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CNN Larry King Live

Saving Lives on the Inside

Aired July 23, 2010 - 21:00   ET



LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, can killers be reformed? What about other criminals who one day could be walking the streets?

JUDGE GREG MATHIS, RETIRED DISTRICT COURT JUDGE: You come back out, sicker and slicker than you were before you went in.


KING: Wayne "Dog" Chapman and Judge Greg Mathis were both locked behind bars before the system helped them.

MATHIS: I think I'm a pretty good taxpayer myself.

KING: Their message, save lives on the inside, preventing more crime on the outside.

MATHIS: I'm one of the few judges, I believe, that gets suspended (INAUDIBLE) from prisoners.

KING: Not everyone is cheering, though. The debate over prison reform next on LARRY KING LIVE.


KING: We begin with Judge Greg Mathis. He's host of "The Judge Mathis Show." He's a retired district court judge. He's launched a prisoner program called PEER, P-E-E-R, which encourages inmates to change their lives.

How did this start?

MATHIS: Well, it started from my own reflection on my own experience. Many of your viewers or those who watch my show certainly know that prior to becoming a lawyer and a judge, I was a street youth, a high school dropout, and was in jail for nine months carrying a gun, and was able to turn my life around through education.

And so I decided after seeing the overwhelming black population of prisoners who had left their sons in the inner cities to fend for themselves, which perpetuated crime, I wanted to intervene because there's a 70 percent recidivism rate. So they go right back to prison within 18 months. So I wanted to try and break into that cycle. KING: And what does PEER do?

MATHIS: Well, it stands for Prisoners Educated for Empowerment and Reform. What we attempt to do is I go in and I go and speak and encourage and inspire the prison population. Also giving them direction on how to overcome obstacles and turn their lives around.

So I'm trying to save lives on the inside, and then create public awareness on the outside.

KING: You did this just in Los Angeles?

MATHIS: No, no. We visited six prisons thus far. We went to Rikers Island. We've gone to Wayne County jail in Michigan. We've got to Fulton County in Atlanta. We've also hit the prison in Pennsylvania.

KING: Do others work with you?

MATHIS: Well, I have agencies that help with the services that we discovered they have in their community.

One of the good things that President Bush did before leaving was enact the legislation -- well, he agreed to pass the legislation that prison reform act, or for lack of a better term, and it sent hundreds of millions of dollars into agencies around the country. So we place them and assist these agencies --


KING: Are you talking to prisoners in jails and prisons or just --

MATHIS: Absolutely. Both. Jails and prisons.

KING: How did you not end up a criminal?

MATHIS: Well, unfortunately, a street youth and getting involved in the jail as a criminal, I'm not going to deny that.

KING: How you didn't end up one?

MATHIS: How was I able to overcome that? Well, it was education. When the judge ordered me to get a GED as a condition of my release.

KING: A high school diploma.

MATHIS: Correct. A general equivalency diploma. And then I left and went to college. Well, there were no thugs in college. And then I was able to obtain a productive skill, of course, as a lawyer, and then later as a judge. But it was as a result of an education. And that's why I emphasize that.

KING: You're part of affirmative action, right?

MATHIS: Absolutely.

KING: All right. Now you're giving back, trying to help young men, as we said, from lives of crime. You visit prisoners. His prison program is called, as we said, Prisoner Empowerment Education and Respect.

Let's see this in action. Watch.


MATHIS: I'm Judge Greg Mathis, and we're showing Larry King life behind bars here at California's notorious Folsom prison. I'm here to try and help show how you can uplift yourself, how you can empower yourself.

It's a lot easier coming up in the real world than it was hustling on those streets. I can tell you from experience.

Take that incremental success, a little at a time. Don't come out and get one certificate or get whatever, and think you're going to be an overnight success. You're not.

Come out with your roadmap and know that it's going to take some time. And every piece of incremental success, you're going to feel good about yourself.


KING: How -- how does it work?

MATHIS: Well, I --

KING: I mean lots of people visit prison and encourage prisoners.

MATHIS: Certainly, I --

KING: What does this do differently?

MATHIS: I go into the prisons with a -- with a number of programs that I can give to those who are intended to be released within the next year or two where they can leave the prison and go into their communities, and obtain the type of services that they need to continue their rehabilitation and education.

You know, one of the things I like about what I do is I'm focusing on rehabilitation, and it's the fiscal conservative thing to do, if you will, because --

KING: Saves money.

