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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Inside the Dangerous World of Prisons
Aired August 6, 2010 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JEFF PROBST, GUEST HOST (voice-over): Tonight, prison. Is life more dangerous on the inside?
Smuggled drugs, homemade weapons, and felons who commit violent crimes behind bars with nothing to lose. Why does anyone want to work there?
Investigators who come face-to-face with hardcore criminals 24/7 are with us.
See and hear about the scariest jobs in America from the people who have them.
Next on LARRY KING LIVE.
PROBST: Good evening. I'm Jeff Probst, sitting in for Larry who is on vacation.
We welcome: Jerry Lester, director of internal affairs for the Tennessee Department of Corrections.
Jason Woodall, special agent in charge, internal affairs for the Tennessee Department of Corrections.
Sergeant Valerie Hampton, an institutional investigator known as "Snoop Dog" for her ability to find drugs and other contraband. It's OK. You can smile on that one, Valerie.
And John Fisher, special agent internal affairs for the Tennessee Department of Corrections.
All four star in the new A&E documentary series "The Squad: Prison Police."
And when it comes to investigating crimes, police have it tough enough on the outside. Inside, it's a whole other story.
Watch Jason and John at work. This is a clip from "The Squad: Prison Police."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN FISHER, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, TENN. DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS: Jason, he's my boss. He's hard on me. For the record, he's about six pounds more than I am.
JASON WOODALL, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE, TENN. DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS: The relationship I have with John Fisher is beyond just a professional one. We're also friends. We keep each other straight. I give him a hard time every chance I get. And if I've gone more than a day or two without giving him a hard time, I come up with a reason.
John can work them out, too.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, this place --
JERRY LESTER, INTERNAL AFFAIRS DIR., TENN. DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS: Very health conscious. They're of similar stature, we say. A bright light behind them and you're looking at the silhouette, you wouldn't though them apart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROBST: Jerry, you're the director of this program. Give me the overview. What is it, the group of you do?
LESTER: Well, Jeff, the Tennessee Department of Correction, Internal Affairs Division, is the police entity for the prison system in the state of Tennessee. I have a total of 10 commissioned agents that work for the department, including myself. We conduct administrative and criminal investigations throughout the prison system in the state of Tennessee. We have 12 prisons and we have three privately owned facilities that we go to as well.
PROBST: So, your job is to go inside and take care of all the crimes that happen as the prison -- inside the prison?
PROBST: Jason, how does this differ, the work you would do inside a prison than it might if you were a police officer, say, on the outside investigating a crime?
WOODALL: It has its pros and cons. One, when a crime is committed inside a facility, you know where your subject is. You don't have to look in the neighboring town or have to worry about him being in the next state. You know that they're there somewhere.
The problem, though, that we face that law enforcement on the street doesn't necessarily have to is cooperating witnesses. You know, you're relying on convicted felons to come forward and do the right thing and tell the truth about what happened. That's not always easy.
PROBST: Well, and I'm guessing everybody has different motives for why they may tell you the truth or lie?
WOODALL: Absolutely. And generally, they're always self- serving, you know?
PROBST: Valerie, what are the top -- the common types of crimes? What goes on in a prison?
SGT. VALERIE HAMPTON, INVESTIGATOR, TENN. DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS: Well, you have assaults. You have inmates getting contraband in through the mail or monitoring phone calls. You can pick up information on some of the type of things that they'll try to get in.
PROBST: John, I was watching this first episode. There's a lot of interrogation that goes on where you guys pull people into the room. What are the keys to interrogating somebody who's already in prison? They don't necessarily have anything to lose by lying to you
FISHER: Well, you're right about that. And as my boss would say, that kind of makes you the man if you can get the truth out of somebody who don't have anything to lose.
But that's what we try to do. That's what we're trained at. And, you know, it's just -- sometimes it gets tough. But we just keep on, you know, bearing down on it and try to get a confession or admission out of them.
PROBST: Are all bets off? Do you use incentives? Will you work a deal with a prisoner like you always see in the movies on the outside? Listen, we'll cut you a deal if you get to us to the top dog?
