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tv   60 Minutes  CBS  March 4, 2018 7:00pm-8:00pm PST

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captioning funded by cbs and ford. we go further, so you can. >> tick, tick, tick. >> whitaker: tonight, on this special edition of "60 minutes presents," "behind bars." >> tick, tick, tick. >> i think americans think, "crime and punishment." you say punishment is not even part of the goal. >> no. >> in a german prison. >> no. >> at all. >> not at all. >> so, life inside prison mirrors life outside, as much as possible. germans call it "normalization." this place is reserved for the worst of the worst: murderers, rapists, career criminals. >> it is unbelievable. you are in for murder and you have a key to your cell. >> you're a professor at one of the finest law schools in the country. is that something that you thought you would be able to do? >> ( laughs ) no!
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it makes me laugh, hearing you say it out loud, because there are days where it doesn't make sense to me, and i've lived it. question one is... >> here's why-- professor shon hopwood is a convicted felon who spent 11 years in federal prison. and as a foolish, reckless, 21-year-old in nebraska, listened to a friend with a really bad idea. >> he said, "what do you think about robbing a bank?" most people would've laughed that off, or said, "maybe we need another beer." or anything other than "that sounds like a great idea," which is what i ended up saying. ♪ ♪ >> something unusual happened on the way to the grammy awards two years ago-- an album was nominated from malawi. the artists weren't polished pop stars, but prisoners and guards, in a place called zomba; a maximum security prison, so decrepit and overcrowded, it's
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been called "the waiting room of hell." ♪ ♪ how could such beautiful music come from such misery? ♪ ♪ we went to malawi to find out. ♪ ♪ ♪ ♪ i can do more to lower my a1c. and i can do it with what's already within me. because my body can still make its own insulin. and once-weekly trulicity activates my body to release it. trulicity is not insulin. it comes in a once-weekly, truly easy-to-use pen. it works 24/7, and you don't have to see or handle a needle. trulicity is a once-weekly injectable medicine to improve blood sugar in adults with type 2 diabetes when used with diet and exercise. it should not be the first medicine to treat diabetes or for people with type 1 diabetes or diabetic ketoacidosis. do not take trulicity if you have a personal
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phone: for help with chairs, say "chair." phone: for help with bookcases, say "bookcase." bookcase. i thought this was the dresser? isn't that the bed? phone: i'm sorry, i didn't understand. phone: for help with chairs, say "chair." does this mean we're not going out? book-case. see how easy renters insurance can be at >> whitaker: good evening. i'm bill whitaker. welcome to "60 minutes presents." not many issues can unite democrats and republicans, but criminal justice reform is one of them.
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after 30 years of being tough on crime in the u.s., no other nation incarcerates more of its citizens than we do. we have 5% of the world's population, but 25% of its prisoners. the cost of housing all those inmates? $80 billion a year. as we first reported in 2016, american politicians and prison supervisors are looking for new ideas-- in germany. the main objective of german prisons is rehabilitation, not retribution. germany spends less money on prisons, but gets better results; their recidivism rate is about half the u.s. rate. we wondered if germany had found a key to prison reform, so we visited three german prisons. but our trip started in a small resort town about 100 miles north of berlin. when the weather's warm, the lakeside town of waren, germany attracts families and tourists.
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we found bernd junge there with his sister and niece, out for a stroll, eating ice cream sundaes. an innocent scene, if ever there was one. but, junge is a convicted murderer, sentenced to life in prison for a contract killing. he shot a woman to death in cold blood. we spoke with him by the lake. this is part of your sentence? this is part of your punishment? >> bernd junge( translated ): well, this is about being reintegrated into a normal life, and that means rehabilitation and all that. so for me, yes, this is part of it. >> whitaker: this doesn't look much like punishment. >> junge ( translated ): yes, well, that's the german fairy tale. >> whitaker: after 15 years in prison, he's earned weekend leave for good behavior. he's on track for early release. in germany, 75% of lifers are paroled after 20 years or less. >> joerg jesse: if someone says to himself, it's a german fairy
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tale, if he doesn't commit any crimes anymore after release, it's okay. he can think about his imprisonment, what he wants. >> whitaker: joerg jesse is a psychologist by training. he's now director of prisons in mecklenburg-western pomerania, a state in north germany along the baltic, about the size of new hampshire. there are rich fields here, brilliant sunsets, and waldeck, the maximum security prison where bernd junge has served his time. should he have a future for himself? he took a life. >> jesse: yes, he should. >> whitaker: he should? >> jesse: he should. >> whitaker: jesse invited us to waldeck to show us how the german system works. >> jesse: the real goal is reintegration into society. train them to find a different way to handle their situation outside, life without further crimes, life without creating new victims, things like that. >> whitaker: where does punishment come in? >> jesse: the incarceration, the imprisonment itself, is punishment.
