this guy committed the crime or not gets lost in that process 'cause it's all about winning my case.

Immunity, that's bullshit.

I mean, in the real world, you know, you're supposed to be held accountable for your wrongdoings.

So, therefore, if you're a person of authority-- of authority, that you have to be held at a higher standard than just a layman.

I think we actually need to step back and kind of rethink the whole system in the way we're approaching it because it's become this game, and people's lives are lost as a result of it.

If you ever do find yourself wrongfully convicted, odds are, you're never getting out.

The first thing you need to do is send preservation letters to the Police Department labs and the courts requesting that you want all your evidence saved.

Otherwise, they may destroy it within 30 days.

Try to find an Innocence Project that'll take your case.

Prepare for this process to take years.

Then pray for a miracle.

The Innocence Project estimates conservatively there could easily be 40,000 to over 100,000 Americans currently wrongfully convicted, the majority of which are people of color.

It's kind of hard for me to relate to my family because they don't see me as the same.

It's like Adam and Eve when he told them, "Don't go and don't eat this fruit," and they ate it, and they were enlightened.

I'm enlightened. I'm on the other side now.

I'm not the same as y'all no more.

You know, I don't-- I can't speak in a boisterous tone because everyone gets scared.

But I'm not that dude. I'm not him.

And I'm innocent, man. I'm innocent.

You know, I gotta fight my demons.

I gotta do what I gotta do for me, you know?

I got a child, you know?

I'm trying to get myself right so I can, you know, teach her right.

But I mean, there's no accountability.

These people that did this to me, these people that took everything, man, they took everything.

[Susan] Bruce's private investigator never gave up on his case.

He had a very vigorous private investigator who made a complaint to the LAPD, and it landed on the desk of an Internal Affairs investigator who looked at Bruce's claims in a very serious-minded fashion.

It's the people like Detective Monsue and the others out there that have made our job very difficult to do day after day because we lose the confidence of the public, and we lose the confidence of the courts.

We have to have police chiefs, directors of public service that are willing to do the right thing and terminate employees who are doing the wrong thing.

If you want to say you're the good guy but you're ostracized by everybody that you believed in, it's a very difficult situation because I have to continue to work for the same department that did this to Bruce Lisker.

I don't look at myself as a hero.

I look at myself as a survivor because the system attacked me.

The system went after me, and the system did everything they could to keep Bruce Lisker in jail and everything to keep me quiet.

It's been a lot of therapy.

My wife and I met in third grade.

We were elementary, junior-high, high-school sweethearts.

We lived on the same street, and it's been a very difficult, difficult road.

She is third-generation LAPD.

And the survival is day by day and always looking over your shoulder whether you're doing the right thing or not.

You're constantly looking over your shoulder.

And every time I get called into the captain's office, I wonder, "What did I do now?"

And I've never had that feeling before.

I just kept on telling myself, they are not going to defeat me.

They're not going to defeat me.

It's just when you come across something like this, what are you gonna do?

And that's the difficult thing.

If I had not given up the information that I did to the LA Times, Bruce Lisker would still be in prison.

[Matt] A bloody footprint that was attributed to Bruce at his trial had recently been reanalyzed and shown to have not been made from Bruce's shoe.

So that got us interested in the case, and we started talking to his private investigator and began the seven-month investigation.

And at the conclusion of that, they filed an article called A Case of Doubt that eventually won them an award, won The Times an award.

I wound up sitting between 2005, when the first article came out, and 2009 in prison, four solid years... a widely recognized innocent man.

We knew back in 2003, 2004, that we had probably a person that was in prison for a crime he did not commit.

And it took five years for the courts to work through the-- the entire system.

There were a lot of delays because of the conduct of my own police department and the conduct of the California Attorney General.

[Matthew] Reggie Cole spent 16 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

10 of those years were spent in solitary confinement, and he had to kill another man to get a trial.

The whole way I've been telling them, I'm innocent.

