The Big HouseClosed Captioning
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They are home to habitual criminals and incorrigibles, and have long histories of overcrowding, protests, riots, violence, and bloodshed. Visit some of the most intense and intriguing prisons in the U.S. and Europe as The Big House profiles the penitentiaries, prisoners, and wardens that have made history. From the riot-ridden San Quentin prison in California, where “Coyote Flat Killer” Jack Ryan wrongly served 25 years only to be pardoned posthumously, to the backward and brutal Angola Prison, whose 130-year history has recorded chilling scenes of misery, assault, and murder, and the Maze prison in Belfast, where in 1976, IRA inmates protested their imprisonment and refused to wear their uniforms, HISTORY dives deep into the correctional institutions that have hosted some of the world’s most infamous criminals. Interviews include Nadine Turner, director of the Angola Prison Museum; Billy Burke, who served over 20 years in Folsom; as well as current and retired prison wardens and correctional officers. Prisons featured in this collection are: Angola, Attica, Auburn, Central Prison, Florida State, Folsom, Kentucky State, LA County Jail, Lewisburg Federal, Maze Prison, Montana State, McNeil Island, Parchman, and San Quentin.
|1||Closed CaptioningVideoAngola||Most of Angola's 5,000 maximum-security inmates will never see the outside world again. Formerly a slave plantation in a remote area of Louisiana, in the 1930s Angola remained backward and brutal and by 1975, with increasing crowding and violence, became known as the "Bloodiest Prison in America". Paul Sorvino narrates.||44:33||$1.99||View in iTunes|
|2||Closed CaptioningVideoAttica Prison & McNeil Island||Upon opening in rural New York State, Attica was hailed as an architectural landmark and model for the confinement of the most dangerous criminals. Over time, its name became a battle cry for death, despair, and violence. Paul Sorvino narrates a look at the home of the worst prison riot in American history in September 1971. McNeil Island is a remote outpost rising from the chilly waters of Puget Sound, forty miles south of Seattle, Washington. Throughout its history, this isolated fortress has been the scene of daring escapes and intense violence. McNeil Island Prison was opened 125 years ago and its convicts came from the furthest reaches of civilization. Over time, it became a home to a diverse cross section of criminals as it went from being a Federal Penitentiary and then back to being a State Prison again. Its inmates included train robbers, gangsters, and politicians. Notorious offenders include mobster Mickey Cohen, Attorney Vincent Halinan, who ran for President of the U.S. while still locked inside, Robert Stroud, the legendary "Birdman of Alcatraz", and the infamous Charles Manson. Interviews include a former inmate who attempted escape form McNeil Island, two former wardens and current correctional officers.||1:27:45||$1.99||View in iTunes|
|3||Closed CaptioningVideoAuburn||The State Penitentiary in Auburn, New York is the centerpiece of a city and a monument to one of America's first attempts at criminal rehabilitation. Its founders were liberal prison reformers who believed their task could be accomplished through penitence, hard work, and silence. The "Auburn System" was adopted by most U.S. prisons in the early 1900s. Now, all that remains of that system is hard work--and hard time--for the most violent offenders in New York State.||43:25||$1.99||View in iTunes|
|4||Closed CaptioningVideoCentral Prison||Central Prison in Raleigh, is the first stop for all of North Carolina's male felons with sentences of 20 years or longer. It's also the last stop for men and women sentenced to death. Today, Central is a modern state-of-the-art prison, but it began as a dark dungeon built nearly 120 years ago.||44:04||$1.99||View in iTunes|
|5||Closed CaptioningVideoFlorida State||The Florida State Prison at Raiford was built on 18,000 acres of farmland in 1913. The original maximum-security housing unit, nicknamed "The Rock", gave the prison its notorious reputation. At the height of its infamy, it was the scene of stabbings, beatings, and even a decapitation. It was also severely overcrowded and torn down by court order in 1999. But Raiford is still home to Florida's death row, where more than 300 men await execution by electrocution.||43:51||$1.99||View in iTunes|
