Steve Hill Featured

Former Security Guard and Atheist Activist Steve Hill on the Prison System

October 03, 2019

How humane are prisons in the U.S.? And what is their purpose – to punish or to rehabilitate?

This is part one of a two-part series that dives into the prison system, what it looks like from the inside, how it destroys the lives of black and brown folks who have been overpoliced and put into the prison system at higher rates than other demographics for decades, and the work being done to counteract that system.

After a field trip to a California state prison, Jim Underdown spoke to Steve Hill about his frank experiences as a prison security guard and what he thinks about the future of the prison system. Steve Hill is an atheist activist, Comedian politician, a former marine, and former prison security guard who worked in the California penal system as a prison guard for ten years.

What was that great music you heard?

“Wahre” by Blue Dot Sessions / CC BY-NC 4.0

“Building the Sled” by Blue Dot Sessions / CC BY-NC 4.0


Welcome to another edition of Point of Inquiry. I’m today’s host Jim Underdown recording live from the secular sacristy at Center for Inquiry West in Los Angeles in June of this year. I had about 30 or 40 other people took a bus up to the medium security prison in California city, California. 

And we were judges in a pitch competition held with a bunch of inmates at that facility where they came up with business ideas and pitched it to us judges. 

We analyzed and scored those pitches and narrowed the field and announced winners at the end of the day. It was an enlightening experience, to say the least. We’re gonna talk to two different people with unique perspectives about the penal system. The first is Steve Hill, comedian and atheist activist, former Marine and former prison guard who worked in the state of California penal system as a guard for 10 years. We’ll get Steve’s perspective on prison life and rehabilitation and punishment. Thanks for tuning in. This is point of inquiry. 

Steve Hill is here. Hello. Thanks for having me. Thanks for having me. 

So, first of all, let’s just let the audience know a little bit about you, like. Where are you from originally? 

Okay. I’m originally from St. Louis, Missouri. Born on the north side, Europe is in north side of St. Louis. 

I have been to. Is it not. Not Nob Hill. Something. What’s the Hill call? 

That’s not a north side of St. Louis. No. But I know what you talk. It was it was an attack on the Irish mafia. Yeah. The north side is basically where they confine black people to live at the north side. Very, very, very long lasting ghetto area. Is it a segregated cities? Yes. Yes, it is. Yes, it is. It’s. Yeah. You know, before they built the Gateway Arch and that thing down on the riverfront, the westward expansion, Jefferson expansion, they had a lot of black folks live down on the riverfront because they would unload the barges and ships coming up and down the Mississippi River. Yeah. So in order to do that project that they started, I think in the late 50s, they moved a lot of blacks out into North County and all on the north side of St. Louis. They had some on the south side Prewett IKO projects, but for the most part, they put a freeway. Thing is that to 70 and they divided up the neighborhoods. Yeah, I left St. Louis in seventy nine, joined the United States Marine Corps. 

Oraa stationed at Camp Pendleton. But the majority of my time in the Marine Corps in Southern California. 

I got out from a Barstow Marine Corps logistics base in Barstow, California, went to Los Angeles, worked in aerospace industry, the CSC computer numerical control machinist. But I kind of got bored with that and decided I want to do something a little bit more exciting. So I went and joined the California Department of Corrections. 

I got to tell you, that’s an unusual way to find excitement, but I could imagine that it would be, yeah, away. 

Trust me, there’s some very exciting days in California’s state prison. Where were you? You were a prison guard. 

Yeah. Yeah. I started off at a CCI. Which is California Correctional Institution at Tehachapi. And then I transferred, I think in ninety three to CSP C, which is California State Prison, Los Angeles County, which is the only state prison found within the bounds of Los Angeles County. That’s where I retire from. 

And so how do you get to be that? I mean, do you deserve to. It’s got to be some kind of training involved. 

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. You go to a regular academy just like, you know, you’re a peace officer. You have to pass the post exam. Peace officer standards and training. And you go to the academy and you learn law. You learn about how to secure the safety and security of the institution. That’s your only job, is the safety and security of the institution and everything that falls within that scope of employment. But yeah, this there’s training and but the best part you get on the job training. Yeah. I imagine. Yeah. Yeah. Even at the academy we went to. Folsom State Prison, Mule Creek State Prison. 