Every article I'm in, everything-- everybody I'm talking to, I'm telling them, "I'm innocent, man, I didn't do anything to anyone."

They don't care. They don't care.

It's not that they didn't know. They didn't care.

It's a miracle Reggie got out at all.

Tim's is a miracle story as well.

In late 2012, after 26 years, he made parole.

I signed some papers for the parole officer, he said, "Okay, see you later.

Didn't ask me how I was getting home, didn't ask me if I had a home.

When I realized these people honestly don't give a fuck.

To survive getting out, it's a lot harder than it sounds.

You may have developed post-traumatic stress disorder, agoraphobia, paranoia and require immediate treatment.

You're gonna need food, new clothes.

You're going to need money for transportation to and from your parole-officer meeting.

If you miss a meeting, you could find yourself back in jail.

You're going to need a job, but there's a lot of discrimination out there for employment and housing.

Speaking of which, you're gonna need a home.

I wouldn't have a home if it wasn't for the Rescue a Life Foundation.

They set up a house, a transitional housing.

God and that foundation is what's got me by.

It's the reason I'm sitting here and not back inside.

[Susan] The Rescue a Life Foundation was founded by Dwayne McElwee who knows how challenging it can be to re-enter society.

Dwayne did 25 years himself for murder.

After school, we would have to go down to my mother's dress shop and hang out all day and work around the business.

At that time, we had several organizations that would just patrol that area.

So it was pretty safe. We had the Black Panthers, Ron Karenga's whole organization, United Slaves.

We had the Nation of Islam.

It was pretty cool, you didn't have to worry about people coming in, holding you up and everything.

Didn't have to worry about that type of stuff.

But it was after the COINTELPRO when they got pushed underground that everything just seemed like, you know, went crazy.

All the thugs came out, and then, you know, you were fair game then, the store operators.

That's when we started having a lot of robberies, a lot of burglaries.

My mother, she's just a little, bitty 5-foot-4 lady.

She was beat up and robbed one day while I was there.

And he grabbed her, threw her to the ground and kicked her and beat her after he got the money.

Then he figured it wasn't enough money, you know?

And I was a little kid.

I was probably about 11 years old at the time, you know?

And he had this gun on him, and she was hollering at me not to move and just-- you know, and this dude is kicking her and demanding more money.

He got all the money we had, you know?

[Matthew] Dwayne's mother wasn't robbed once.

She was robbed over and over again.

I had a good friend.

He would always be commenting about me being so uptight.

And he smoked weed. He said, "Man, just take this.

You need, this, like, medication."

That led to other things. you know.

That led to cocaine, it led to PCP, Which ended up leading to my crime that happened that sent me to prison, you know.

I went to prison for a second-degree murder.

Some dudes robbed me.

They were supposed to have been the middleman going to get the drugs, and they end up robbing me.

Because it had happened to us in our business, the family business so much, this guy, he wasn't just someone that was robbing me all the time.

He was the image of somebody that had been victimizing my family.

And all these other times, you had got away, but this time, you weren't going to get away.

So it was kind of like a revenge thing, a retaliation thing for you and your kind.

You're going to pay for that, and so what I found is that what you can't forgive, you end up becoming.

What you can't forgive, you end up becoming.

So I had to learn how to forgive and let that go, and I had to learn how to forgive him and let that go because he was also after--

I got to see his record, and this guy had a rap sheet, you know, from here-- from one side of the room to the other, you know, and I could see that, you know, he needed the same help that I needed.

We are generally taught to imagine that there is such a thing as, for example, a murderer, right?

So in other words, a murderer in the public imagination and in most of our minds, whether we've thought about it or not, initially, is someone who likes to murder and who would murder given the opportunity, right?

It's like a vocation, right? That's what murderers do.

They go around murdering, right?

And that's why you don't let them out of prison You let them out of prison, they're going to murder again.

The reality is that murder is almost always a context.

It's a situation.

