Sam Lewis / INMATE

Behind bars since he was 18, Sam Lewis was a Blood in south central Los Angeles when sentenced to “15 to life” for a gang-related murder. Eventually, he became a model prisoner: “The person that sits before you today is not the same 18-year-old immature, impulsive kid. I wasn’t a man by no measure at 18.” For Sam, integration may be a core value but it is also a Catch-22. If he resists cell integration, he faces certain denial of parole. If he disobeys his group’s rules, “Prison justice will find me.” A workshop leader, Sam encourages the skeptic, John, and they unexpectedly become friends.

John Piccirillo / INMATE

For towering white inmate John Piccirillo, segregation means dominance. A self-described predator imprisoned for first degree murder, John is a “shotcaller” for the whites. “We live by a certain convict code, and when the rules are broken, it’s expected to be dealt with in a violent manner.” But John’s accidental participation in the mixed race workshop challenges these views. Will his tentative steps toward change hold up under the pressure of cell integration and his hunger for power? 


Ben Curry / WARDEN 

Thirty-five years inside has taught Warden Ben Curry that people change. Despite resistance, the Warden embraces both the new inmate program and cell integration. He now believes segregation undermines safety, as it relies on inmates to violently “regulate” their own. Yet staff and inmate pushback, budget woes and an escape attempt sorely test his commitment to change. Close to retirement, he worries, "I won’t have enough time to do the things I want to do here."