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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Life in San Quentin: Part One
Aired June 6, 2006 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VERNELL CRITTENDON, SAN QUENTIN SPOKESMAN: We're heading now inside of the main prison, the security area.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, inside San Quentin as you've never seen it. What's it like to serve a life term in one of the world's most notorious prisons?
We're here to meet convicted killers who may never leave the place that houses some of America's most infamous death row inmates; Scott Peterson, the night stalker Richard Ramirez (ph) and more.
It's part one of our rare look deep inside the walls of San Quentin and it's next on LARRY KING LIVE.
I'm here inside San Quentin for two very special programs tonight and tomorrow night. We're in the prison courtyard and right behind my guests is the adjustment center.
It has the worst of the worst, the most dangerous prisoners. Before I talk with my guests, here's a look at this notorious prison.
KING (voice-over): It sits like a fortress along the bay just north of San Francisco, San Quentin, one of the most famous and notorious prisons in the world.
Built by inmates in 1852 it's California's oldest prison. Some 5,500 inmates are locked up here, among them some of the most infamous criminals in the United States. Richard Ramirez, the so-called night stalker who terrorized Los Angeles in 1985 is here. The serial killer was convicted of killing 13.
Here too is Richard Alan Davis (ph), the man who kidnapped and murdered little Polly Klaas and a big name recent arrival Scott Peterson, who killed his wife Laci and unborn son Conner. Charles Manson served time here. So did the man who assassinated Robert Kennedy, Sirhan Sirhan.
San Quentin has California's only death chamber, all 600-plus of the state's male death row inmates are housed inside these walls.
(END VIDEOTAPE) KING: Let's meet the guests, prisoners all. They are Lonnie Morris, Jeff Elkins, Julius Domantay, Kevin Hagan and Michael Tomlinson.
We'll start with Jeff. First, Jeff, what did you do? Why are you here?
JEFF ELKINS, PRISONER AT SAN QUENTIN: When I was 19, I took someone's life for their drugs and their money.
KING: What was the situation? Where were you? What happened?
ELKINS: I was in -- just out of high school and I was caught up in drugs and alcohol and I had no right to do what I did. I ended up blaming the guy for all my problems and I never meant or intended to kill him but that's what happened. I put myself in the position to where it cost him his life and mine also.
KING: How did you kill him?
ELKINS: I hit him with a baseball bat.
KING: Did you confess?
ELKINS: Yes, I did.
KING: How long you been here?
ELKINS: I've been here at San Quentin for the last 12 years. I've been locked up for the last 27 years.
KING: You served time in a different prison before?
ELKINS: Between here, Folsom, and Tracy DVI, yes.
KING: Are you eligible for parole?
KING: We'll talk about that. Kevin, what did you do? Why are you here?
KEVIN HAGAN, PRISONER AT SAN QUENTIN: I'm in for murder/robbery. I committed a murder in 1983, a murder/robbery, drug induced murder/robbery, chasing drugs and that's what led to the murder of this.
KING: Were you high?
HAGAN: Not at that time, no I wasn't.
KING: Who did you kill?
HAGAN: Well, I'd rather not talk about the victim for the victim's family.
KING: But did you confess as well?
HAGAN: Yes, I did. I took full responsibility for it from the very beginning.
KING: So that was 20...
HAGAN: Twenty-three years ago.
KING: Have you been here all that time?
HAGAN: Not at San Quentin but I've been in other prisons, old Folsom, DVI as well.
KING: What's your story, Michael?
MICHAEL TOMLINSON, FORMER PRISONER AT SAN QUENTIN: I'm here today just to say that you can make it once you're paroled. I've done 18 years of my life in the state prisons of California, various prisons.
The longest time I ever did was five and a half years at one time. I've been out for eleven and a half years. I now pastor a church Jordan Crossing Ministries. I do after care, which is having the convicts come out and live in homes that we have and teach them how to live outside the walls on the street so they can make it.
KING: So you served time here?
TOMLINSON: I did. I paroled from here in 1994.
KING: Served how long here?
TOMLINSON: The last time I was here was one year.
KING: What was your crime?
TOMLINSON: My crime was receiving stolen property, drugs also. All my crimes were drug related.
KING: You didn't kill anybody?
TOMLINSON: No, sir.
KING: Julius, what did you do?
JULIUS DOMANTAY, SAN QUENTIN PRISONER: I'm also here for a murder/robbery, robbery that went bad, 17 years old when I came in.
KING: How long ago?
DOMANTAY: Since 1977.
KING: What were you robbing?
DOMANTAY: A liquor store.
KING: And who got killed?
DOMANTAY: A man that owned the store.
KING: You shoot him?
KING: What did that feel like?
KING: To kill someone what did it feel like?
DOMANTAY: It didn't feel good. Something inside you just something happened inside me that didn't feel right that didn't feel good. I made a bad choice at that time.