And at the time, they had old Folsom and New Folsom. So we went to both of those and we did our training. You know, kind of breaking you in, getting used, you know, I can still remember the first time walking up to a cell door. And seeing two eyes right there at the door, looking back out at me. It’s like a feeling that you have to get used to because I don’t think humans were meant to be caged up like that. Is locks, bars or. No, go ahead. And this was this was New Folsom. So they just had a. Glass window in the sale door, about six inches wide, but 24 inches long. But a day it takes some takes, some getting take, some getting used to. But, you know, a lot of my Marine Corps training kicked in and kind of carried over. 

And also, what’s the. Well, you know, you have to have a you use your at your command voice to where you bring your voice up from your diaphragm and get you know, people pay attention and you just it’s a macho. It’s a macho, you know, situation. Let’s let’s keep the perspective. You’re an inmate. I’m an officer. I’m wearing a badge and. 

You know, you get used to it. You get used to it. You don’t want to show too much weakness or you can’t. 

Now, you can’t show any weakness. You can’t show them. But there may be even an inkling of an opening for you to be manipulated because that’s what inmates do, they find out how to manipulate you. And that’s why they stress that officers do not become over familiar with the inmates. 

So they don’t want you getting too too friendly, too chubby. 

And then the next thing you know, you’re bringing in contraband. You’re, you know, to this drugs, haircare products, mascara, any anything like that to, you know, keeps keeps the offices straight, keeps everybody playing their position, basically. 

So what level of of facilities are these places that you were in? 

Well, I work at Tatta P. There were. Matter of fact that both institutions I worked at, they were all four levels of security minimum. 

Level one, level two, which is median. 

And then you had A for A and for B maximum security all in the same facility. 

All the same facility. So the different. Security levels in various prisons are generally. Associated with the level of crime you do and your threat as a right, as an inmate. Right. 

So that the worse more violent crime is, the higher higher level of security, higher security risk, higher escape risk. And, you know, that’s why during the reception center, all the inmates there are assigned to a counselor and the counselors are the ones that calculates their risk level. So it’s that I by a stand by a point system now at some point. Even those maximum level security level inmates, because they’ve done so much time where they had no adverse action in their records. You could you could lower your level of custody if you’ve been a good right. You’ve been a good and you know, I had some murderers on the level one yard at Tehachapi. Murderers. Level one. But they’ve stayed clean. Dead a stage play. They’ve proven themself. They’ve demonstrated that they’re not a risk to staff or institution. 

So so it’s not necessarily the crime itself that it might be. 

But now said yes. Now some can never they can only go down so far, especially depending on your centavo, you’re doing life without the possibility of parole. You know, you’re never easy and you may be a level three. Yard. But you’re not going down to level two or level one just because of the nature of your fence. Because you’re always going to be considered as you are. Yes. Something like it. OK. If you had the capacity to do that. It went time. You’re only going down so far. As far as your level of security. All right. 

Just talking about the types of prisons and general talk about the difference between public and private prisons and maybe pros and cons, if you other. 

Well, the biggest difference to me is for the state prison. You have more more rules, regulations. You have well-trained union officers. Well, well-paid. You know, they have an advocacy. You know, they have the union, California Correctional Peace Officers Association. And for the private prisons, just like anything else that’s privatized, there’s usually lower pay because the people at the top are skimming that labor. And that’s why unions will always be a good thing, especially as it relates to our peace officers. But I don’t think there should be any any for profit prisons, period. 


And a lot of like New York state has just done away with their whole private prison system. It seems inhumane to me for someone to to to make a profit. Off of someone else’s disadvantage in life, like if you had no education, you had no hope you had. And you all of sudden you’re an inmate. And now there’s there’s gonna be somebody to come in and actually monetize your your bad situation that you found yourself. 

I mean, it’s it’s inhumane to me to for it to be to their financial benefit. Yeah. More the better and the more the merrier. 

Because now you’re going to. Right. You’re gonna have judges getting paid to incarcerate people. And those people usually look like me. You’re going to have prosecutors with that. They get kickbacks and benefits and anything. You can imagine that that corrupts the system. And usually money corrupts the system. Anything you can imagine, you’re gonna have people trying to get inmates to go to that direction, other private prisons, because one thing they need to keep running. One thing that’s absolutely essential is inmates. Right. 

