Friday, January 11, 2008

Louis' Lock In: A Short Stay In San Quentin

Update: you can watch the program online here at the BBC, you might want to bookmark the page, the Beeb runs all kinds of stuff from the last seven days.

When Louis Theroux went to San Quentin prison he found a bizarre self-contained society where "straight" men fall in love, gangs are divided along strict racial lines and an inmate can be assaulted for the most minor mistake.

On a sunny day last summer I passed through a metal detector, entered a portcullis-like gate (called a "sally port") and walked into one of America's oldest and most notorious prisons, San Quentin.

I was chaperoned by one of the guards - for security purposes - not to mention a three-person camera crew - for documentary purposes. But I still had butterflies in my stomach.

I'd be doing a 10-day "hitch" for my programme. The idea was to get a glimpse inside the strange, secret world of hardened offenders and the lives they lead "inside".

I'd been warned about the risks involved: we were to stay together as a group at all times; no wandering off. If one of the team had to use a toilet, we would all wait.

Among the odd requests was that I couldn't wear blue - no jeans, no denim shirts - because it was too similar to the uniforms of the lifers. In prison, the clear distinction between the people doing time and those just visiting is paramount - assuming you want to make it out alive.

Never having been to prison before more

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