FISHER: Well, absolutely. But it's not so much like you see on TV because we don't really have that type of authority. You know, we can't lessen the sentence or take time off the sentence. Ours are more like, you know, we can help you with your visitation rights, maybe you got your visitation suspended. Maybe you want to see your family. You're missing your children and you haven't been able to see them if a while.
Now, those are things that, you know, we can put a hand in to try to help with some of these admissions that we get.
PROBST: Well, Valerie, you're known as "snoop dog" and it's because of her ability to uncover drugs in prison. Let's take a look at Valerie in action.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAMPTON: My nickname is Snoop Dog.
FISHER: Snoop doggy dog.
HAMPTON: And they tease me all the time about it. It's going to be found, Snoop Dog is going to find it. They see me coming. You can hear them flushing the commodes.
Well, hey, George Pickle. I'm going to say your name loud in case the slaw looking for you.
GEORGE PICKLER, PRISONER: I have respect for her, you know? The cat and mouse game she and I have played on numerous occasions. If she catches me doing something, she's going to bust my ass, you know, and I know that.
LESTER: I've seen her giving advice that only a mother would give. But at the same time, with the sternness to let you know you have a spanking coming if you don't take that advice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROBST: Valerie, Jerry mentioned sometimes you'll use just motherly advice. How are you treated by the inmates? Is it different because you're a woman?
HAMPTON: Well, sometimes, yes, it is. You know, I do use that mother role on them. You know, I have grown kids.
And so, when I deal with them, I talk to them sometimes like they're mine. And they listen to me. You have some that listen. They just need that motherly advice.
PROBST: Jason, what's the difference in relationships? When you guys are in there, is it important that you are different from the guards, that you can develop your own rapport?
WOODALL: Absolutely. If we're there to investigate a crime, you know, we're the -- as the inmates will say, we're the police. And they know that we can affect them outside the prison, beyond the administrative elements. We can affect their freedom.
You know, they're already incarcerated. But they may look at more time, additional sentences, those types of things. And so, they know that. We don't have to tell them. They know where we're coming from.
But bottom line is: we want to obtain the truth. And oftentimes, you know, there's always two sides to every story. And so, we're there to allow these people to tell their side, too.
PROBST: Jerry, how often or how common is it for a prisoner to not talk simply because I can't -- the crime I'm going to get if I talk to you guys is worse than the extra time you'll give to me?
LESTER: It's very common. They face so many difficulties in the prison system. There such a great chance of reprisal from other inmates, if you will, knowing they don't want to be labeled a snitch.
LESTER: And when an inmate is out and working a job, then he's able to actually build time towards the end of his sentence. And if he has to go on check in, if you will, protective custody because someone labeled him a snitch, he's not able to get that.
PROBST: So, the last thing they want to do is see any of you for any reason.
All right. You're not going to believe what a little bit of free time and little ingenuity can do -- guns made from pipes, knives fashioned with wet newspaper. See what our guests confiscate. That's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FISHER: That will do damage to a person right there.
It is virtually impossible to stop inmates from making homemade weapons. I've seen shanks made out of toothbrushes, ink pens, hanging folders in file cabinets.
ISAAC FLANIGAN, INMATE: They're not hard to come by. You want one, you can have one.
WOODALL: Our staff comes to work daily and have to face armed inmates and we're going to arm ourselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROBST: John, you say in there that it's virtually impossible to stop making weapons. I've been to a maximum security prison. I couldn't get a quarter past, you know, the guards when I walked in. How -- why is this happening? How does it happen?
FISHER: It's because that the things that they're making the weapons out of, they're sometimes allowed to have while they're around. And it's already inside the institution itself. When you talk about the hanging or the file holders that holds the file folders, you talk about toothbrushes, razor blades that are melted into the toothbrush that the inmates are allowed to shave with.
I mean, there are so many things they can use that's already there. It's not the fact that so much you bring something new in, it's already there.
PROBST: Jason, tell us what you have in front of you. You have some shanks, right?
WOODALL: Absolutely. Prisoners made knives or otherwise known as shanks. And these are just a small example of some confiscated.
PROBST: Hold those up. That was made in prison?
WOODALL: Absolutely. And it's ready for business. And the fact that it's been sharpened, honed probably on concrete, and has the sheet torn wrapped for the handle.