KING: Did you confess right away too?
DOMANTAY: Not right away but I did confess.
KING: Did you have a trial or you didn't need a trial?
DOMANTAY: Yes, I went to trial.
KING: Found guilty.
DOMANTAY: Found guilty.
KING: How long here?
DOMANTAY: I've been at San Quentin for about 13, 14 years.
KING: What's that buzzer for lunch?
DOMANTAY: It could be a medical alarm or it could be somebody fighting.
ELKINS: Somebody's in trouble.
KING: Somebody's in trouble, meaning like? What might it be Lonnie? What might it be?
LONNIE MORRIS, SAN QUENTIN PRISONER: Well, it's an alarm and the alarm signifies the fact that there is something going on in the institution here (INAUDIBLE) something is going off. Oftentimes (INAUDIBLE) false alarms so it could be just someone here that have buttons that all staff has to wear. It could just be that someone hit a buzzer accidentally and it's going out or it could actually be an incident (INAUDIBLE) at this time.
KING: What are you here for Lonnie?
MORRIS: I'm here for murder/robbery, during the commission of a robbery someone got killed. KING: Robbing what?
MORRIS: A jewelry store.
KING: How long ago?
MORRIS: Oh, this is my 30th year of incarceration so over 30 years ago.
KING: Thirty years.
KING: How many years here?
MORRIS: I've been at San Quentin approximately 25 years.
KING: Do you think you deserve it?
MORRIS: Do I think I deserve what?
KING: Your 30 year incarceration?
MORRIS: Well, I don't like to think in terms of what you deserve. I think -- the thing that I think that's important is looking at the fact I did take a man's life and I think that I have to pay for the crime that I committed. When that time of payment or punishment is up and when is it that rehabilitation kicks in that I've done the things that's necessary for me to return to society, I think that's what we're dealing with right now in my terms of incarceration.
KING: Jeff, can you explain to yourself why you did what you did?
ELKINS: Why I did what I did?
ELKINS: I've had a lot of time to think about that, Larry.
KING: I'll bet.
ELKINS: And, I was lost. I was confused. I was -- I never was taught how to deal with my emotions and my emotions took over and took control. I had no direction for my life. I don't want to blame anyone. I don't want to give the wrong perception that I'm shirking my responsibility. I made choices. I had choices to make. I made the wrong choices. That's why I'm here today.
KING: Do you regret it, Kevin, what you did?
TOMLINSON: Yes, I do and I regret it every day I get up and I look in the mirror and I know back then I wasn't capable of -- I didn't have the triggers. I had the triggers but I didn't know how to handle the triggers. I didn't have the mechanics to deal with the stress that I was under. KING: When we come back life at San Quentin. This is the first of two specials, another one tomorrow night. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRITTENDON: What we're experiencing right now is an emergent situation. In the unit that's right on the other side of this unit, inside of this one building, is Carson section, an officer needing assistance. I heard him blowing a whistle as we entered the building. With that the alarm was activated and now we're in an emergency mode, while staff are responding over to that unit to render assistance to that officer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back at San Quentin with four prisoners and a former prisoner. The former prisoner is Michael Tomlinson, who by the way wrote the book "From the Pit to the Pulpit." He is now a minister.
What was the worst part about being here, Michael?
TOMLINSON: The worst part about being here? The worst part about being here was the people that are here. The only bad thing about prison is the prisoners. You can get used to living in a cell. You can get used to walking the yard. You can get used to, you know, being incarcerated. The worst thing about prison are the people that you're involved with in the yard.
KING: You mean you don't like them?
TOMLINSON: Not all of them, no. You know, the most dangerous thing in the world, Larry, is a child's mind in a man's body and prison is full of child's minds in men's bodies.
KING: Compare this, Julius, to other prisons. What's it like here?
DOMANTAY: They're all the same.
KING: They're all the same?
DOMANTAY: Prison is prison. To me I like to expand on that just to add on to what Michael T. was saying is that, you know, number one a prison is prison no matter where you go. They're all CBC (ph) but what we need is some type of help, some kind of programs in prison and even out there.
The worst part that I see and witness in prison is that inmates coming in and out, in and out, going home and coming back to prison. That's the worst part that I've witnessed is in and out.
KING: What about the cells? I got a tour. Lonnie, how do you exist in that cell? MORRIS: Well, I mean I think when you look at the cells in prison it's like anyplace else. Men are capable of adapting to almost anything. There are people in places like Darfur. I mean how do they exist?
I mean you take a person that's sitting in the Darfur region and you put him in one of those cells here, he would be more than happy to have that cell and the three meals a day.
KING: So it's all relative?
MORRIS: Yes, I think it's all relative. I think but the issue I think that we're really trying to look at here that's really important is what do you do with people who have been incarcerated and they're going to come back to society at some point? How are they going to come back to society?