It is, statistically speaking, very rarely driven by a compulsion or a desire to do harm, right?

It's a reaction to some set of circumstances, to a real or perceived threat, to some extreme emotional state.

It's not a propensity.

Basically, we're confusing the profile of a psychopath, the psychopath we've read about, you know, the serial killer, with prisoners in general, right?

If we as a society stop and imagine that the people in prison are fully human, incredibly diverse, have often been through some of the most extreme and difficult situations and conditions, some of which many of us couldn't even really begin to imagine, then suddenly, all of that judgment and all that hostility and all that vindictiveness doesn't have such a natural place anymore.

Many of our students have committed murder and felt horrible about their crime as soon as it happened.

It's not like they needed to sit in prison for 15 or 20 years to realize they'd done a bad thing or to never want to do it again.

There's no human element... to the criminal justice system.

There's no human element. They're not there to help you.

They're not there to help society.

They can say that that's what it's set up for all they want.

That's not what it's there for, not in California and not in a lot of places.

It's a system set up to punish people, and they take a bad situation, and they usually make it much worse.

You know what the official success rate of state prison is?

Nearly 80% of all inmates go back within five years.

[man] That's a success rate of 20%.

Imagine if we had those requirements of airplanes.

Wow, eight out of 10 airplanes falling out of the sky.

It's a little bit crazy-making.

And that is Department of Justice data.

That's federal government research.

Dr. Michael Coyle attended Harvard University, has a PhD in justice studies and is a professor of criminal justice at California State University.

Dr. Coyle says that prison not only increases criminal behavior but has a deleterious effect on society as a whole.

What happens to a family when the wage earner is removed from society and thrown into prison for 10 years?

What happens to those children? How are they impacted?

What are their chances of success in life?

They start to go down.

How does that impact the community?

Loss of resources in that community, more demands on the community now to help-- to help this family, maybe the other parent, maybe the children.

It's just so clearly a failure by every measure that you look at it that I think we just need to rethink the whole thing and not just keep trying to put lipstick on this pig, 'cause that's what we're doing.

I think it is difficult for people to imagine a world without prisons now.

We've become so accustomed to the idea of prisons that it's hard for people to imagine.

Well, what do you do with people if you don't put them in prison when they've done wrong?

There are other alternatives.

Dostoevsky said the degree of civilization in a society could be judged by entering its prisons.

Hebrews, 13:3, remember those who are in chains as if you were in chains with them.

If we don't, we put everybody at risk.

My husband, Dan, was a police officer, and he was killed in the line of duty.

My goal at the trial was to get the man who killed my husband convicted of first-degree murder and be given the death penalty, and that's what I got.

That's what happened. I thought okay, here it is.

I got justice. I'm gonna be free from this.

And it didn't happen. It was-- it was just a lie.

It didn't change anything.

[Susan] Aqeela Sherrills is famous for brokering the truce between the Crips and the Bloods in 1992.

Then in 2004, he experienced an unimaginable tragedy.

My oldest son was murdered, home from winter break, college.

And, yeah, was shot to death at a party.

You know, so my daughter called me and was like, "Hey, you know, dad, they getting together over on Sesame Street in the projects and stuff, and they talking about going on a mission for Tyrell."

So I jumped in my car, and I drove over there to the projects, and I jumped out the car, and I said, "Hey," I said, "Man, we've played this eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a tooth game long enough."

I'm like, "You know, it's left us all blind and toothless, you know?"

And I'm like, "Without anybody here to provide direction and guidance for the kids and the young folks and the parents and the loved ones that are left behind like"--

I'm like, "Let's do something different."

I've met people who've had absolutely devastating things happen to them, and they're just angry and bitter.

And I didn't want that to be me. I'd done that long enough.

And it wasn't working.

And I needed something different.

Dionne and Aqeela did something incredible.

They rose to a consciousness most of us cannot imagine.

They didn't condone what happened, but they forgave it.