PROBST: And where would that piece of steel come from? WOODALL: From a variety of sources. For example, this one was a brace on the back of a bookshelf, is where that came from. Now this is more of -- we called it a sticker or a bleeder.
PROBST: A sticker or a bleeder.
WOODALL: Right. And it hasn't quite been finished yet in the fact that if someone was really going to take this and use it for business, they would have something to hold it to their hand so that it doesn't come loose in the knife fight.
PROBST: I can't be alone in thinking that as long as we've had prisons, that you would look at a bookshelf, Jerry, and say, well, this bookshelf won't work, it's got metal pipes on the back of it and somebody is going to take one and make a shank and stick, or bleed somebody.
LESTER: Yes, you have to teach yourself to be aware at all time of anything that an inmate might use to make a weapon from. While we have actually found firearms inside the facilities, inmates have the ingenuity to actually manufacture they're own type of firearm.
As you're aware, most firearms only need a shell, something to actually hit the firing pin and some type of barrel to point the projectile.
PROBST: So, these are pieces to a gun?
LESTER: Exactly. An inmate would simply place a shell in and use a rubber band that they would screw the other end of the cap on and pull back and fire it which will be a nail, and when they let it go, they point it in the direction they want it to travel and they've shot you.
PROBST: That's crazy. Does it -- does it astound you some of the stuff you guys find? Again, I go back to what -- we see the pictures on TV. These are buildings you can't get into and, yet, inside, it seems like there's a whole living community, a city with rules and regulations and workshops to build firearms.
LESTER: People have the misconception that inmates aren't intelligent. That's not the case at all. Inmates are extremely intelligent and they have 24 hours a day, seven days a week to try to come up with this.
PROBST: You have a pair of pliers. Are these pliers that were smuggled in? This isn't something they made.
LESTER: These are actually pliers. These are real pliers.
LESTER: And you can tell by the weight of them. They're very heavy. And an inmate escaped, he actually left the facility by manufacturing a pair of wooden pliers that are identical to the real ones. PROBST: So, he made those?
PROBST: And in your left hand, those were made?
LESTER: These are made of wood and they're actually -- we keep all our tool on a shadow board. The inmate knew that there would be noticed missing, so he made a set to put on the shadow board, he took these and cut his way through the fence.
And also, from a mop bucket, we've had inmates actually study the shape of different keys on an officer's key ring and manufactured cell door keys and escape at the end.
PROBST: Valerie, you got a smile at least at the genius behind some of these devices.
HAMPTON: It's just amazing. You know, they have all this time on their hands. And you have some inmates that are just scared. And they're going to have some type of protection on them at all times. You actually have inmates in prison that are scared.
PROBST: And that is how I would be, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Drugs and cell phones -- how do prisoners get these things behind bars? We're going to talk to a former prisoner who has seen it all. That's next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Code 33. Code 33. Inmate need immediate attention outside unit 14. He's been stabbed and bleeding heavily.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have an inmate with stab wounds.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I never saw so much blood in all my life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you see who did this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All I heard was boom, boom, boom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somewhere in one of these cells, we're going to find the suspect.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody saw something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROBST: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. Jeff Probst sitting in for Larry tonight.
We are talking about the dangers inside prison. Our panel stars in the A&E documentary series "The Squad: Prison Police."
Joining our discussion now, Kershaun Scott, a former gang member, spent five years in juvenile detention and adult prison.
Kershaun, how easy, as an inmate, is it to get drugs and cell phones and make weapons?
KERSHAUN SCOTT, SERVED FIVE YEARS IN PRISON: It's relatively easy to make weapons as long as you have the money. It's relatively easy to get drugs as well as cell phones.
PROBST: Where do you get the money?
SCOTT: It depends. I mean, your family can have the money. You could already have had the money. Where you get the money from is not important. It's whether or not you have the money to spend.
PROBST: So, John, you're telling me that if I go into prison with nothing, you issue me new clothes, a family member can bring me $1,000?
FISHER: Well, yes.
PROBST: Can they give it to me? Or do you have to sneak it in?
FISHER: Smuggle in. A lot of time, money or free world money is --
PROBST: Free world money?