What do we do while they're incarcerated to see that they come back to society better human beings than they were before they came into prison? So, I think those are the kind of things we really need to be looking at and talking about as opposed to, you know, what's out in the cell. That's a good question but...
KING: But the public has to know this. They don't see prisons.
MORRIS: No, I understand that but I think that most people don't realize that people in prison are locked up either in cells or dormitories. They're in a condition that's not ideal condition.
KING: But it looks, it looks, Jeff, unbearable, like what's in your cell?
ELKINS: In my cell is myself and another man, a sink and a toilet and two bunks.
ELKINS: We have books and study materials in our cell. We have a radio and TV. It's very small. It's very cramped but you learn to adapt. You learn to live there.
KING: Got pictures on the walls, Kevin?
HAGAN: Yes, I do of my family.
KING: Can they visit any time?
HAGAN: They can visit as long as they're an approved visit. They come see me periodically but my family is a long ways away so they come when they can but that's what keeps me going and being able to get up every day and look at the pictures of my family on the wall.
KING: Julius, what about your cell mates do you have to get along?
DOMANTAY: Well... KING: You're forced to get along.
DOMANTAY: Well, you get along, you know. You have to learn how to communicate with people, you know. You already know what, you know, how you got in prison and as long as I've been here I talk -- I talk to my cellie (ph). You know there's things that you don't like him doing inside the cell and you communicate with him.
KING: Can you ask to have change in cell mates?
DOMANTAY: You can if you want to.
KING: Ever approved?
DOMANTAY: Yes. You have to go through a process but eventually you get approved.
KING: Where do you shower, Lonnie?
MORRIS: Well they have a shower area which there's like 13, 14 shower stalls. What many of us try to do in prison is figure out ways in which we can improve our condition and improve our lives.
So, whether I'm showering in the shower with 13 guys or 20 guys, the reality for me is that I have to find a way to exist that's going to improve my life as a human being. It's going to make me a better than I was before I came to prison.
So, in this environment what many of us that you see sitting here today, we've enrolled ourselves in a series of programs that afford us the opportunity to make the change that we want to make in our lives.
So, I don't really focus on the condition or the physical environment which I'm in because I know I can adapt to that. What I'm trying to do is look at my mental state and how do I improve my mental condition?
KING: Always looking with the idea of getting out?
MORRIS: Yes, certainly, always looking with the idea of getting out and not just getting out but getting out being a better person than when I came in.
MORRIS: Because if you're just getting out and this is addressing what Julius was talking about, if we're just getting out and we're going back to the same kind of lifestyle, same kind of environment with the same kind of mentality, then we're going to be the same kind of people. We're going to be coming back to prison.
So, what we're really looking at is getting out and changing our mindset so that when we do get out we'll be the kind of people that can make a contribution to the community.
KING: I want to get to all that. How good or not good is the food, Jeff?
ELKINS: The food? Well, as you can tell I don't hurt too much for food. It's edible. Some of it's not too edible but we get along.
KING: Was it easy for you to change once you got out Michael?
TOMLINSON: No. No, it wasn't.
KING: Did you come close to coming back?
TOMLINSON: I did come back a couple times. You know what I learned, Larry, is that freedom is for responsible people. And when I became responsible for my own actions I didn't need Mr. Crittendon or the parole department to show up and tell me how to act.
When I became responsible for my own actions, I didn't need a guard to put me up in the north block in my cell and when I became responsible for my own actions I didn't need the sheriff's department driving up to my house arresting me for taking other people's stuff. But was it easy, no, it wasn't.
KING: Get much freedom Julius?
DOMANTAY: Freedom within me?
KING: Freedom to roam, freedom to -- you want to go out in the yard and play, want to exercise, can you just do it?
DOMANTAY: Well, yes. We have programs in San Quentin. Freedom within me, number one, I have that peace in my heart, you know, so I can be locked up in my cell and be free, you know. Like Lonnie was talking about, I mean Michael T. was talking about being responsible and I learned that in prison, you know. I learned about being responsible about myself. I can be responsible with my family and then my community and that's what -- to me that's what really life is all about.
KING: We'll be right back with out guests. We'll talk about danger in San Quentin, danger behind the walls. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAGAN: These are the people that are most important to me. I have three mother-in-laws. I have my nieces, some of my nephews up there. I have the bands that I play in up there on the wall.
I don't have any desire to be around the type of people that are going to get me in trouble. I surround myself with positive people, people that have the same goals in mind that I do and want the same things out of life. That's to be free again one day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CRITTENDON: Those sounds that you hear now those are the death row inmates, about 250 to 300 of them that are outside exercising just on the other side of the wall with the razor wire. Scott Peterson is actually assigned to this location and he does go out to this location to exercise here on the exercise yard for death row.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back at San Quentin about 40 minutes from one of America's loveliest cities, San Francisco. Today we're talking with four inmates and a former inmate, tomorrow night more of the same with different inmates.