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the loss of freedom, that's it. >> whitaker: i think americans think, "crime and punishment." you say punishment is not even part of the goal of the german prison. >> jesse: no. >> whitaker: at all? >> jesse: not at all. >> whitaker: so, life inside prison mirrors life outside, as much as possible. germans call it "normalization." it starts with small prison populations. low-level offenders get fines or probation. prison is reserved for the worst of the worst: murderers, rapists, career criminals. we were surprised how quiet and peaceful it was inside waldeck. we wondered where all the inmates were. it turns out, they were relaxing outside on this sunny day. this is unbelievable. you're in for murder and you have a key to your cell. cells have doors, not bars. it's for privacy. inmates can decorate as they please.
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we saw joerg muehlbach playing video games in his cell. he told us he was convicted of large-scale cocaine trafficking and gun possession. he was sentenced to seven years. compared to cells in the united states, this is quite luxurious. >> joerg muehlbach ( translated ): yes, it is comfortable here. as a prisoner here, it's all right. >> whitaker: he says being separated from his family makes prison hard, not the conditions. he has a private bathroom, and things that would give american prison guards the jitters. you have darts. you've got a letter opener. you have legs on the table that you could break off and use as a club. you've got quite a bit of freedom in here. >> muehlbach ( translated ): gosh, i haven't even thought about that. here, this is normal. >> whitaker: muehlbach's day is normal, too. he gets up and goes to work in the prison kitchen. after his shift, there's r. and
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r.: darts in the common room, beach volleyball in the yard. there's a lot to do, he told us. >> muehlbach ( translated ): painting course, pottery, soccer, gym, crocheting. >> whitaker: painting and crochet? >> muehlbach ( translated ): yes, painting and crochet. and in crochet, we make hats, oven mitts, whatever you need. >> whitaker: we visited several german prisons, and were amazed how laid-back everybody seemed at each of them, prisoners and guards. heidering prison, outside berlin, is as clean and bright as a google campus. the prison is surrounded by fences, not walls, so inmates can see the outside world. the prison uniform? street clothes. for the inmate who finds this too stressful, there's yoga. at old facilities like tegel in berlin, or new ones like heidering, the focus is on
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humane treatment and rehabilitation. prison guards are key. they're well-paid and highly trained. they spend two years learning psychology, communication skills, conflict management. jesse calls them "calm down" experts. >> jesse: calming down, calming down, calming down. not showing power too much. not showing guns. not showing weapons. >> whitaker: they use solitary confinement sparingly. jesse says there's little violence in german prisons. how do you explain that? >> jesse: if you treat them as if they are your enemy, they will react as enemies. they will react as dangerous. >> whitaker: in fact, many of them are dangerous. we were up there on a row where everyone you ask was in for murder, murder, murder. >> jesse: they're all human beings, and they know a violent manner. and we do exactly the other way around. "don't be aggressive." show them that there is a different kind of conversation possible.
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>> whitaker: the conversation starts right away. it's based on therapy. psychologists make an initial assessment of all new inmates and devise personalized prison plans for them-- recommendations for counseling, classes, vocational training and work. inmates who follow the plan earn greater freedoms and early release. >> jesse: we cannot see the sense in just locking people up for their whole lives. your prisons will fill up and you'll have to build new prisons and so on, and i think that was the situation in the u.s. >> whitaker: with more than two million inmates in u.s. prisons, more americans are coming to germany seeking solutions. >> american tour: it's like a dorm. this would be a nice dorm room for an ivy league. >> whitaker: we joined u.s. prison and law enforcement officials on this tour in berlin. connecticut governor dannel malloy was part of the group. he was impressed by what he saw.