And they got to come from somewhere in California. Do you have any idea how many private prisons there are now? 

I know Gavin Newsom had been speaking about doing away with all the private prisons, which I think would be the most humane thing that a governor could do. And I hope it comes to fruition. It’s kind of an oxymoron. Private prisons within the state of California. I would think that California is much more progressive than that. I’m just hoping that we’ll do the right thing. 

Paint a little picture of like a daily life in these prisons. 

How much outside time do they typically give? What sort of freedoms do they have? How much time are they in the cell itself if they’re in a cell? 

Yeah. Well, depending on their level of custody, I know. Had to be level one and two had to be used to be a hunting lodge. They used to hunt bears. So they had these dormitories and the inmates had had rooms. They had the key to their own room, like two man room. But then you go up the security ladder, maybe maybe like a level four. You’re in a concrete cell. You got a steel toilet and two bunks. 

And if your points are low enough, you’ll get a job. You could say you like your marriage. Yeah. It’s kind of like your scoring system or what level of custody you’re going to be at. And. If you qualify, you have to pass some tests. You could get into a vocation like in Lancaster, they had a pulse stree. They had mesentery auto mechanics, teaching people how to do these teaching. And these inmates could would get really good. And not only get the training, they would get day for day. So for every day that they show up, they get a day taken off their sentence. So it would behoove them to get into any vocation they could. And, you know, it’s beneficial. That’s better, too, for whenever you go up for parole hearing, they say, oh, this you could see an eight has all of these certificates. And he he finished the auto mechanics class. He he. You put together car engine. I had a couple of car. Car engines rebuilt. They did a pretty good job. But now will someone hire them once they get out? Once they see that they have a convicted felon mark on their resumé. That’s that’s an entirely other story. 

So there are these limited programs in would you say they’re in most prisons, the house training mouse? 

Yeah, they’re there. They’re in most. And then some some prisons have P.I. A, which is a prison industry authority, where basically it’s slave labor. To be honest with you, I think the inmates it Tehachapi that they were making chairs up there for the state, you know, fabric would just like a full blown factory. You know who’s at Ashley Furniture? They had an outfit up there. 

And inmates were making, I think, the top pay number at that time and in the mid 90s was about. Thirty seven cents an hour. So basically slave wages, they were they were, they were. If you ever pay a slave, you pay them as little as possible. That’s what they did. And even the porters, the janitors and the sit do the sale blocks. I think they were getting like 16 cents an hour. Wow. Sounds like Scientology. Yeah. Yeah. Or chicken processing plant in Mississippi. Yeah. Right. Yeah. When I look back and I think about, you know, everything that I saw in California, Department of Corrections. Some was good, it was a mishmash. Some was bad. Some was like just totally inhumane. 

Did you paint a little picture? I mean, I probably didn’t get to know these guys too well, but tape paint a picture of the typical guy. How does he end up? And you be you you will be sad. Especially now you got to think about this. 

And I’ve I’ve pondered it a lot. I lived in L.A. during the 80s, crack epidemic, epidemic drugs, rampant south central Texas, where all of this, you know, straight out of Compton in Inglewood and all this stuff was really happening in the 80s with the drugs that were coming up. Thanks, Ronald Reagan. And then I go and work in prison in the 90s and a lot of these brothers and, you know, you got to have a rapport with these inmates. If not, you could wind up dead one day. But a lot of that I would talk to inmates. You know, I’m not the kind of office. I wasn’t the kind of office to would just sit in my ass on the office. I would go sail to sail. Hey, what’s up, Kominsky? How you doing? What’s going on the day you know it? Talk to you. Just because they they they crave that human connection. Communication. Talk. So I would talking a lot, took a lot of these black guys and they were like the most. Most of them were just the most average, smart, intelligent. Human beings. But because where they lived it. 

Because of the situations they come from. And we this this conversation could go forever because this goes all the way back to slavery where they didn’t want to. It was against the damn law for them to educate us. Right. And now you’ve got all of these inner city areas with no education, no hope. 