MATHIS: That's right. We spend $30,000 on average to house a prisoner in -- for one year. And we spend approximately $12,000 a year for them to go to a major university. To bring that home, when I was a kid and was able to go to college under affirmative action program. I had no parents so I had to get taxpayers to pay the grants that I received just as taxpayers had paid to house me for nine months in the jail. Well, they paid $30,000 to house me in jail for nine months. Only $6,000 per year for me to go to college.

Well, four-year degree, $24,000 it cost me, taxpayers had to pay for it. And it cost $30 to keep me in jail for nine months. And now of course afterwards I did not engage in criminal activity, victimize citizens, and I think I'm a pretty good taxpayer myself, helping to offset some of the taxes.

KING: You talk about rehabilitate.

MATHIS: Mm-hmm

KING: That presumes they want to be rehabilitated. Right?


KING: They're being rehabilitated.


KING: Maybe it's the wrong word.


MATHIS: Well, I believe that anyone who was born with a right mind and maintains that right mind has an opportunity for redemption and rehabilitation. Some who have mental disorders, I would not suggest that they have rehabilitation if it causes them to engage in criminal activity.

KING: How long have you been doing PEER?

MATHIS: Well, last year. For the last year I initiated that. But I -- my community center in Detroit, which I've had for a number of years, we have assisted for the last six years former ex-offenders obtained their expungements, which is what I did.

I had my record expunged after five --

KING: So it doesn't appear anywhere.

MATHIS: Correct. After five years of good conduct after release. You can have it expunged and you can actually put "no" on your application when they ask if you've been convicted of a crime.

KING: Doesn't a person -- one of the problems with the whole system is that the prisoner upon getting out has two strikes?

MATHIS: Absolutely. And that's why it's important that they get an expungement at some point. And there are some initiatives in Detroit, for example. I worked with the city council to pass an initiative where the employers can no longer ask whether they've been convicted of a crime or not. And so that's helpful in the sense that they apply without any obstacles.

KING: My guest is Judge Greg Mathis. You all know him from "The Judge Mathis Show." And this is another aspect that's terrific. Lots more, that's the whole program tonight. Prison, reform, getting out, getting better. Don't go away.


KING: We're back. Remaining with us is Judge Greg Mathis. Joining us, Duane "Dog" Chapman, the star Dog of "The Bounty Hunter," now going into his seventh season on A&E. He's also served time in the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville, for accessory to murder.

And Felicia "Snoop" Pearson, actor and author, she started the TV hit, a great show, "The Wire." She served six years in prison for first-degree murder.

Dog, you are certainly proof you can turn a life around. Did prison help you in any way?


CHAPMAN: Yes, sir. Hi, Larry.


CHAPMAN: Prison helped me all the way. I mean, I did not like it back in the '70s. Texas was the only self-sufficient prison. That means we had to raise our food, get up in the morning and work. And I -- it was terrible.

I did not want -- there was no crime that was fun enough to equal the punishment of prison. There just wasn't any. So yes, prison helped me --


KING: So the system -- the system itself rehabilitated you?

CHAPMAN: The system itself rehabilitated me because I hated -- you know, when I hit the Texas penitentiary, I was 22 years old, and the first thing they told me is there's no rehabilitation here, Dog. You're here to be punished. And you're going to work. And for 18 months I was punished.

KING: Judge, what do you make of that? Because they say punishment in and of itself doesn't work. Dog says, in his case, it worked.

MATHIS: Well, fear when punishment is involved certainly is a deterrent. But being convicted and sentenced should achieve three things. One, deterrence from crime in the future.

KING: Sure.

MATHIS: Two, punishment, and thirdly, rehabilitation because if they come back out without rehabilitation, they're going to victimize us again. They're going to go right back into prison where taxpayers are going to continue to pay for their houses.

KING: So Dog is not atypical.

MATHIS: No, he is not.

KING: Felicia, what about you? You did six years. Did prison at all -- is there any way prison helped you?

FELICIA "SNOOP" PEARSON, SERVED TIME IN PRISON FOR MURDER: Yes, it helped me in a lot of ways. It helped me to humble myself. I had a bad attitude when I was younger.

You know, I used to think, you know, things like life wasn't real, you know? And prison made me see that life is really real. You know, I started appreciating life more. Yes.

