Action News is on the yard at Corcoran State Prison

October 1, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Action News takes you inside prison walls to see what life is like for inmates at Corcoran State Prison.

For the first time since Corcoran State Prison opened, the media were allowed inside, beyond the barbed wire for a tour inside this institution.

Newly-appointed warden Connie Gipson held a rare press tour inside Corcoran State Prison's Security Housing Units, or SHU to see where some of the state's most violent offenders are held.

Gipson said, "People have this picture of a dark and gloomy place and just miserable to be there and when you go over there it's just a regular housing unit."

Officers asked Action News South Valley Reporter Jessica Peres to put on stab proof vests which is required in this area of the prison.

After the vest was secured, we walked past the outside area of the SHU -- where inmates get roughly an hour a day of outdoor time in secured cages.

Johnny Thomas, serving 18 years for a domestic violence charge, says he sometimes gets into fights.

Thomas told ABC30, "I see a lot of gang violence I see that that mentality forces some people to have to fight even if they don't want to fight nobody."

Prison officials say most of the inmates in the SHU are part of large prison gangs. Each has access to books and a window in their cell. Still, many use their time to they make weapons from anything they can find.

A prison official explained, "Some of these weapons are actually just made from a plastic trash bag."

Inside a typical cell for an inmate who may just be arriving at Corcoran State Prison are a mattress, clothes, and bedding. A cup and spoon is also provided for the inmate.

On the yard where the general population of inmates is held, inmates segregate themselves according to race or gang affiliation.

During our visit, an alarm went off signaling a possible security breach or violent attack. All inmates were ordered to lie on the ground. It turned out to be a false alarm.

Inside, Kareem Starkes, 39, tells us he's serving a 60-year sentence for attacking a peace officer, cocaine sales and burglary. He says there are opportunities to better themselves, when the funding's available.

Starkes explained, "When there are no programs available then it's just like hey you got guys standing around it would be just like the streets you got guys in impoverished communities standing around doing nothing you know nothing begets nothing."

Jon tue Anderson added, "Reading I spend my time reading and studying try to better myself but I don't feel comfortable here this is prison this is not a comfortable place."

Prison officials hope this tour gives the public an inside view and perhaps shed some light on what really goes on inside Corcoran State Prison.