No, not much of nothing, but you get these these people, these these black people, they get stuck up in the prison system because they’re trying to eat. They’re trying to survive. 

They’re trying to live in America when every everything tells you in America. It’s all about money, money, money, success, all the materialistic bullshit. What do you have? What do you own? 

All of that, if they get caught up and find themselves prison, you know, they might sell in. We think about it now. All of these guys. That I in the lockup with selling drugs. We crack whatever weed is legal now. How many people are still in and how many people are still in? And how many black people now are actually benefiting off of the cannabis industry? I mean, do you think we would be first in line for licenses? Jobs grow, grow operations. Cultivation, distribution, distribution, consumption. 

You would think we would be. But now, I mean, I know people that that have immigrated from other countries that are that are in the cannabis industry now making money. These guys. 

And I’m I’m saying, guys, because it’s it’s mostly men in prison. 

Yeah. But are women women population increasing, also growing, too? Yeah. They say they just shouldn’t be disregarded. Yeah. They want a women’s prison in Lancaster right now. They’re pushing for one, so. 

All right. These people are they’re entrepreneurs. 

I mean, you don’t want to have a drug empire without being an entrepreneur. 

These I’ve met so many brothers that were like intelligent, smart, could hold a conversation with you about multiple multitude of subjects. It Tehachapi. And this is this is gonna this is gonna trip you out a little bit. ISIS work visiting because it was overtime position and you could sign up for. I will work visiting at the for a for a yard where there was an inmate by the name of and I won’t say his name. 

But as we get further in the story, people to know I’m talking about I don’t want to say his name because he’s not a public person. The other person I’m going to bring up is a public person and he’s in prison. So you really can’t do nothing to me right now. Shug Night is a sit in the visiting room. Oh. 

All talking to a certain inmate. And I used to watch him. He would have this grease ball looking attorney, attorney with him with this oily hair, and they would always come up and visit this one inmate. And I knew the inmate, he worked in the kitchen. We had a really good, good rapport. 

But anyways, this is this is where she might get the money to start death row records. Oh, this this inmate I’m talking about was multimillionaire from the drugs. He was one of the biggest cocaine dealers in Los Angeles. 

And the guy was brilliant, as you say. 

You have the brightest and the best. I mean, you could have like CEOs and executives, some of these inmates, that they were actually running multimillion dollar street. Drug cartels. In Los Angeles and other places in the state. But just think if if they had an opportunity to get education. Maybe wind up at USC or UCLA and channel that and have him and then go back and help everybody else in the community get education and then guess what? We can get rid of some of these damn churches. We’re wasting human resources, valuable human resources to feed an industry which is the prison industry to keep that whole industry going. Well, CCPOA is is, I think, the biggest and strongest union in the State of California. And their advocates say they would like to keep this whole thing going, collecting the dues, having a lot of political influence, but it’s an industry. 

Well, that’s an expensive one for the state. 

Exactly. Imagine imagine if they were to put all the money in the bin from the prisons into education because we’re paying for it. We’re paying for it one way or the other. It would be a lot cheaper to give these kids, these kids preschool, kindergarten, I mean, and give them lunch, give them everything they need. All right. We’ll come out of hit because correction officers are making like ninety thousand a year. 

Well, not to mention. Yeah. What? 

So, I mean, that’s what I call looting overtime. I mean, I knew officers that were raking in six figures easy every year. 

Well, I mean, it’s pretty common knowledge that it’s tens of thousands of dollars a year to keep a person in prison per year per inmate. That’s a lot of school lunches. That’s a lot of tutoring. That’s a lot a whole lot of thing. 

And that’s a lot of I mean, you can do parenting classes. 

We have a need for parenting classes because every every it seems like all the parents are so stressed out they don’t have the means or the willingness it breaks. There were two. Be really heavily involved in their kids’ academic advancement. It’s just because of the way our society is starting to break down. You know, you got the single family, single home mom and Dad’s gone someplace else and. All of these other problems, education and jobs and the income disparity. You have all of these problems, especially up where I live it, in Lancaster and Low Valley. They can’t focus on the kids education because they have just too much stress and strife going on their life, just trying to maintain a place to live. You know, the housing crisis is ridiculous. The rents here. California is out of control. So all all of this has a ripple effect. 