KING: So, Judge, what do you make of these? These are two people kind of -- they're saying prison helped them.

MATHIS: Absolutely. I think that prison helped them in the sense that it was a deterrent for them. And they were punished. And I think that in some sense they were rehabilitated because they made a commitment not to go back. And when they came out at some point, they became productive citizens.

KING: Why doesn't everyone do that? Who would want to go back? It's terrible.

MATHIS: Well, many of them have to return in their community to the same conditions.

PEARSON: Exactly.

MATHIS: Poverty, listlessness, despair, and a failed education system.

MATHIS: Exactly.

KING: Sorry. So, Snoop, how did you overcome that? If you go back into the same situation?

PEARSON: I mean, when I came out from prison, I try to get -- you know, I tried to work. You know, I had two jobs, you know, where they fired me because of my background. And, you know, like the judge just said, like, society just called me and I came back just, you know, probably selling drugs or whatever, trying to make money.

You know, once you come out of prison, you know, it's like they just let you go, you know? Like they give you whatever you had in your bank account and they just let you go. There's nothing else after that, you know?

And that's what I'm trying to work on now for people that's coming out -- coming out of that system into the real world that dealt with real time like 15, 20 years, you know? Let them see, you know -- let them see life for you, you know? They missed a lot of years, man.

And you can't just throw people back in the society like that.

KING: I know. Dog --

PEARSON: Because they're going -- they're going to turn around. They're going to turn around and go right back in prison.

KING: Did prison do anything -- did they ever work on reform? Did they ever try to help you be better? Or was it just the punishment that worked for you?

CHAPMAN: Well, no, and at the very last, Larry, the guards started getting nicer and, you know, started to rehabilitate me. But in the beginning, it was nothing but punishment.

And Snoop is right, there's no programs. They say, Larry, that as long as you're in prison, it takes you that long on the streets to get back. So if you do a five-year sentence, it takes you that.

And Snoop is right. Some of these guys that do 15, 16, 17 years, they're getting out in their 30s and, you know, they're lost. There's nowhere they can go. It's like putting a wild animal in a cage because he bit the mailman and then one day just opening the cage. You know that animal is going to run again.

So there's got to be -- if I wasn't surrounded by the love that I had from family, I left the area completely. I moved out to a different state than when I went to prison. If I was not surrounded by that other -- you know, I met people like Tony Robbins, Martin Sheen. I started, you know, just hanging around with those kinds of people.

Hello, Judge, and I really respect you, sir. Boy, you're a cool judge. But the judge is right, too. You've got to get out of that environment. You can't -- you can't stay in there and make it. You've got to break away from that.

PEARSON: But some --

CHAPMAN: You know I'm so proud to see a judge --


CHAPMAN: And Snoop, a judge that -- you know, and I -- let's say, Snoop, you too, you know, we changed all of us, Larry, from the ex-con to the icon. There's a judge that's been to jail. There's Snoop that was a banger and she knows what's happening.

You know, I feel -- this is the best TV show interview I've ever done. Thank you, Larry King.


KING: Let me get a break so we can pay for it. More with Dog, Snoop and the judge right after this. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


MATHIS: PEER stands for Prisoners Educated for Empower and Respect. I started this initiative to try and deliver a way out to inmates on how to empower themselves and leave prison and not return like 70 percent of those who do return within three years. The fact is, the only way out is an education.


KING: Judge Mathis's program is PEER, and we'll find out in a while how you can help and get involved.

Duane "Dog" Chapman and Felicia "Snoop" Pearson is with us.

Snoop, you killed somebody. How do you ever get over that?

PEARSON: That's something that I have to live with each and every day of my life. As long as God forgive me, you know, there's nothing else more that I can say. But if I can help change a few minds that was just like mine when I was younger. You know, so I don't know. I don't know, Larry. You know. I just take it one day at a time, man.

KING: You sure did.

Judge, do you ever deal with prisoners who were murderers?

MATHIS: Yes, I try and inspire them to change their lives while they're inside. And if they are going to be released in the future, I try and change their mindset for their release.

But, you know, my focus isn't on murderers. There are a lot less heinous crimes that we can focus in on rehabilitating for prisoners, particularly nonviolent offenses. Eighty percent of those in prison are there for drug-related crimes. Either drug use, committing a crime to get drugs, or selling drugs.

And so that's one of the areas I focus in, particularly for African-American men who make up 62 percent of the prison population.