|6||Closed CaptioningVideoFolsom||An inside-the-walls look at the bloody story of Folsom Prison that opened in 1880, experiencing the first of many escapes the same year. Designed for habitual felons and incorrigibles doing hard time, its violent history includes 93 hangings between 1895 and 1937. Narrated by Paul Sorvino, it shows why Folsom prisoners get the blues!||44:03||$1.99||View in iTunes|
|7||Closed CaptioningVideoKentucky State||Called the "Castle on the Cumberland", its inspiring medieval presence is a focal point on the landscape. But this castle is really Kentucky's maximum-security prison, reinforced with modern cellblocks and electronic surveillance to keep watch on the state's most dangerous prisoners. We follow an officer on his shift and step inside the high-security block that houses the "worst of the worst", and tour death row that's electric chair holds a gruesome national record--seven executions in a single day!||42:51||$1.99||View in iTunes|
|8||Closed CaptioningVideoL.A. County Jail||The largest prison system in the free world, its 20,000 male and female inmates reflect the crimes and racial tensions of Los Angeles County. The challenge is staggering--feed 75,000 meals a day and keep an estimated 16,000 gang members from killing each other! Welcome to LA County Jail with an inmate roster that reads like a Who's Who of national crime stories--Bugsy Siegel, Mickey Cohen, Robert Mitchum, Robert Blake, Charles Manson...all passed through its standing-room-only holding tanks!||42:45||$1.99||View in iTunes|
|9||Closed CaptioningVideoLewisburg Federal||Built in 1932, the federal penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, looks more like a church than a prison. When it opened, it was considered the most modern and humane prison in America. We'll examine its history and inmate roster, which reads like a "Who's Who" of 20th-century American history and includes Alger Hiss, Morton Sobel, and Al Capone, who spent two nights there on his way to Alcatraz. Today, Lewisburg is home to one of the terrorists convicted of the World Trade Center bombing.||44:28||$1.99||View in iTunes|
|10||Closed CaptioningVideoMaze Prison||Located near Belfast, Maze Prison holds both Catholic and Protestant prisoners, members of paramilitary groups like the Irish Republican Army. The prison consists of 8 H-shaped cellblocks with cameras, searchlights, 16-foot walls, and guard towers. Outside, British soldiers patrol. We investigate several incidents, including: the Blanket Protests, when IRA inmates refused to wear uniforms; the Dirty Protest, when prisoners smeared human waste on prison walls; and the Bobby Sand hunger strike.||42:53||$1.99||View in iTunes|
|11||Closed CaptioningVideoMontana State Prison||Herds of livestock roam here under the big Montana sky. Cowboys and wranglers watch over them. But these are not ordinary ranch hands. And this is no ordinary ranch. Welcome to the State Prison in Deer Lodge, Montana. 1,300 high and medium security inmates live here. Their range of crimes includes murder and robbery as well as drug possession and sex crimes. In its present day setting, Montana State Prison operates efficiently as both a ranch and a modern high security fortress. But it's legacy is dark and its history is marked by violent uprisings, inhumane conditions and brutality. We'll see where the story began --five miles away from the current cellblocks in the state's original stone prison -- now a relic and tourist attraction that looks like a castle. We'll meet inmates who work on the prison's farm and dairy as well as violent offenders who hold jobs as-- telemarketers.||43:04||$1.99||View in iTunes|
|12||Closed CaptioningVideoParchman||State Prison, Parchman Mississippi... A land without visible boundries... Originally a slave plantaion ruled by the whip... Today its most important crop is neither food or cotton... but prisoners. 75 percent are African-American. During its hundred-thirty year history, Parchman has embodied the traditions and folk wisdom of the American south in a way no other prison ever has. Its legacy includes brutal executions in the State's gas chamber and conjugal visits for the best behaved convicts. A large number of "lifers" have prepared themselves to die here. A few hold out hope of early release.||44:22||$1.99||View in iTunes|
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An Interesting History on Prisons
These shows were not quite what I was expecting but after watching a couple of episodes, I will say that they offer a very interesting history on the penal system. The stories behind the prisons are very detailed and in some cases, the facts are surprising. I particularly enjoyed the history lesson on The Maze in Northern Ireland and the LA County Jail and listening to first hand accounts of both staff and inmates. Well done.