Well, and those are and those are the people you’re talking about, are people who are. 

Trying to make a legitimate effort. 

I mean, we heard stories from these guys that I mean, some of them, both their parents were drug addicts. Or both of more in a gang. And then never even occurred to me that both of your parents would be in a gang. And, of course, you’re going to be in a gang. Right. Your whole world from day one is gang land product of your environment. Yeah. Right. So it’s it’s it’s what’s really amazing is that people break the circle and somehow get out of it. 

Back that conversation there, because it could go a lot of different ways. Because if you think about African-Americans, we don’t have access to those. People who are in position to, like, provide some kind of assistance, knowledge, information about how to. It’s it’s troubling. It’s just troubling to me. To see how in America, sometimes it’s just simply who you know. Just like I’m a real estate appraiser. There are very few African-American real estate appraisers. To be a real estate appraiser, you have to be brought on and trained underneath another real estate appraiser. Very few, usually. Usually that. Acceptance, that willingness to train you to get your apprenticeship hours. Comes from someone that you know. 

Right, you don’t just walk right the street and say, hi, my name’s Steve. 

Right. Could you trust me when I first started my business? I tried that. And it didn’t work out very well. I was almost ready to give up until somebody told me, oh, I know this guy. You’ve got to pay him three grand. But, you know, he’ll sign your work off. You can get your partnership hours and be on your own. 

In the state of California. There’s very few of us because of that right there. You don’t know any any any. 

Big group of black real estate appraisers at Misket. This could be applied to a lot of different vocations and jobs. But if you don’t know none of these people, your chances of going that direction, taking that route and starting a viable business and my business survive the mortgage meltdown and all of it. If you don’t know how to get in as Africans, we don’t know how to get in a lot of things. Some sometimes we might luck into it. Just by knowing the right person there, somebody cell that that guy there is really trying. I’m going to help him out. I’m a I’m a good white person and God damn it. I’ll help him out, then help that you recede. That could help a family for generations. 

Because now you started a business. Your kid might inherit the business. Other people, you might you might bring in cousins that. But we’ve been kept out of so much stuff in this country. 

If you were king of the world and I know your political aspirations are heading that way, well, what are the easy fixes in the prison system right now? 

But should they be good? They should be doing more of. And what’s hurting people? All of these jobs, especially in the tech industry. Why are they training inmates as a vocation, as a career choice? Anyone that has a. Expectancy of getting out anytime soon. Trained to do computer coding. We have a lack of computer coders in the country. I mean, these are six figure jobs up in the Silicon Valley of Santo’s, a Bay Area. Kids up there, college kids making a lot of money. Why can’t you give the inmates? Who are locked up in this in their sales. 

Most of the time. 

Give them opportunity to learn. Jobs have careers that are actually needed right now. And in the future and in the future, I mean, computers are not going away. 

Trump would say you could teach him how to be coal miners or maybe drive horse and care. 

How does how does taxi drivers doing right now at all? These Uber lifts are running around. 

Yeah. So training inside. Training. What else? 

Inside training. They need to acknowledge that we have a true problem with the recidivism rate. And that’s inmates going back to prison because a lot of these guys mandate they they come. They don’t really have a. A platform for success. Once they get out. Right. They should have better, better programs. They should have, you know, even at some of the biggest companies, take a percentage of those inmates. Take a small percentage. But if you spread it out through, you know, through all of the industries and companies, businesses take a portion. That’s that’s a segment of our society. These guys are still human beings. They’re not animals. Lot of these guys are intelligent, smart, like we spoke to. Receptive to learning new things. 

So program on the outside for hiring and. 

Yeah. Right. Incentivize incentivize these companies and businesses tell. We’ll give you a. So could the fifty thousand dollar tax credit for every. Convicted felon, you hire and train and get him to be a, you know, a viable, successful part of your business, a cheaper than keep a man in the can. Exactly. Exactly. He would give me half of that. Right. You’re probably going to come out, like Trump would say, winning. You’re gonna be so sick and winning. Yeah. But, you know, I think as a society, as a human being, we owe people. 

A second a second chance, specially here in America, it is worth. 

Were you supposed to get these second chances? 

Well, yeah. 