KING: Dog, do you think about your prison time -- hold it, Snoop. Dog, do you think about your prison time a lot?

CHAPMAN: Well, yes, sir, every day. Every single day. Of course, the business I'm in now, you know, putting guys back in prison. I think about it and I remind myself how lucky I am to be, as we call it, in the free world.

And that, you know, I'm the same as the judge and Snoop. We had our first chance and blew it. We get no second chances. Our job in life is to go after people that may be heading in the way that we are and get them in another direction. That's the only way that we can forget the crimes that we've committed is by helping others. So that's our calling. And that's what where -- pardon the pun -- we're stuck with. But every single day, every -- I've never -- you know, I may forget my birth date every once in a while, but I'll never forget my prison number, never.

KING: Snoop, how did you come -- how were you able to come off drugs, Snoop?

PEARSON: Come off -- I never was on drugs, Larry.


KING: Oh, you just sold them?

PEARSON: Yes, I just sold them. And I learned from my mother. That was my example right there. Because when -- I almost died three types in the hospital, you know, and it was because of my mother was getting high.

So, you know, like, I've never -- I never even tried it. I just sold them. And I know I was wrong for selling them, but I never tried them.

KING: Did you -- how did you -- did you have trouble getting work when you got out of prison, Snoop? How did you get a job?

PEARSON: Yes, I went through a temp agency and, what, they fired me because, you know, my background. And this is what I want to say to the judge.

How you doing, Judge Mathis?

But, you know, the programs that's in prison, you know, we have, like, the same programs that help them in prison, like, I'm trying to get something in Maryland, like once they get out, that program that they was in in prison, it could be the same program that they can fall back into when they come to society. When they come out to society.

You know? And it starts there, too. You know, like don't just stop because -- don't stop because you're in prison and you come home. You know, keep going. You know? Just keep going.


PEARSON: You got to help yourself first.

KING: Let him comment.

MATHIS: Snoop made a big point, and that's what they do in many cities. The Second-Chance Act was the legislation that was passed that Bush signed into law and it provided hundreds of millions of dollars to agencies around the country. And that -- those are the agencies that help ex-offenders and there are agencies as well that deter folks from becoming criminals. And one of the things that we do in our community center -- the Mathis Community Center in Detroit -- is to prevent and to rehabilitate on that --

KING: Do you think society believes in second chances?

MATHIS: For the most part, many do. Others --

KING: Verbalize it, maybe.

MATHIS: Yes, they may not verbalize it.


KING: Snoop, thank you. We'll be back in touch. Great girl, Snoop.

PEARSON: Everybody, thanks.

KING: Dog will remain with us. And we'll be back with Sharon Tate's sister and a criminal profiler next.


KING: We're back with Judge Mathis, the founder of PEER, and Dog Chapman.

Joining us now, Debra Tate. Her sister, Sharon Tate, who I had the honor of interviewing, was murdered by the Manson family.

And Pat Brown, the criminal profiler and author of "The Profiler: My Life Hunting Serial Killers and Psychopaths."

All right, Debra, you're a victim, family victim of crime. How do you approach this whole system of rehabilitation?

DEBRA TATE, MANSON FAMILY MURDERED HER SISTER, SHARON: Well, actually, Larry, it's a surprise to most people, but I do believe in rehabilitation. There are sociopaths and psychopaths that definitely -- and sexual predators that need to stay behind bars forever, but there are a lot of people that don't fall into that category and we definitely need to set in place systems to rehabilitate.

KING: One of the people who killed your sister recently was denied parole for, like, the 170th time.

TATE: Correct.

KING: I interviewed her once in prison. She seems like she's totally -- would you release her?

TATE: Most sociopaths do on brief encounters. Even -- I was privileged to find out recently that the psychological evaluations on people such as the Manson family is only a one-hour interview with a psychiatrist. And that is what they base everything on. You couldn't possibly know what a person is like with a brief encounter. KING: So you wouldn't let her out?

TATE: No, absolutely not.

KING: She almost is the most popular person in that prison.

TATE: Yes.

KING: All right, Pat, are the people you deal with different?

BROWN: Yeah, I'm going to agree with the statements that if they're psychopaths, violent psychopaths -- not just necessarily con men -- but violent psychopaths and sex predators, serial killers, serial rapists, these are the kind of people that are not safe back in society. And they've committed such horrendous crimes that there's no excuse to let them back in society.