FISHER: Free world money --
FISHER: -- is smuggled in to the prison system. But a lot of times it has to do with commissary. What we call a commissary, you have the money on your books. So, having that commissary is like going to --
PROBST: That's money I've earned in prison?
FISHER: The commissary is items that you can buy as if you were at a store, if you were on the streets.
FISHER: I.E., snacks, (INAUDIBLE), cold drinks, cookies, of course, they got all types -- different type of food items. But if I got $50 or $60 on my books, then I can buy $50 worth of commissary and use it in trade as if I was using actual money.
PROBST: All right. How do drugs actually get inside of prison? Let's watch as Valerie, Snoop Dog, investigates in this clip from A&E's "The Squad: Prison Police." (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HAMPTON: I don't have the drug source. But I'm getting ready to interview an inmate that we have a little leverage on.
I want you to tell me where you got the drugs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're asking me to snitch? All right. Well, only thing I can do is look in guild 12. That's all I'm saying.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a rock right there. That's cocaine right there.
FISHER: We caught a few small fish. We're looking for the big fish. We're looking for the source for the drugs and how they're coming in.
HAMPTON: The inmate says with the right kind of money, you can get the officer to bring you anything in that you want.
FISHER: I need to know who it is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go. Go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put your hands up. Put your hands right there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You stay real still. Put your feet apart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROBST: John, one of the things I liked about watching this premier was that. You busted a guard. It gave your show a lot of credibility, I thought, that you weren't trying to hide the flaws in the system.
How common is that that it's somebody that works for the prison?
FISHER: Well, it's not that common at all. Keeping in mind that we have roughly of 6,000 TDOC employees and you're talking only a percent of that number that's actually involved in the illegal activity. So, you know, we do what we can to curtail it. And that's it. I mean, we have zero tolerance on it. So we work hard to hold it down.
PROBST: Kershaun, how quickly does an inmate learn the system? If I'm new to prison, how long does it take before I know who's who and what I need to do to get what I want?
SCOTT: It doesn't take long at all. It's just a matter of getting out there and meeting people or talking to the right C.O. I think what John said was not accurate in terms of the percentage. Maybe it's accurate in terms of the percentage of the C.O.s who have been caught. But, of course, the ones who haven't been caught can't be added into that percentage.
PROBST: Fair point. And that's what a kind of what I was getting at is that I thought the show did a solid in that you weren't trying to portray like you so often see on these shows that prisons are just a disaster from the prisoner's point of view. There is the other side to that.
All right. Demonstration coming up, some of the toughest animals that prisoners are going to face. These are the dogs you don't want sniffing around your house. It's right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIMOTHY DOUGLAS, CONFIRMED CRIP: People beating over cell phones. You want to -- you want to rob someone over a cell phone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's going on? Which one of you is talking on the cell phone all day long?
FISHER: Oh, my God, you can't even imagine the problems a cell phone in prison can cause.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A cell phone is a deadly weapon. Inmates have used phones (INAUDIBLE) outside and inside the prison. Gangs rely on them to run drug operations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROBST: Jason, why are cell phones so valuable in prison?
WOODALL: They just further the inmates' ability to facilitate whatever criminal activity they're in.
PROBST: How can you make a cell phone call? Aren't those buildings so solid that there's no signal?
WOODALL: Absolutely not, with today's, you know, technology. And inmates, unfortunately, they have the phones. They're using them to, you know, arrange the deals on the outside to come in, whether it be a drug deal. We've had instances where cell phones were used unfortunately in homicides.
PROBST: Kershaun, easy to get a cell phone in prison?
SCOTT: As easy as sliding $1,000 to a C.O. That's how easy it is.
PROBST: All right. Now, Kershaun --
SCOTT: No, no, no.
PROBST: Yes? Go. SCOTT: I want to say this. A cell phone is not just used to facilitate a drug deal or carry out a hit. A lot of prisons throughout this country operate their own phone systems in which a collect call placed to a family member might be $5 to $9 a minute. Some of these people aren't making drug deals. They're just talking to their loved ones.
PROBST: So is that true, Valerie, that the prison system itself can have its own phone system and charge whatever rates they want?