I mean, this is part of it, too, because, I mean, I’ve I’m not going to get into details, but I’ve committed crimes. I didn’t. 

I got caught once or twice. But if I would have been caught doing something serious, I would have had access to a decent lawyer. 

I probably it just the results wouldn’t have been the same as if I were a poor kid. Yeah. Mean, poor area. 

I mean, that’s a whole nother. That’s a whole. That’s a whole nother. And I, I speak about this. We have two different justice systems, one for people with money and influence. And one for everybody else and that one for everybody else is the one that feeds the prison industry, right? After after working at a prison for 10 years and seeing all of these black man. Who I think I think we African-American men make up six percent of the population of California. But like. Fifty four percent of the prison population. After leaving the prison, retiring from the prison, opening up a real estate appraisal business in 2004, was about three years before the mortgage meltdown. I watched so many people lose their homes. A lot of black people. Right. Right now, African-American homeownership is at its lowest point in history. I saw so many people lose their homes, so many kids have to move. Changed their whole little foundation structure is gone. They have to leave their school and go move in with someone else and. 

I kept my business going. Everything recovered. But then in like 2010, 2011. When the market that’s when the market started to recover. I noticed that nobody went to jail. 

All of that chaos. All of that financial ruin, destruction. People were like ruined. They took all the equity out of their homes and. They lost their homes. I mean, all of this was criminal to me. And nobody went to jail. 

Now, if you could. 

Look at it and we will release the cellblock and I just see one black man after one black man. And it looked kind of to me like, this can’t be real. So real. Just black man after black man at the black man come out the cellblock. And then none of them go to jail. 

Is there anything that you saw or see in the prison system that was clearly doing our society a disservice? 

What are they doing wrong that should change? 

If there was anything that I would recommend. It would give it would give those give those inmates. 

More. You know what, human. Human. Contact just being a little bit more humane. These guys are locked up. I mean, the things that happen in prison is real. You know, they got a lot of shows, but you have guys that you would never think were or homosexual, but they prey on the younger guys or the guys who are persay, weaker and don’t have as much juice or maybe not in a gang. We used to call them walk alone where they are not in a no gang affiliation. And, you know, maybe they’re Asian. So they don’t have a big group of Asians to hang out with for protection. And, you know, in numbers and a lot of things happen in prison like rape and homosexuality and, you know, some of these guys. But for the lack of of human affection from a female. 

They would never in their wildest dream imagine raping some inmate. Or even being any any of the homosexual acts. 

When you’re locked up with guys all the time. You know, I think it should be more human. 

I think we should allow that. Like you. OK. You’ve got a longtime girlfriend here. You get a conjugal visit. 

You know, it’s it’s kind of like a man hood type type of thing, a human desire, a deep desire for human affection, that it would be a natural, a natural to take that away from some of these guys. 

Well, and I mean, most of the guys we saw I don’t know if this jibes with your experience, but there are younger guys. These guys are like 18 to 40 or something at right height of their sexual meeks. 

Yeah. And they kind of write some kind of outlet. But think about it, man. 

You you have these guys who are released one day. Now they’re they’re used to having sex with men. They released one day. It’s nothing on their on their C file corrections file. There’s nothing on their file to sell this. This guy likes having sex with men are young boys. 

Now, he finished it does. It does. It’s time he gets out. 

He could be in a neighborhood with kids all over the place and nobody knows. And this is how children get molested. And young boys get molested. And it’s, you know, they they need to consider the effects, the overall effects of how we. Hold prisoners. How we detain them, how we keep them locked up. And that the adverse human conditions or reactions from not from not having something as simple as a woman’s touch. 

Or just a family member or. Right. Driving touch. Yeah. To a conservative person, you could say that this is in doing something like that is in society’s best interests. Most of these guys get out eventually. So who do you want to turn back out to the streets? Right. Someone who’s been through this nightmare or someone who paid his debt and is now out. Right. Right. 

But what would you rather have released back on to normal society? Temple you want. Yeah, you want, yeah. You want somebody who’s going to pray on the weak and the vulnerable, or you want someone who’s had somewhat of a normal existence. Questions that we need to ask just for the record, too. 

There are some hard cases in there. Need to be in prison. Oh, yes, I believe Neal. 