In other words, for the safety of society and for punishment, they don't deserve to ever see the outside again. And one of the problems we have sometimes with these kind of guys, when you start giving them the psychological exams and you give them the education in prison, is that they use the system so well -- they're so manipulative, they'll convince you that oh, that's my old way of thinking; now I have a new way of thinking.

No, you don't. You crossed over a line and brutally raped women. You haven't really changed that kind of mindset.

KING: What do you think of Judge Mathis' program, though, of dealing with those prisoners who don't come into that description you just gave?

BROWN: Right. Well, I agree with the judge in some of the ways. I think incrementally, yes. I think you have to find a way to help these people move to the outside. I think they need to pay back society. I think they need to work within society. Like when they come out, I think they need to pay for part of their rehabilitation, so that it's not just a free ride that they're getting. They're actually paying back to society and paying back the victims they took advantage of.

And I have to mention this thing about expungement. I kind of disagree with that. When you expunge a record, that means you lie to society. You're telling a person to go into a job and when they ask you, did you commit a crime, you put "no" down, you're a liar. That's not a good citizen. We have the right to know if a person has been through the system. We have that right. But they should have a way to come out as well.

KING: Let the judge respond. I got you.

MATHIS: Well, the individual isn't lying. The politicians that passed the law -- elected officials in the legislature have passed the law stating that. So adhering to the law is not lying.

BROWN: If they ask you if -- if they ask if you've committed a crime and you say no, you're lying.

MATHIS: Excuse me, excuse me, excuse. Not if the elected officials have voted --

KING: It's still lying.

BROWN: You're still lying. I wouldn't want to be put in the position to lie.

KING: Pat, let him finish.

MATHIS: Well, then an expungement, for the most part, is just that. It takes it off your record, so it's no longer on your record.

KING: So you can get a better job.

MATHIS: Correct. And the purpose of which is that.

KING: Dog, what do you think of that?

CHAPMAN: You know, I used to put we'll discuss. You're not going to get a job. You're not going to get an apartment. You're not going to get nothing. So if you go in there and say yeah, you know, I was convicted of murder, but I was just standing there; I didn't do it, they're like see you. You try to pick up a girl and meet her father and, you know -- there's a lot of things you'll have to tell a white lie about.

If you're honest, OK, I was convicted but my life is changed now; I've got five babies to feed, people -- society does not accept that, and we don't expect them to. So, you know, the judge has got --

KING: Debra, what do you think?

TATE: I do believe that expungement is a necessary tool in a nonviolent offender, absolutely. But society will not give them a break if they are aware of that. And the whole purpose is to get them educated and back into the work force, where they can pay taxes and become normal functioning individuals.

KING: Well said. Pat, if they can't get a job, they're going to be criminals again, aren't they?

BROWN: That's true. As I said, I believe in an incremental approach of bringing them into society, where they come out; they do time working in -- you know, work for society, getting educated. And people record this and help them back in by showing a good record over a period of time. I would hire somebody if I saw them go through a program like that. Yes, he committed a robbery back whenever, but in the four years he's been out, he's worked with this program; he's done all this; he's paid back the victims, and been educated. I would give him a chance.

But the problem is you can't just walk out of prison, go to a job and say, you know, I just got out; I just burgled a bunch of houses but I'm a safe guy. People have the right to hire people they feel safe and comfortable with. That's our right. And we have the right to know who we're dealing with. So I think we should put them through an incremental system that will them get back to society in a good way.

MATHIS: I don't disagree with the incremental approach. In fact, that's what I advise prisoners when I go in and speak to them, letting them know incremental success is what they need to experience to enjoy a productive life.

On the other hand, once again, returning to expungements, you have to wait five years of good behavior, no arrests or convictions, before you're even eligible for that. And certainly five years is enough time to determine whether someone has been rehabilitated enough and therefore deserving of a second chance without obstacles.

KING: This puzzle -- Dog, maybe you have a thought. If prison is supposed to work, why do so many people go back?

CHAPMAN: Well the reason they go back is they cannot get a job. I don't think anyone really likes it. And when you go out with so many -- and I'm not saying you change these laws, but have you ever been convicted? I could say like this: OK, my record was expunged; I did five year; I've been good. They're not going to give you a job. You're not going to get that.