Let's discuss danger behind prison. Now, Jeff, you've been stabbed. Julius has been attacked. Lonnie was caught up in a riot. How safe is it here, Jeff?
ELKINS: It's no more dangerous here than it is out there on the streets today. The thing about in here is it just gets -- it's a more tight knit community but out there on the street it's more dangerous actually out there than it is here because you're got more people out there that are less and less respecting and understand the value of human life.
Many of us in here have learned and come to understand and respect and honor the value of human life as we've grown through the programs and stuff that are provided to us and because we decided one day that we didn't like who we were and we wanted to change. We wanted to become different people.
MORRIS: That's good.
ELKINS: So, we did that. I mean if we put in the work and until a person decides he wants to change he's not going to. But from what we hear on the news and what we see, man, we're a lot safer in here than you people are out there.
KING: Kevin, an inmate who may have bothered, attacked, or been guilty of committing a crime against a child is that inmate in trouble in here?
HAGAN: Well, they're frowned upon in a different light than a lot of other guys but, you know, I'm looking at the big picture. Every man in here has done some type of crime that has been whether you call it horrendous or petty or whatever the crime is.
What we're trying to do here is make a statement here where you know what everybody can change. San Quentin is the flagship of all other prisons as far as programs are concerned.
KING: It is.
HAGAN: If a man wants to change, he has the opportunity here to take up anything, a trade. He can go to church. He can go to college. This is the only place that has a college in the California penal system. And we have other self help groups. And our main, one of our main focuses is the youth that are out there. We have youth programs here.
KING: So, inmates aren't in trouble depending on what crime they committed?
HAGAN: It just depends on who they -- who they belong to as far as county or whatever is concerned.
KING: But there is a bad group here isn't there? Julius, isn't there a bad group? What's that thing behind us?
DOMANTAY: That's condemned row.
KING: Condemned row?
DOMANTAY: Condemned row.
KING: Who's in there?
DOMANTAY: People that's condemned, death row is what they call.
KING: Do you see them at all?
DOMANTAY: Everywhere you go, man, this whole world is full of bad groups, in here, out there on the street, everywhere you go. It's all around us, you know. It's a choice that people make.
Every day I believe that, you know, we wake up and we have to make a choice, whether it's going to be good or it's going to be bad, you know, and we have to commit ourselves into making that choice. It's up to me as an individual, you know. This is how I see my life today.
KING: Lonnie, you were involved in a riot here weren't you?
MORRIS: Well, yes, there was a riot that happened in 1982 and I got caught up in the middle of it. I wasn't involved in the riot. I just happened to be on the yard the day when the riot transpired. So, unfortunately those things happen.
I think when you look at prison I think that again prison is a reflection. It's a microcosm of the greater society, so you have problems anywhere you go. I think the thing to really look at is how do you again transform men from the kind of people they were when they came into prison to the type of people we want them to be when they reenter society?
If we spend the next ten or 15 minutes talking about what happens in prison, what is happened in prison, I don't think the general public will get served by hearing those things as will be served by hearing about the things that need to be done to change the conditions that exist in prison so the men will leave out of prison better human beings.
For instance, we have people who come in here to the prison and volunteer. They are volunteers who come in, no pay. They don't get paid. They spent their own gas money. They take their own time, their own energy to come in and support these kind of inmate-sponsored programs, such as No More Tears, such as the Real Choices program, such as the Trust Fellowship, such as the Impact Program.
There are a lot of people who come into prison because they see that until society gets involved in what's going on behind these walls, the opportunity for men to change their lives is going to be limited. So that's what we're really -- I think we really need to start looking at that.
KING: Yes, I want to get to that. Of course, you're mentioning it so you're discussing it. But, Michael.
KING: Doesn't what happened here, what happens here affect what happens to you when you get out?
TOMLINSON: I believe that it does. I believe that, number one, when you get out of prison, whatever prison you're in in California, whatever area, whatever county you committed your offense, it's a law you have to parole there.
It doesn't matter if you got something going on in another county, if you have a job, if you have a place to stay, like to come into our ministry, to come into one of our (INAUDIBLE) homes, if you're from a different county you can't come and they have to live under the bridge. They have to go wherever they have to go to make it in that county with no resources or anything. They get $200 when they get out. Does that affect what they do here, very much so.
KING: You bet. You've seen people killed in prison?
TOMLINSON: Well, of course. The first murder I ever saw was right here on the little yard, 1972.
KING: What did you see?
TOMLINSON: I saw a Mexican guy kill a black guy over domino poker. I don't know if you can have cards here anymore but back then you couldn't have cards in San Quentin and gambling with dominos was called domino poker and I guess he didn't pay his debt. And so, down by the gym on the lower yard he took a hit.