HAMPTON: Well, we do have our own phone -- we do have a phone company that does the phones. But they don't charge what they want. Yes, I do agree that some of the phone calls are expensive. So, you know, they do get the cell phones so they don't have to use the phone system. But a lot of times they get the cell phone because they don't want us to monitor phone calls, because I can monitor all their phone calls but legal calls.
PROBST: John, how do you charge a cell phone? My iPhone lasts maybe four or five hours and it's out of juice.
FISHER: Cell phone charger. But it's so easy to modify the cell phone charger. You splice the wire, hook it up to something else, hook it into your TV. There's so many things.
PROBST: Jerry, it seems like what we should be doing then is taking these prisoners and putting their ideas to work to better this world. Because there are some smart guys in there.
LESTER: There are some very smart guys in there. But we got some smart guys working on eliminating the problem as well.
PROBST: Well, part of this comes down to having the dogs that can find this stuff, right, when you do a raid. With us now from Sacramento, California, Richard Subia, deputy director division of Adult Institutions in California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He is in charge of the canine search unit. Also joining us, Sergeant Wayne Conrad, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He's a trainer with the canine cell phone unit. And his four legged partner is -- is it Draco.
SGT. WAYNE CONRAD, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: Draco.
PROBST: All right, so you're going to give us a little idea how this works. I can understand finding tobacco and cigarettes and things like that. The cell phone has me baffled. I don't know what a dog would be smelling. How do you train them to find a cell phone?
RICHARD SUBIA, DEPUTY DIRECTOR, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: Well, like anything else, it has to have a distinct or a unique odor. When we first started this program, that was one of the things that we had to determine. Once we were able to determine that a cell phone did have a unique odor, the training was basically the same as any other type of detection.
PROBST: Guys, give us a sample. We set up -- I believe we set up three things that you have hidden, right? Marijuana, a phone and what else?
CONRAD: We have marijuana, tobacco and a cell phone hidden in here. And in this particular dog, he's trained for six scents. In the beginning, we just had narcotics dogs and our contraband dogs. On the contraband dogs, we use them inside the prisons only. We cannot use them for probable cause. So we decided to go ahead and add the extra odors, which was the dope. So in Draco's case, he is both contraband and narcotics.
PROBST: So send him off.
CONRAD: What he's going to do is -- the way these dogs work is they're basically looking for the toy. Brian's going to bring Draco in. You see he is all excited. He wants to search. And what he's doing is he is basically looking for his toy. Once he finds odor, he'll start either barking, scratching, or looking for Bryan and saying where's it at?
PROBST: Knocked this over here .
CONRAD: In there.
He's -- and what he's done now is he gets to play. When he alerts on something and he knows it's there --
PROBST: Show us what he found. What did he find?
CONRAD: OK. Inside I have hidden marijuana. It's a little pouch. It's got about 30 grams of marijuana in it. Look inside the pouch.
PROBST: All right. I believe you. Show us the phone. Can you find the phone? That's the one that has me --
CONRAD: He sure can. He's going to -- when the dogs search, they're going to go to the strongest odor first. So let me get this out of the equation. Otherwise, he'll keep coming back to this.
PROBST: See, guards are used to having a lot of time. They're there in charge. And on a live TV show, we don't have as much time. Go ahead. We're looking for that cell phone.
CONRAD: He's going to look for everything.
PROBST: Richard, how long does it take to train a dog like this?
RICHARD SUBIA, CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS: Well, we get these dogs -- believe it or not, most of the dogs that we get come to us from different type of rescues. We try to find these dogs that have a good drive ability. We will send them through our training course with our trainers. It's 160-hour course that they go through. Of course, that's all specific training. We also have some volume time. Draco has been one of our better dogs.
PROBST: Did he just find something there in that shoe? SUBIA: Yeah. He's found something in the shoe. We actually -- it's kind of hard in this area because it's such a small area. So we put three finds in here. If you look inside the shoe, it's actually tobacco. And this is actually a find that we actually found inside the prison.
CONRAD: Another thing we have in California that is illegal is tobacco. So we've trained our dogs not only to find cell phones but also to find tobacco. So far in the last couple months, we found probably over 300 pounds of tobacco throughout our prison system. And that's all based on the ability of our dogs to get in there and do searches inside the institutions.
PROBST: All right. You yell when he has that phone.