Let me tell you this: the other day, I was out fishing, Larry. I met three guys. Two of them had done 16 years for murder one in the state of Colorado and had discharged those sentences. They run a business today called Dog Gone. They hunt down prairie dogs in Colorado and they dispose of them. I mean -- and the guy was as happy as could be.

I looked at him and I was a little, you know, cautious. And I'll probably see him again as I approached him. And, you know, I wouldn't give him a job either. I mean, I wouldn't give the job. And if he had said -- once he said I was convicted of murder, Dog, I was like oh, God, and I was shaking his hand. All I could do was say God bless him.

I agree with everyone. The severity and nature of offense -- if you -- you know, God help you, if you kill someone in a fit of rage and you don't really mean to and it's second degree murder, you may deserve a second chance. If you go in -- and I'm sorry, ma'am, about your family -- like the Mansons who should have been executed, and do horrendous murder crimes like that, they should put an end to your life right there. There's no rehabilitation.

But we as a society need to work out. A lot of these people also is they got caught. There's a lot of guys that do it and don't get caught. So everybody, you know, has been in trouble and are good people. They just didn't get caught. We as a society need to help get these guys back into society.

KING: Pat, are female prisoners different coming back than males? BROWN: Well, I think there's a tendency for female prisoners to be, generally speaking, less violent. So when they come out, if they commit crimes -- if they're going to commit crimes again, less violent crime. But they still can be very manipulative and very psychopathic.

So I really agree. It depends on what they've done, whether they deserve that second chance and whether we can trust them with that second chance.

KING: All right, let me get a break and we'll be right back. Don't go away.


KING: Debra Tate, what do you think of the payback idea? That you don't just get out but you pay back victims?

TATE: I do believe in paying back the victims. Many, many years ago, my mother implemented a program where we would go into the prisons and speak to very violent offenders.

KING: Explain what happened to her daughter?

TATE: Pardon? And explained what happened to her daughter. Not only that, but explain how it affects the family and how many different ripples it creates in the pond. And we had people that did get out and went and devoted their entire life to serving the widow of the man that they killed.

KING: Pat, is the whole situation, the criminal, the return, the prison -- is it getting any better? Have we seen -- someone once told me, a psychologist years ago, said the prison system is the failure.

BROWN: Well, Larry, I think the prison system is a failure because we're either too lenient or too harsh. We're confused over why people are there and what we need to do with them. In the whole system what we forget is the victim. We never hear about the victim. I think, to me, until you rehabilitate the victim and the victim's family, you don't deserve a second chance.

And if we went that route, then we could easily determine -- hey, if you're a serial killer, you can't rehabilitate anybody, so you're done. If you're a robber, maybe you can come out and you can help that family, give them all their money back, show them you're a safe person in society, make everybody feel good again. You've got hope there. And put them in the kind of programs that will help them do that.

But I think we have to remember the victims and not just say, well, let's focus on the guy giving him a chance. The victims, meanwhile, are in therapy and paying for it themselves. They've lost their job over the tragedies they've gone through. And the community is terrified and they've lost lots of money. And nobody does anything with them.

MATHIS: I don't think we're disagreeing on that either. You know, restitution is the form of financial repayment that all judges order now throughout the country. There is a new movement afoot called restorative justice, where the perpetrator or the convict meets with the family if the family so desires, so that that convict can understand the destruction he has caused -- he or she has caused to that family. And the family can get a sense of what has happened.

BROWN: No, no, wait a minute here. Wait a minute, Joe. One of the problems with that restorative justice is they do that in place of punishment, which is what disgusts me. They should get -- they should pay their time in jail first and then have to do the restorative if they want to go back to society. Not a replacement of that.

MATHIS: That's not true. It's not a placement for punishment. They receive this towards the end of their service, when they're about to be released. That's not true at all, Larry.

KING: Dog, do you think the prison system is a failure?

CHAPMAN: Well, you know, I think that -- Larry, that -- a prison is for violent offenders. People that are selling drugs -- like the judge said, 70 percent -- is that right, judge -- of the prison population is full of drug addicts and drug offenders? That's terrible.

And again, we're paying thousands of dollars a year to keep them there. I would rather have them cleaning the beaches and the parks, if they're going to punish them. Now, murderers, violent offenders, men that hurt women and children, women that kill other women or men -- there's no chance to rehabilitate a person that has taken someone's life and liked it. That's it. They're all done.

BROWN: Well said.

KING: Do you think a drug user should go to jail?