KING: With what?
TOMLINSON: A shank about that long, went through him, dropped him like a buckle.
KING: It has to be asked so we'll ask it. Kevin, what about sex in prison? You're not allowed to cohabitate, right? You can't have sexual visitors right?
HAGAN: Well, at one time... KING: That's not allowed in San Quentin, right?
HAGAN: No, some guys still have conjugal visits, conjugal visits.
KING: Oh, they can?
HAGAN: The took the family visits from lifers in 1996, guys without a date. We used to be able to have them. But, you know, you find other means of taking that energy and doing something positive with it besides thinking on a sexual manner.
KING: What about rape dangers male to male?
MORRIS: What did you say?
KING: Rape dangers male to male?
MORRIS: Again, honestly you're going to find in prison the same thing you find in society.
KING: Except you put 5,000 people all together.
MORRIS: Well, I understand. The reality is look people are getting raped on the streets. The rape among women has gone up on the streets. Women are being raped and it's not being reported.
So, there's a lot of things that's going to be happening in prison and happening in (INAUDIBLE). Honestly I have to say to you that I think that it's really important to take this time to talk about what is really going on in our society and how is it impacting the young people that we're going to be seeing?
We work with a program called Real Choice and we being kids in here twice a month and those kids are coming in and they're looking for answers. Those kids are really trying to figure out how am I going to maneuver through life and not wind up in a place like San Quentin?
There's 33 prisons in the state of California and they're growing. They're not -- they're not talking about shutting down the prisons. They're talking about, let me just finish real quick (INAUDIBLE).
KING: I got to get a break. You are talking about it. That's how we get it out. You are talking about it.
We'll be right back. Don't go away.
And when we come back we'll talk about families. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRITTENDON: This is the entrance to death row. That small set of windows that run across the top of the north block that is the original death row. This concave gate that you see here was purchased in 1948, specifically designed for the entrance to death row and this is where 68 death row inmates reside here at San Quentin State Prison.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF ELKINS, SAN QUENTIN INMATE: I'm the lead man for the maintenance department. I worked in the maintenance department here for this factory for about 11 years. I worked a year on the floor in the factory operating machines and then I came in to maintenance as a vehicle and forklift mechanic. And from there a few years ago I was made the lead man for the maintenance department. I believe when God says the time is right, I'll get out of here. So that's what I believe, that's what I live by.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
LARRY KING, CNN ANCHOR: We're back with Lonnie Morris, serving a life sentence for robbery murder, Jeff Elkins at 19 he killed his friend for drugs and money. Julius Domantay at 17 he shot and killed a liquor store owner. Kevin Hagan serving a life sentence for murder robbery and Michael Tomlinson who has been paroled, he's the author of the book "From the Pit to the Pulpit," he's a -- by the way runs a ministry himself. And Michael you were, before we move to families, you have seen some horrendous things here. Did that affect you out of here?
MICHAEL TOMLINSON, FORMER SAN QUENTIN INMATE: Did it affect me getting out? Or out on the outside. I think some things that I experienced in prison did some pretty heavy damage to my psyche.
TOMLINSON: Well, when you see somebody thrown off the fifth tier and they splat like a watermelon over there on south block and you have to act like it doesn't bother you or show weakness, if it bothers you then you're weak, and so once you're weak, you're marked, it comes on you next. You see a murder here, a murder there and you have to act like it doesn't bother you. But in the real meat of your heart, those things really bother you. But after a period of time, you become callous, you become where those things are just -- they happen, and you just, hey when it happens, alright, hey, you go on and do your thing, you know.
KING: Do you talk about it from your pulpit?
TOMLINSON: Of course I do.
KING: Jeff, what about your family?
JEFF ELKINS, SAN QUENTIN INMATE: My family? My family has supported me from the very beginning.
KING: What do you have?
ELKINS: My mom and my sister. I lost my dad in 2004. My mom, my sister and my step-mom and her kids, my sister's kids.
KING: They visit you a lot?
ELKINS: Yes, they do, regular.
KEVIN HAGAN, SAN QUENTIN INMATE: I still have my mother and my sisters. My dad died in '97. I have a lot of nieces and nephews that have grown up now since I've been in and they come up and see me, but they've supported me from the very beginning.
LONNIE MORRIS, SAN QUENTIN INMATE: I have a very large family, it's very supportive. The thing I also know that there is a family who is still suffering from the criminal acts that I committed and that's the victim's family. So I want to acknowledge them.
KING: Do you feel for them?
MORRIS: Certainly. The thing is that everything I've done in my life, to try to change my life is motivated by the fact that I'm trying to make amends for the things I did.
KING: Do you write to them?