PROBST: Jason, what is the penalty if you get caught? You're already in prison and now you come and find that I have a cell phone.
FISHER: It can carry six years additional.
PROBST: Six years for a cell phone?
PROBST: What about a bag of pot?
FISHER: A lot less.
PROBST: So a cell phone is more -- is worth more time -- all right. We've got it. We've got the cell phone. We found the cell phone.
CONRAD: Let's see.
This is actually inmate radio. This is one of the ways they actually -- where they'll hide it. If you look and open up the back --
PROBST: There it is.
Draco, good boy. Good dog. Thank you guys for being with us. Three inmates from Arizona escaped from a prison over the weekend. Correction officers paid to keep them in jail are being blamed for allowing them to get out. How did it happen? Find out next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Control room.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go for control.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turn the cameras to zone two. Inmate altercation in progress.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Code one. Code one. Officer needs assistance. The inmate has a shank.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How did you get that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two or three people that got stuck outside.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is that a pole stick?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Somebody just got banned. Yeah!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's lock it down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All zones, lock down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had a major incident that's going on in zone two. That's a big melee. We have two inmates that have been severely stabbed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROBST: We're back talking about crimes committed inside prison. Last week, three convicted murderers cut through an open fence with wire cutters -- cutters at an Arizona prison, and escaped undetected. They were wearing orange jump suits. It's been called security deficiencies that contributed to the prison break.
Joining us now is John Webster, managing director of National Prisons and Sentencing Consultants. John, it seems crazy that three murderers could escape. How did it happen?
JOHN WEBSTER, NATIONAL PRISONS AND SENTENCING CONSULTANTS: Well, the specifics of this case I'm not really certain. But generally when it occurs in a secure facility, like in the one in Arizona, it's a result of negligence or complacency, where -- for instance, if they gotten wire cutters, every facility I've ever been in -- any facility that I've ever had anything to do with, tools like that are checked out and then checked back in. Nobody leaves that particular facility or that part of the facility until the CO counts them back in.
So if it was something obtained from that facility, that certainly suggests that there was some complacency and negligence involved.
PROBST: John, let me interrupt you. That goes back to these. I don't know if this was clear. But these pliers that I'm holding in my hand are made of wood. They come apart and they drop. What they did is they made these so that they could go into the shop and replace these and fake you guys out for just long enough to take the real pliers and cut their way through. So that's the part of what might happen in an escape, something as simple as making these could get you out of prison.
PROBST: John, how long does a typical prison break -- how long in the making might that be, months? Years? WEBSTER: For something like that, yes. In a lower security facility, believe it or not, it's usually an impromptu decision. Because many of the inmates at federal prison camps, for instance, there are no locks. There are no gates. There are no doors. They literally just walk away. They're not even called escapees at that point. They're called walk aways.
It's typically as a result of a Dear John letter -- letter from your spouse or your girlfriend indicating that they have found somebody else. And people will get upset and just walk away. So something like that usually is a spur of the moment decision.
PROBST: John -- here on the panel, John, it's got to be embarrassing for a prison to have a prisoner escape. What do you think is happening or what do you know is happening at that Arizona prison now in terms of internally discussions?
FISHER: Well, of course, first and foremost, Jason is our resident expert on escapes. But it's probably trying to figure out what could we have done to prevent it. I mean, that's always the number one issue. What could we have done to prevent it. Is there something that we need to be doing better or something that we need to look at or we need to fix, whatever the problem is.
PROBST: Jason, what's the penalty if you escape and get caught?
WOODALL: In our state, it will only get you another year. One to five.
PROBST: Why not give it a shot?
WOODALL: I can't disagree. One to five years and it depends on if they commit any additional crimes while they're out.
PROBST: How many attempts are there successful versus unsuccessful?
WOODALL: I think the successful ones are minute in comparison to those who plan or attempt. Because thanks to people like Valerie and her intelligence network and her informants, you know, we learn about these things generally far in advance of an attempt.
PROBST: John Webster, has contraband inside a prison evolved over the years?
WEBSTER: Oh, certainly. You know, one of the things that I haven't heard anybody talk about yet is that they -- I'm glad they mentioned that many inmates are very smart people. And combine their smarts with abject boredom. They have nothing to do for 24/7. And they just think of ways to beat the system.
