Prisoners Guide Teens on Tour of San Quentin

Four teenage boys from Oakland got a glimpse of prison life when San Quentin inmates show them the harsh reality of daily existence inside “The Big House” in this Emmy Award-winning video report by James Irwin for the San Francisco Chronicle

producer, camera and editing: James Irwin. narrator: Jason B. Johnson


 

SYNOPSIS: Four young men are gathered outside the entrance to San Quentin. They are part of an Oakland-based program called RISE which brings at-risk teens to meet inmates of San Quentin. Inside the gate, meet their prisoner tour guides, led by Jeff Elkins, who bluntly tells them, “I was 19 years old when I killed my friend for his drugs and his money.” They are then escorted to the main yard and, along the way, they are heckled and yelled at by prisoners. In the yard, more than a hundred orange-jumpsuit-wearing prisoners confront them, shouting and jeering in a sobering display of mass intimidation. Inside cell block West they are locked inside a typical 4-by-9-foot cell where the toilet is inches from the bunk bed. They also meet a security guard, William Montgomery, who describes how easy it is for experienced inmates to dominate new arrivals. Following these intense episodes, the boys describe their feelings about the things they have seen and heard.

Related article: Prison tour program tries to keep boys on right path.