MORRIS: Excuse me? Well, no, I'm not allowed to have contact with them. So that's a legal issue. But what I try to do is not so much with words but with my actions, I try make sure that everything I do now can do something to help so that the next young man that was the Lonnie Morris that I was 30 years ago would not commit the kind of act that I committed, to wind up in prison and having another family grieving.
KING: What's your family like, Julius?
JULIUS DOMANTAY, SAN QUENTIN INMATE: My family's the same they've always been there for me from the beginning. I also lost my father a couple of years ago.
KING: Do you have brothers, sisters?
DOMANTAY: Yeah, I come from a big family.
KING: You have a twin brother right?
DOMANTAY: Yes. Twin, identical.
KING: Did he stay out of trouble?
DOMANTAY: He's out there, he's doing good. You know, he's got his own business. So he stayed out of trouble.
KING: What happens when they visit, Jeff? How does it work? Is it Sundays only? ELKINS: It depends, visiting is Friday, Saturday and Sunday here. I usually get visits on Sunday, my mom comes up with my step- mom after church, we spend an hour and a half, two hours, talking having lunch.
KING: Did you get married while in prison?
ELKINS: Yes, I did, in 1998. I got married to a girl that I met through a friend of mine. His wife went on a missionary journey to India and we started writing, she came to this country, we were married for 6 1/2 years. But you see Larry, prison, by design, destroys families. By design it is meant to destroy families.
ELKINS: Because we -- the society views it -- need to be punished. The visiting -- it's very difficult for the visitors to come up here, the things they have to go through. It's very hard. And it's very hard for a woman to come to a prison every week to visit her husband and she can't have any thing more than to hold his hand, he's not there at night. They want to go on with their lives. After 6 1/2 years, my wife -- she used to come visit me every week. But she couldn't take it anymore, never knowing if I will ever get out. She decided to move on with her life. And I didn't blame her for that.
KING: And of course, you never had relations with her?
KING: When we come back, we'll talk about San Quentin changing a man, right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VERNELL CRITTENDON, SAN QUENTIN SPOKESMAN: That is a system the inmates have created, where they call them fish lines. They will make efforts to make contact with individuals in other cells on other tiers. And that will afford them the ability to pass items from one cell to another cell. They use a code in here that's called "hot water." And whenever our employees are coming up to retrieve those fish lines, other inmates will then yell out that term "hot water," and the inmate that has the line, will immediately pull it back into his cell before the staff can arrive.
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KING: We're back with our prisoners, convicts, what do you call yourselves, inmates?
Everybody call themselves something different.
I call myself a human being. KING: Kevin, has this place improved you?
HAGAN: Actually in prison, I feel that prison has made me open my eyes to a lot of things as far as self, because I've had a lot of time to look within myself to gain knowledge about self and things that I've done. But the main thing is that I've learned how to humble myself, humility and to be more understanding of other people's feelings as well.
KING: Are you eligible for parole?
HAGAN: Yes, I am.
KING: If paroled, would you be a completely different citizen?
HAGAN: Yes, I would. My whole thing with being paroled is to go back to the community and work with the youth. That is what I do, I work with at risk youth and that's what I want to do.
KING: How often do you appear before the parole board?
HAGAN: Every other year.
KING: And turned down every time?
KING: Do you still have hope?
HAGAN: Yes, I do.
KING: Julius, what about you, what have you learned here?
DOMANTAY: My faith, God, my Lord and savior, Jesus Christ. 13, 14 years ago, I got saved in a lower yard, fully surrendered my life to him. He taught me how to love. He revealed to me my real character, which is not the negativity one, but the good one. It allows me to know that I can love people, as the Bible says, to love your neighbor as you love yourself.
KING: Have you appeared before the parole board?
DOMANTAY: I've been before the parole board at least 15 times.
KING: You still have hope?
DOMANTAY: I will always have hope. I have my God.
KING: Jeff, you a better person?
ELKINS: I am not the same person that committed the crime 27 years ago. I have changed. The programs that were provided started that change and 12 years ago, I came to the end of myself Larry, and I turned to the Lord.
KING: Did you try to kill yourself before that? ELKINS: No, I didn't mean it like tried to kill myself, but I came to a place where I didn't like the guy I was looking at in the mirror. Many of us here come to that place. What makes San Quentin different is the programs. The chapel program here is just incredible with all the volunteers that come in and spend their time. But I have grown tremendously through the classes offered here, I went through -- and I now teach the biblical counseling foundation, self-confrontation class. There's other impact programs here, we have regular bible studies and I've became a part of the ministry here and that is now my life. I live my life now for the Lord Jesus Christ, according to the precepts of the bible.
KING: If eligible for parole, have you been before the parole board?
ELKINS: Yes, I've been to the parole board 10, 11 times.
KING: Still have hope?
ELKINS: Sure, I do. When God says it's time for me to go home, I'm leaving out of here.
KING: Lonnie you discussed the programs and the benefits here. Are you ready for outside there?