They get their contraband in or to do something otherwise illegal, sometimes for the sake of doing something illegal. Simply to break up the monotony and the boredom. But you have some extraordinarily bright people with nothing but time on their hands. They will figure out a way to achieve the objective that they seek, whether that be to bring in drugs, to plan an escape, to hurt somebody else and what not. So, yeah, it has certainly evolved.
PROBST: John, let me ask you the same question I asked the panel a little earlier. To a lay person like me, who lives on the outside and sees these big tough buildings, it seems crazy that all of this goes on. And the uninformed guy says, how is this possible? Who is running these prisons that guys are taking dental floss, which is something I read about, and constructing a rope over years to get themselves out of a cell? That's stuff in a movie, but it's happening.
WEBSTER: Absolutely it's happening. I mean, you know, we mentioned shanks made out of newspaper. Well, they also make them out of toilet paper. Very creative. The weapons -- and I'll leave that to the other expert. But the weapons I've seen in facilities, they're truly ingenious. Evilly ingenious, but ingenious.
And, you know, it's certainly very concerning. And one of the problems I saw, as a white collar offender in prison, is that you almost become indoctrinated into that mentality of, you know, they're the good guys, we're the bad guys, let's do more bad things. That just makes no sense.
Part of it is funding, overcrowding, lack of training, lack of programming. And there's really -- rehabilitation in this country is nothing more than lip service. There is no rehabilitation that goes on in prison. I defy anybody, anywhere to tell me that their prison has a shot at rehabilitating an inmate. So that's part of the problem.
PROBST: All right, John. That is a whole other show we should do on rehabilitation. I can tell you, in the meantime, I don't typically think about committing crimes. I will not be committing any dangerous felonies anytime in the near future because I do not want to be anywhere near a prison.
Dangerous gangs are a very real part of prison life. Why can't prison officials prevent inmates from joining the gangs? We'll talk about it after the break.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People don't get stabbed randomly in a penitentiary. The serious assaults, the stickings, the robbings, the muggings, probably 85 percent of them are gang related.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got a problem. It ain't just no certain one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All they do is drugs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Catch some steal, someone put some iron in a guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PROBST: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. Jason, are gangs just unavoidable in prison?
WOODALL: I think so. I mean they're part of society now, unfortunately. They're a large part of the criminal element of society. So when you bring that criminal element of society or part of it into a prison environment, it's only natural to let that carry over.
PROBST: Jerry, what if I don't want to be in a gang. I just come in and want to live a clean life and get out?
LESTER: You -- you may not have that choice. If you choose to stand alone, you stand against many time the entire inmate population, either one gang or another. And rather than do that, then most inmates will usually choose to associate themselves with one gang or another.
PROBST: John, if I do that and I say, look, I'm new here. My name is Jeff. I really want to go with either side. I'm just going to do my time, what am I looked at as? What do they see me?
FISHER: Bait. Just bait. Because you -- a lot of time it's the weaker inmate who faces that problem. And the stronger inmates or the gang inmates are the ones who are involved in the gang activity. They look at that and they prey upon that and they prey upon the weak.
PROBST: Valerie, as scary as it sounds to us on the outside, it might actually be the best way to fit in?
HAMPTON: Yeah, because some inmates are just scared and they want to be protected. And they feel like if they get in the gang, they'll be taken care of.
PROBST: You were part of a gang I'm guessing before you got into trouble and got into prison?
PROBST: And did that carry over when you went into prison?
SCOTT: Yes, it did.
PROBST: And you say that like, yeah, of course, Jeff. That's a no brainer.
SCOTT: I mean, no. No, no. It needs to be understood that the people who I ran with in the gang were the people who I flew kites with, the people who I rode skateboards with, the people I played football with. These are the people that I gang banged with. These are the people that I eventually went to jail with.
PROBST: So this was your life and it just carried over. And a lot of the friends that you hung out with ended up in prison with you?
SCOTT: Yes. Yes. Pretty much.
PROBST: Give me your take on what you've heard tonight, because I'm feeling from you a little bit that this is a little one-sided, that this is a show about how bad the prisoners are. But there is another side from the prisoner's point of view.