TATE: I think that there's a possibility that they can be deprogrammed, that they could go through detox --

KING: In a prison?

TATE: In a prison, yes, for a short time. I think it's important to lock them away from society, so that they can get clean. And then while they're getting clean, work on the psychological aspects that made them a drug user in the first place.

KING: You don't disagree, Pat, with the judge having this pear system of trying to help people come out, do you?

BROWN: No, not at all. I think that is a necessity. What bothers me is sometimes we're confused over who deserves it and who doesn't. I would like to see -- one thing I would like to see a change in the prison system is I would like to see it not reflecting -- for those who are not murders, in my opinion, can just go break rocks, the ones who are unrepentant.

But the ones who are in there for other kinds of crime, they shouldn't be in a system that looks just like the criminal neighborhood they came out of, where they're lifting weights and forming gangs. To me, they should be in a more monastery system, which is very, very peaceful, where they don't have any of those options. They change their whole mind and way of thinking, get more education.

KING: Judge, how do people learn more about Pear?

MATHIS: Well, they can call or go on the Internet and visit Or they can call the Mathis Community Center in Detroit.

KING: Thank you so much. Good seeing you.

TATE: Thank you so much, Larry.

KING: Best of luck to you, Debra.

He spent years at San Quentin, now he's here. The man who knows everything about one of America's most notorious prisons and the convicts serving time there joins our panel next.


KING: Vernell Crittendon is a former public information officer at San Quentin. He runs a youth intervention program called Real Choices. All right, Vernell, what do you make of this whole discussion and Judge Mathis' program of helping people when they're coming out?

VERNELL CRITENDON, FORMER PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, SAN QUENTIN: Judge Mathis, it's good to be able to talk with you and I commend you for your program. But, you know, I would like to set a few things on the record. Larry, we -- you and I, on June 6, 2006, you came out to San Quentin, when I had eight men that came on to your show to talk with you. Those eight men represented people that were associating with white gangs, Latin gangs, people that were associating with African-American gangs. All of those men were involved with the taking of human life.

Well, today, three and a half years later, now you have five of those eight men that have been released from the prison, and are doing well back in society again. Actually, I have a program where we go out and we recruit previously incarcerated. I have over 800 that are now attending college.

So rehabilitation is something that does occur. And I called it rehabilitation because we weren't born criminals. This is a product of their environment that changed their behaviors. And research has indicated, Larry, that a cognitive behavioral model is the most successful model for transforming life -- human lives. And also education is something that's critical to putting them on a pathway to becoming a part of this work force in a productive manner.

KING: Pat, you do believe in redemption, don't you? You do believe that people can change? BROWN: It depends on whether they're not totally violent psychopaths. A lot of the violent psychopaths we have that are serial killers and serial rapists, they aren't having problems getting a job. They just like killing people and raping people. They're also the kind of people that don't need to be coming out.

Now when we're talking about gang situations, sometimes that's almost just a cultural thing, where that's what you're born into and that's what you see around you. That's what you think is the thing to do. It's kind of like being in a war zone. Those kind of people I believe -- as long as their -- their crimes are kind of within that segment. In other words, they're not serial killers going out and killing women on the streets, but they're gang bangers or whatever they're involved in. They're living with that culture, just like people in a war zone.

So I think if you get them out of that type of culture and you give them a different kind of culture, those may not be unrepentant psychopaths. Those are somebody who said, wow, yes, that's all I ever knew. Those people I think there's hope for. But the other kind -- we've got to learn -- as I say, we've got to learn to segment what's worth working with and what is -- we need to keep out of society.

KING: -- them out, do we, judge?

MATHIS: We shouldn't. In most cases, we do not. Sociopaths, violent murderers and rapists, yes, they do.

KING: They get out?

MATHIS: Yes, they do. They are sent back into our community and I'm with Pat there. Particularly if they have a psychological or mental illness, they certainly should not be released back into society.

But one of the things I want to make an observation is about is that going into prison has a real affect on leaving. In other words, when you go in and you're less educated -- 80 percent have no GED or high school diploma. There were no jobs in your community. They're full of poverty, drugs and despair. You go in, you get no training, you get no education. You come back out thicker and slicker than you were before you went in, and you victimize the community the same way.

KING: Dog, would you agree with that?

CHAPMAN: I agree. I like that, thicker and slicker. I, of course, was there. I met a kid that came in that didn't do hardly anything. When I left, he said, Dog, I'll take it from here. Instead of learning how to shoot the lock off, you learn thousand pick it. It's a training field for felons.