MORRIS: Certainly I am. I think that -- for me, it's really important to teach the life lesson that helping people is much more powerful and it's kept me from harming people and that's how my life -- Everything about my life is geared towards trying to help improve the lives of others. I just want to say this real quick. There are a numerous amount of volunteers that come here. There's a lady who drives from southern California named Linda Steinberg, who goes into the juvenile halls and works with kids and she's trying to find answers to the problems plaguing these youth who are coming up in our society today.
So she comes to San Quentin to work with us in a program called no more tears which is a violence prevention program. It was founded by myself and a group of inmates. And our whole premise of this is that we were tired of seeing the killings and the violence that's going on in our communities. And since we can't get out right now, you're talking about hope for parole, certainly I have hope for parole.
But that's not important. The important thing is that wherever I'm at as a human being, I should be trying to do the best I can do to improve the conditions of other human beings. So with our program and with Ms. Steinberg, we work in cooperation with them and the trade unions. And many other organizations to try to improve the conditions of people's lives and afford them the kind of opportunities they need to change their lives.
KING: We'll be back with more. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CRITTENDON: We get in nearly 2,000 new men every 30 days here to San Quentin to be processed. Their crimes could go from drunk driving all the way to mass murder. Here in the state of California, with easily well over 70 percent of the inmate population are directly or indirectly here due to drugs.
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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRITTENDON: This is the way we escort death row inmates that live in the adjustment center. We have one staff member that will keep his hands on the inmate, another one must have his OC pepper spray out and his finger on the trigger. That gentleman there is a member of the Mexican mafia.
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KING: Joining us now, our panel is joined by a familiar figure to LARRY KING LIVE and CNN viewers, Vernell Crittendon is the San Quentin Prison spokesman and he's been on this program frequently. But first time we get a chance to meet him. He started here as a guard that has worked at San Quentin for almost 30 years. Vernell, what keeps you motivated, what keeps you going since you have to be around all of this everyday?
CRITTENDON: Well first of all, I want to say welcome to San Quentin Larry, it's really good to have you here with us today.
KING: Thank you, my pleasure.
CRITTENDON: You know, I have to say that public service is a big part of it for me. I see an opportunity here to make a difference in our communities. I work with a number of these men that you're talking with today and that you've been walking around the prison and seeing in our prison today. I think a lot of them, I see the transformation in their lives and that's one of the things I find the most rewarding. I think one of the things that are probably the, really the down side of this is that revolving door, seeing these new people constantly coming in. We get almost 2,000 new men every 30 days into San Quentin, from 17 of the 58 counties here in the state of California.
KING: You're all lifers, right?
KING: What's that like, Jeff, honestly?
KING: What gives you hope about tomorrow?
ELKINS: Hope for tomorrow? KING: Yeah.
ELKINS: My hope is in the Lord Jesus Christ Larry. Before I met and gave my life to the Lord Jesus Christ, I really had no hope and my life and my attitude reflected that. I used to go through terrible depressions. But I live my life to serve the Lord Jesus Christ, whether it's in here or out there, I belong to him now.
KING: Do you guys know the people on death row, Kevin?
HAGAN: No, we've heard of them.
KING: But you don't get to mingle with them?
HAGAN: No, no we don't. That's a breach of security.
KING: The night when there is an execution of any kind, what's it like for you?
HAGAN: It's like for me, it's very humbling to me because I don't think that anybody deserves to die, such as like the victim in my crime. Which is -- life is priceless for anybody, to lose their life. It's a night where I pray. I pray a lot. And I also think about those on the street, the youngsters that are out there on the street that come through here, and the mothers, the grandmothers, the wives and the kids that are being victimized as well by guys doing things like we used to do. This is something that we're trying to nip in the behind right now to stop this.
KING: Do you think, Julius, do you think you might die here?
DOMANTAY: I don't -- I don't think like that. My faith, too, is in God. When I gave him every right to do what he wants to do with me. If it's God's will for me to die in prison, then be it. But I believe that I could be a powerful tool in society by my experiences behind these walls.
KING: You met death row inmates, Michael?
TOMLINSON: Yes, I have.
KING: What do you say to someone on death row? You're a minister, what do you say?
TOMLINSON: I'm a pastor, you know, so I try to lead them to the Lord. I try to -- immediately try bring them around to Christ what changed my life. What made a difference in my life was again, Jesus Christ.
KING: What would it do for someone that's on death row?
TOMLINSON: Well it would take them from the next step where they really need to go. You know, because if they're on death row, they're going to die, more than likely they're going to turn that red light on up there and they're going to be in the death chamber. One way or another it's the gas chamber or lethal injection and my hope to is in Jesus Christ, so that's the only hope they're going to have.
KING: Do you ever, Lonnie, think about dying here?