I believe in the "F" word, you know, forgiveness.

Because of forgiveness is not, you know, something that you do for the perpetrator.

It's something that you do for yourself.

There is no cure to violence in violence.

Violence can never be a cure for violence.

It's been said for thousands of years.

You can't fight darkness with darkness.

You can only bring in the light.

If we're really trying to deliver public safety, then we need to start asking questions.

We need to say why.

What happened in the personal life of this young man to cause him to have this callous heart, this fear that he would take another human being's life?

Why is this person cycling in and out of jail or prison?

For Dionne, she decided she wanted the death of her husband Dan to lead to something transformative, something good and the same for Aqeela and his son, Tyrell.

We're going to harness the essence of Tyrell, and we're going to do something much more profound with this.

The point is to understand what's happened.

How can we repair the harm that's been done?

How can we make sure that it doesn't happen again?

And how can we, you know-- with that individual, but also with other individuals coming after them.

When we get the answer to that question, we need to actually do something about it.

Real investment in institutions that help people to heal from trauma.

There was an interesting article in The New York Times a few years ago.

It was called Million Dollar Blocks, where if you calculated how many of the residents of that particular block were actually incarcerated and you added up how much it cost the state to keep those people incarcerated, you would actually come up with more than $1 million per block.

What I would say is take those million dollars that you're spending to put all those people in prison and invest them in the kinds of things that we know very well will actually transform those communities.

My passion is Shakespeare because it's about words.

And the only way that you can heal trauma is to find language for it.

I met my father when I was like 15.

[Curt] Never met him before? Never saw him?

There's something strange here. It's something-- someone with my kind of background here a little bit.

What they're trying to do is simply inhabit that character as truthfully as they can.

And in analyzing and digging down deep into the truth of that character, what happens is they begin to dig into their own lives.

[man] When I was a young man and I came to prison, the older convicts taught me how to hustle at every opportunity to make money, how to get over on the police.

And I looked up to them. They were my mentors.

Through Shakespeare Behind Bars, I have learned that mentoring-- mentoring is-- it's very important, but it's also important to mentor them in the right direction.

So, our recidivism rate in Kentucky for this program, 22 years old, is 5.1%.

Guys that are out on the street. "Why didn't they go back?"

People ask all the time. I say, "Don't ask me, ask them."

What'll they tell you? Here's what I hear them say.

"I take responsibility for the crime that brought me here.

I now understand where that behavior came from because I've gone back in my life, and I've looked at all of that.

But I am not that human being anymore.

That's what arts programming many times gives prisoners hope, because arts deal with the internal essence of what it means to be a human being.

[man vocalizing]

Vipassana is an intense program, a meditative technique.

The inmate has to go through it 24 hours a day for a 10-day period of time. I spent eight and a half years on death row, and this was harder.

All the stuff that's buried down deep, they come up gradually.

They want you there long enough that you actually deal with your stuff.

[woman] She says...

[Matthew] This is a restorative justice workshop.

They're very rare, and they are much harder on perpetrators of crimes than sitting in a prison cell.

It puts these guys face to face with the human consequences of their actions.

This is Rosa.

Her son was killed in a drive-by shooting.

And now, she devotes her life to telling inmates serving time for murder what the effect was of their crime not just for the deceased but on everyone.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


[Rosa] You know what?

Restorative justice programs and victim/offender reconciliations can take years.

They require a staff and resources and they're incredibly successful.

Those who go through these programs have as low as 10% rates of reoffending as opposed to the 80% failure rates prisons shamefully have.

We sit there perplexed like, wow, what are we gonna do about this criminal justice system?

It's such a mess. [laughs]

Maybe if we just stopped doing these things that we're doing and we try on a whole new set of other things, it might turn out to be a little bit simpler than we thought.

The biggest prison we have is an invisible prison.

It's the conditioned mind, and you don't know you're in the prison because you can't see bars.

You can't see walls.