Yeah. Oh, man. I was. There is some. There was some. Yeah, I can remember some. I remember this one inmate who killed a lady in Los Angeles, drove around with her for a week and a half in the trunk of her car. He’s he stole her car, letting her body decay and rot. And they think that he may have been having sex with the body after that. So, yeah, I read his C file in the counselor’s office one day, and it’s like you’re you are right where you need to be. And they always would encourage officers read the C files to know what kind of inmates you’re dealing with. 

It’ll it’ll help you with your job. And it did because, you know, OK, I don’t want to be stuck in the utility closet with this inmate right out of out of the sight of the gun coverage because who knows? 

And the rest of us don’t want to be stuck on the same driver. 

Right. Yeah. Now, there are some people that prisons are were made for. That’s what. But you know what? A lot of a lot of a lot of these young black men that I seen locked up for years and years because they were selling. Marijuana or crack or whatever. 

Which the sentences for crack was a lot different than powder cocaine. But we all know that that’s a whole different story. Syncing disparities in America. That was this racist. Is anything. 

Coke. Cocaine is a bridge white man’s drug and a crack is a ghetto drug. Right. What if you had to give a wild guess? But what percentage? We were talking about hard cases a second ago. What percentage of the. And I guess it would depend on the level of security of the prison. But what percentage of those people were like you were just talking about the the ones who need to be in prison. And there’s really no hope for them. 

A lot of different circumstances, I would say, in the state of California. 

And, you know, we have a we have special security housing unit unit up at Pelican Bay, and that’s where we send we don’t. Those people don’t go in the general population. So you get the worst of the worst. The worst of the worst is at Pelican Bay, California, security housing units. Those are the inmates. They get like one hour of yard time a day and then the other twenty three hours, they are basically locked up with minimal contact from any human being. What does a regular prisoner get? Oh, general population. You know, up at Lancaster, they had this thing called Night Yard and the inmates lights come on and inmates to go after dark, go out on the yard and lift weights and run track and listen to music, do whatever. And that’s night yard. That was level three. 

They didn’t have it for level four. They didn’t have night yard. 


Pelican Bay, Pelican Bay, you don’t get you know, you get it, you know, have another one at Corcoran, too. 

I think that’s where Charles Manson was. He die. Reese not too long ago. 

So this is like a single digit amount of the population. Yes, it is. 

Yeah. I probably say three three to five percent. Who are in that category, in that category of. 

Glad you’re here. Don’t ever leave. 

Let you. Don’t, don’t. Don’t be missing it count because we can’t find you. But yeah, it’s a. And that’s. I don’t know, that’s. That’s kind of encouraging to know that that we don’t have that many. You have that that mental criminality that probably nothing can can ever change somewhat some people. 

I thank you for your perspective on all of this. You’re not just talking about this stuff. You’re actually running for office. What are you running for? 

I’m running for state Senate to my first Senate district, which includes the Antelope Valley, Santa Clarita Valley and part of the Victor Valley Victorville area, Santa Clarita, part of Santa Rita area. All of the Antelope Valley, Palmdale, Lancaster. 

And if people want to help out your campaign up there, what do they do? 

I just got my FPP number, which allows me to take donations. They can go to my Steve Hale for State Senate Facebook page, and that’s where I’ll be getting out all of my rhetoric and my platform. 

Well, you’re a man of very diverse experience and you’ve thought through this stuff. I wish you the best of luck. And thank you very much for coming on. Point of inquiry. Honored to be here. 

Thank you for listening. Point of Inquiry is a production of the Center for Inquiry. The Center for Inquiry is a five, a one, two, three charitable nonprofit organization whose vision is a world in which evidence, science and compassion rather than superstition, pseudoscience or prejudice guide public policy. You can visit us at point of inquiry at oh R.G. there you can listen to all of piecewise archived episodes were available on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and your favorite podcast app of choice. Special thanks to Pamela Crosslin of Crosslin Law, located in The Miracle Mile in Los Angeles. She does business and intellectual property law and helped us out with some of the valuable intellectual property information for this program. Thank you. And see you again in two weeks. 

Jim Underdown

Jim Underdown

Jim Underdown is executive director of Center for Inquiry–Los Angeles, and the founder of the Independent Investigations Group.