MORRIS: I don't think about dying in prison. I mean I think that the thing that helped turned my life around was, I thought about dying and I thought about what legacy did I want to leave. Once I was dead I wanted to know -- I mean, if you look at us, most of all of us on this panel and a lot of men in prison are men of faith, we have found faith and we've found some belief in God. Whatever it is, I'm Muslim, many of my brothers sitting here are Christians. But I think the bigger question for me was, what did I want on that tombstone or what was that legacy I wanted to leave behind or what was my epithet going to be. And so when I looked at my previous life, there wasn't much good that could be said about me. And so I had to change that dynamics so that when I die, I wanted to be -- people to be able to say, hey man that was a guy that had to contribute something or tried to contribute something to life and make people's lives better. That's what I'm concerned about.
KING: We'll be right back with some more moments from San Quentin. And we'll ask you about Scott Peterson and the future. Don't go away.
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CRITTENDON: We supply all state office buildings, state schools, state hospitals with their furniture. Desks, chairs, credenzas are all manufactured by inmates here in our prison industries. San Quentin, we handle state furniture. We're the only prison that makes state furniture in the state of California.
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KING: We're at San Quentin, Vernell, how's Scott Peterson doing? You ever see him?
CRITTENDON: Oh, yes, I see Scott Peterson and he's adjusted well to life here at San Quentin. He's over in condemned row two, which we call the east block. He's assimilating very, very well.
KING: Do prisoners talk about him much?
No, not really.
MORRIS: Scott Peterson is just another of the 5 or 6,000 people that's in San Quentin. Really, Larry, what guys try to do here, we all really try to find our way through this maze called prison, and how do we better our conditions and exist.
KING: Johnny Cash wrote a song about San Quentin, called it "You're a Living Hell to Me and I Hate Every Stone of You." Vernell, you're smiling. You're the public relations man here, does that hurt you to hear that? CRITTENDON: Well I just recall that in February of 1969 when he did that in our north dining hall, much to our chagrin he debuted that song.
KING: This is also, is it not, Michael, and your book is available on Amazon.com, right?
TOMLINSON: Yes it is.
KING: This is prime real estate here.
TOMLINSON: Oh big time.
KING: Do you think they might shut this place down?
KING: Someone could make a fortune here selling off this property.
TOMLINSON: Yeah that's not going to happen.
They've been talking about it for 30 years, they're not going to do that.
TOMLINSON: This place has been here for 150 years, it's going to be here another 150 years if Christ don't come back, if they don't change the world. Because you know what, San Quentin is a place to put people to death, nowhere else in California do they do that. This is the place. And this is also a place that people are going to come to, to change. You know you talk about changing, I changed here. These guys changed. I've known these guys for years. When I was doing time here, they were here. These guys have changed. These are not the same guys.
KING: They've all changed?
TOMLINSON: Every one of them, I know them personally, every one of them. I come here 15 times a year and preach in their chapel right over there and I've changed. You know I have a wife and three wonderful kids. My middle son is graduating from kindergarten today, you know, I mean God has changed my life. I have a blessed life, but it started here.
KING: What's the biggest change you've seen Vernell?
CRITTENDON: I've saw the biggest change -- I've seen people change from predators to being liabilities in society to becoming assets, people that have tried to give back. I have men here that now volunteer to raise money so they can do a high school scholarship for young people to go to college. When 9/11 struck, the inmates here, every one of them sitting here before you were part of that committee, they came together, went around solicited other inmates, they raised $8,000 which were given to the surviving family members of the victims of 9/11.
KING: What about the bad ones?
CRITTENDON: Well you know in prison, there's about 5,500 of them and I'm going to say yes, most definitely there's knuckleheads here. And that's why we have these prisons. And we have systems to deal with those people as well and control them. A lot of them are right behind us now in the adjustment center. People like the Night Stalker, Richard Ramirez, Richard Allen Davis kidnapped Polly Clasp. Many of them your viewers don't even know because they're just hardened killers.
KING: Do you think these men should be paroled?
CRITTENDON: I think there's a process that needs to be looked closely at on how we review and how do the people meet the standards. I think the men that you have talking with you today, I think that many of them are going to prove to be assets in the community. I think they are the people that when they were younger they put those land mines out there in our community, that's blowing up on us right now. I think they're the same type of men that are going to be able to go out and remove those land mines. I think they're representative probably of hundreds, if not thousands of others that are locked behind these walls that have done the work on themselves to change from what they were to what they can be.
KING: Thanks, Vernell. Vernell will be back with us tomorrow night along with some more of the inmates at San Quentin. We thank Lonnie Morris, Jeff Elkins, Julius Domantay, Kevin Hagan and the former inmate Michael Tomlinson, the author of "From the Pit to the Pulpit." From San Quentin Prison in northern California, this is Larry King, "ANDERSON COOPER" is next. Don't forget, part 2 tomorrow night. Good night.
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