SCOTT: Look, the prisoners aren't getting the cell phones in. They're not coming through the mail. They're not coming in through the visitor's center. Right? That's coming from the CO's. A lot of the drugs that are coming in, the tobacco products that are coming in, again, they are coming in by the CO's. I can recall an incident in which a guy was stabbed with a kitchen butcher knife that didn't come from the kitchen of the prison, but it came from the kitchen of someone else's house.
PROBST: John, is -- Kershaun, excuse me. John, it seems to make sense when you have this big of a system, this many people working, everybody is looking for ways to make a little extra money, and there are always bad apples in any organization.
FISHER: Absolutely. I'm not denying that a percentage of the contraband and weapons that come in are coming in by correction officers. I'm not denying that at all. But he has to be realistic also. A lot of cell phones, dope, tobacco, it comes from family members and close friends and associates of the inmates that's coming in to visit. They hide the stuff in body cavities and they do it, I mean, like religion all the time. So, you just can't place the blame on the correction officer or the dirty staff member.
Yeah, we've got those. But a lot of it comes through -- majority comes through the visitation.
PROBST: Jerry, If I'm a family member, and I go visit somebody, and I try to smuggle in a cell phone and I get caught, what's the penalty for me?
LESTER: You will be prosecuted.
PROBST: For what?
LESTER: For attempting to -- to smuggle contraband into an institution.
PROBST: I could end up in prison?
PROBST: What kind of sentence do you get for that? What's my risk?
LESTER: Well, there's a lot of factors. If you've ever had a charge before or a conviction, then you can go anywhere from one to three years for introduction. If you never have been convicted of a felony before, then you may just get parole -- or probation.
PROBST: Crime in prison. Our remaining moments with our guests right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PROBST: Let me ask the panel. Are all of you guys then considered internal affairs?
LESTER: I am.
WOODALL: Yeah, I am.
HAMPTON: And I'm the institution investigator --
PROBST: So you're not internal affairs?
PROBST: What's the difference?
HAMPTON: Well, as the institution investigator in the prison, we gather information. And some of the information that we gather, the warden will request an investigation for internal affairs.
PROBST: Where do you get your info?
HAMPTON: I get my information from inmates, by way of snitch notes, or we have a snitch line when I can monitor phone calls.
PROBST: Why would I snitch?
HAMPTON: Well, you can snitch on this line and nobody knows who you are.
PROBST: But why would I do it? To get in good with you?
HAMPTON: Get in good with me or you want something or probably just to be transferred to another institution.
PROBST: So you get the information, and then you turn it over to these guys?
PROBST: Then what happens, Jerry?
LESTER: We take it to the next level. Being commissioned law enforcement officers, we conduct the investigation. We have the ability to actually affect arrests and carry the cases through the court system for prosecution.
PROBST: When you were in prison, how often would they do a cell block raid where they lock everybody down and come look at every cell?
SCOTT: It might be once every two months, something like that. They give you an opportunity to allow you to accumulate some things, you know, so it's not a total loss when they come make the search.
PROBST: Kershaun, I've got to say, for a guy who has been in prison, you have a great sense of humor.
SCOTT: Thank you.
PROBST: John Webster, in our remaining moments, what would you change? You seem a little unhappy. Is it the rehabilitation angle?
WEBSTER: Of course I would. That's certainly not the purpose of your show tonight. But, you know, I hear about how these various items of contraband get in. People want to say the kiester bunny. I think most of the panelist know what that is. They use their body cavities to sneak things in. Not too many people put a butcher knife there.
Many of these things are coming in through staff. The big blue wall exists in prison as well. Better staff training, perhaps different ramifications would stop. Right now, tobacco is 400 dollars a pack.
PROBST: For a pack of cigarettes?
PROBST: Jon, you're shaking your head no. We're just about out of time. True or false?
FISHER: False. Absolutely false. Four hundred dollars for a pack of cigarettes is ridiculous.
WEBSTER: I can fax to you seven 302s.
PROBST: John Webster, I'll give you John Fisher's cell phone, which he will have with him in prison probably, and you guys can figure this out. Thanks to the entire panel. I liked the show. It was a lot of fun.
Larry, thank you for letting me sit in tonight. Enjoy your vacation.
It is time now for "AC 360."