And the conditioned mind is the separate mind.

It doesn't exist.

We are part of a collective mind, and if the collective mind is violent, then we are violent.

And you can change that.

There's an opportunity here for us to take the wisdom that we know works, what we would do for our own kids if our own kids were in trouble, and do it for everybody's kids.

We need to end the war on drugs.

We have to demand once and for all an end to policing and prisons for profit.

At least half of the people in there are in there for crimes of addiction or economic desperation or mental health.

Instead of just throwing everybody that we've decided we can't help into prison...

Use the money for restorative justice programs, rehabs, and social services.

There has to be citizen oversight and accountability for all our public servants.

Luckily for us, we have access to all of the data.

If you have any interest in justice or equal access to opportunity in this country, all the data, luckily, is out there.

It's just a matter of whether you give a shit.

Our survival depends on being logical.

Our survival depends on being smart.

And our survival depends on love... for each other....

And, um... love for yourself.

[female reporter] And a good Monday morning to you.

California man finally free after serving 16 years for a crime he didn't commit.

[Reggie] I didn't think it was real until I saw my attorneys in visiting, and--

I'm trying to describe the feeling.

It was an unbelievable feeling.

It was just an emotional roller coaster that, you know--

I mean, I cried walking out.

It was just the magnitude of all these years and, like, now here it is.

And then a moment later, I would be too bewildered to cry and I would just be-- [chuckles]

That-- that whole day was really scary for me.

A lot of people, like, think that they would be like, "Yay," but I was terrified.

There were well-wishers-- well-wishers there of officers that knew the-- I think they knew the truth and certainly knew the character, you know, my character.

And then I was in the parking lot.

The air smelled different.

I wish my mom could've been there.

I wish my dad could've been there.

I wish my stepmom could've been there.

But I think in a way they were.

And it was good. It was good.

Like, once I got on the other side with my attorneys, I just felt like running, like just getting as far away from that place as I possibly could.

That's probably not the answer that everybody would think that I would have.

But... it wasn't a joyous time for me.

I mean, like, I literally was scared to death.

My cousin was waiting for me.

My private investigator was waiting for me, and I said-- you want to hear what I actually said?

[laughs] And I looked at Paul, and I said, you know...

"Let's get this stuff in the truck and get the fuck out of here." [laughs]

And we couldn't leave fast enough.

The first place we stopped at was IHOP for some breakfast.

And I was, like, amazed at just the syrup menu.

[laughs] It just was overwhelming, like, it was completely overwhelming.

[Bruce] I haven't been in a vehicle without being chained at my feet and with a waist chain and then handcuffs hooked to the waist chain and in a paper jumpsuit for 26 years.

* I am a man

* I am a man

* I am a man

* I am a man 'cause you said I am *

The word "adjustment," I mean-- [clears throat]

I try to-- I try to figure that word out.

Do I have to--

I'm still trying to figure that word out.

Like, how do you adjust coming from the planet Mars to Earth?

I don't even think the oxygen is the same up there.

I don't think I'm adjusted at all.

* It's impossible to be invincible *

* But maybe it's possible to be impossible *

* I am a man

* I am a man

* I am a man

* I am a man 'cause you said I am *

* Yeah

* I am a man

* I am a man

* I am a man

* I am a man 'cause you said I am *

* Yeah

* Oooh

* Ohh, ohh, ohh, ohh, ohh

* Ohh, ohh, ohh, ohh

* Ohh, ohh, ohh, ohh

* Ohh, ohh, ohh, ohh

* Ohh, ohh, ohh, ohh

* Ohh, ohh, ohh, ohh

* Ohh, ohh, ohh, ohh

* Ohh, ohh, ohh, ohh

* Ohh, ohh, ohh, ohh

* Ohh, ohh, ohh, ohh

* Ohh, ohh, ohh, ohh

* Ohh, ohh, ohh, ohh

* Ohh, ohh, ohh...