KING: Vernell, you have seen the worse at San Quentin. That's true, isn't it? They come out smart e criminals?

CRITTENDON: I think that it depends what you do with them while they're inside. That's why I say you'll find that research has clearly identified that when you are exposing them to a cognitive behavioral model, that you're going to find that you change the way they think about themselves, their personal and community experiences.

I think that Judge Mathis struck the nail on the head. That is that what our society has created is we've created these environments within our larger cities, and now it's spread to our suburbs, where we are raising people up in a dysfunctional; community. They have no jobs. Where are all the liquor stores located? In these depressed communities.

So, therefore, these people resort back to drugs and alcohol abuse. Often you are going to find that most of the people that are in prison are third generation or more in their families of incarceration. Their fathers, their grandfathers were in prison. You have to break that cycle for them as society. You can't just say they don't deserve another chance.

KING: Well said. Back with more after this.


KING: All right, we have a few moments remaining. Pat, are you optimistic things can get better?

BROWN: I do hope so. But I do think we have a problem with our court system. That is we're -- I think that we have all of these guys committing crimes who are not going to prison at all and not getting rehabilitated either. In other words, they commit crime after crime, probation, probation, probation.

It's kind of like a little kid, where you say, oh, you can't break that rule. But when you break the rule, OK, you don't have to stand in the corner. They get jaded to the point they think the whole system is so stupid. Then they think they can get away with it.

We see these guys with that record an arm long. We say, how the heck did they get out so many times and keep victimizing the community? Clearly, we're not doing our jobs. We either have to put them away or we have to find a way to rehabilitation them and not just let them run wild.

KING: Vernell, are your optimistic or pessimistic?

CRITTENDON: Larry, I have over 800 previously incarcerated people that I have recruited. I recruited a young lady just recently that was living in the car with her infant child in East Oakland. Three years later, after we recruited and enrolled her into college, she was just accepted, as she graduated with her AA degree this June -- she's now been accepted and will be starting in August at Cal- Berkeley.

So I know that we can transform them, if we invest the time and the effort to give these people an opportunity.

KING: Well said. Dog, what do you think? CHAPMAN: You know, again, I'm living the life. I'm living the experience. I think, Larry, we've filmed 200 shows right now with A & E and 45 percent of the people that have been a victim of the show or a victim of Dog have got jobs. The other 60 are either still doing time or breaking the law. But they got jobs. They were humiliated on television. Everyone in the neighborhood knows who they are. They're surrounded by love by the people. You know, Phillip, you need a dollar today? Do you have a job?

I got a call the other day from a guy that said, Dog, you ruined my life of crime. You put me on TV. No matter where I go, they know who I am. I think with communities getting in there and helping these guys, there is a chance, and I know that. I'm a product of that chance. But we've got to show these brothers and sisters, you've got to take that chance. When someone gives it to you, you've got to take it.

And again, it all boils down to love. If you can love that person back into being a human, he just went to prison, was next to the gates of hell. If you can love him and put up with him just a little bit, I think that we -- you know, there's a chance for these guys. Yes, I do.

KING: Judge, how can you get around all of these prisons and do a TV show?

MATHIS: First of all, I think there is a possibility for improvement, if our policy-makers and our elected officials go in an enlightened direction, meaning in the front side of life, educate young people, because 80 percent, as I said, have no GED or high school diploma. Then, once they're in, require, before they're released, that they have a skill or some type of education before they're released back into society to run roughshod over us. And it's cheaper and it's more tax efficient to educate them than -- and rehabilitate them than to just incarcerate them.

KING: How are you treated when you come to these prisons?

MATHIS: Well, oddly enough -- oddly enough, I'm one of the few judges, I believe, that gets a standing ovation from prisoners.

KING: Judge is not the most popular person in a prison.

MATHIS: No, sir.

KING: Thank you all very much. Vernell, great seeing you again. Vernell Crittendon, the former public information officer, San Quentin. And Pat Brown, the book is "The Profiler, My Life Hunting Serial Killers and Psychopaths." Duane "Dog" Chapman, now in his seventh year on A & E. And Judge Greg Mathis, host of the "Judge Mathis Show," retired district court judge, and the founder of Peer. Thanks for joining us.

Anderson Cooper and "AC 360" is next.