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>> dannel malloy: i can tell you, they have a lower crime rate than we do. they have a lower recidivism rate than we do, and they're spending a lot less money on jails. >> whitaker: in the u.s., we've got much greater access to guns. we've got race as a factor and ethnicity as a factor. are the things being done here, directly transferable to the united states? >> malloy: i think there are many things that are transferable. that doesn't mean that it's a perfect fit. but i think we have to challenge ourselves to do better. >> whitaker: this doesn't have the same vibe, doesn't feel like the prisons in germany at all. >> john wetzel: little bit more intense, maybe. >> whitaker: little bit more intense. john wetzel is pennsylvania's secretary of corrections. five years ago, he went to germany looking for ideas to improve his prisons. he showed us around graterford, outside philadelphia. it's the largest maximum security prison in pennsylvania. almost 3,000 prisoners are packed in here. we were walking through an 80-year-old cell block...
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>> wetzel: i'll stop back. >> whitaker: ...when this inmate approached. he said he was a low-level drug offender. >> prisoner: sometimes, it be leaking on the block, people dying in their cells, the water stinks. did you smell the water? the water smells like it's coming out of the sewer hole. >> wetzel: you're preaching to the choir. i've done as much as i could for-- >> prisoner: i mean, for real, there ain't nothing but poor black and latino people in the jail. it's bad in here, man, it's bad. >> wetzel: yeah? i mean, look around. >> prisoner: it's bad. >> whitaker: wetzel started as a prison guard three decades ago. back in 1980, there were 8,000 inmates in the state. today, there are almost 50,000. physical and sexual assaults are a fact of life. at graterford, there are more than 600 lifers. >> wetzel: pennsylvania's a state where life means life. so, if you're doing life here, you're not going to be walking around a park eating sundaes with your family. >> whitaker: when wetzel was in germany, joerg jesse gave him a tour of waldeck. you were skeptical. >> wetzel: it almost sounded like disneyland.
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"oh, there's very few inmates. inmates have their own keys and everybody gets along and everything's hunky-dory." i mean, who's buying that story? not me. >> whitaker: by the end of his visit, wetzel was buying it. he started implementing some of the things he saw in germany, like more intensive staff training, greater freedom for inmates with good behavior, and programs to help them re-enter society. we, the american public, called for tougher sentencing, throwing away the key. are we there for this more lenient approach? >> wetzel: i think our culture, we don't want to think lenient. we don't want to think soft. we got here by being tough on crime. i think we're getting away from it by being smart on crime. and smart on crime happens to be more lenient. >> whitaker: sometimes, germans think their prisons are too lenient, but the system is mandated and protected by the country's highest court.
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there are problems: they have gangs. they have drugs. they've seen signs of islamic radicalization. they try to counter it all with counseling. but, there are inmates deemed too dangerous to release. they wind up in something called preventive detention. at berlin's tegel prison, we met chris templiner. he has spent the last 20 years not knowing when, or if, he'll ever get out. >> chris templiner: they think i'm dangerous. so what can i say? what can i show them? i don't know. >> whitaker: you did bad things? >> templiner: really bad things, yes. >> whitaker: he wouldn't tell us his crimes, and german privacy laws kept us from finding out. his life is confined to this well-appointed, apartment-like building. look around. this is life in prison for germany's worst offenders. you expect to be here until you die? >> templiner: maybe. yes.
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>> whitaker: but convicted murderer bernd junge stuck to his plan and earned the freedom to leave prison every day for work-- a maintenance job at the nearby port. you could escape if you wanted to. >> bernd junge: yes. >> whitaker: but you don't? >> junge: no. >> whitaker: why not? >> junge ( translated ): very simple. my time is almost over, and i want to be done with this chapter of my life, once and for all. >> whitaker: at pennsylvania's graterford prison, this is where murderers are housed, locked up 23 hours a day. >> i'm still hungry. still hungry. >> wetzel: i think, more now than any time in the history of our country, we have the right and left agree that we've-- frankly, screwed up the corrections system for 30 years, and it's time to do something different. it really starts with understanding that, you know, a human being's value isn't diminished by being incarcerated. >> whitaker: what you're talking about requires a huge mind shift on the part of all of us.
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>> wetzel: it's crossing the grand canyon, is what we're talking about. >> whitaker: since our story first aired, bernd junge earned his release from prison, and so did his fellow inmate joerg muehlbach. a prison supervisor tells us they have stayed out of trouble and are doing well. >> cbs money watch sponsored by lincoln financial, helping you protect those you love most. >> quijano: good evening. the labor department is expected to report friday that the economy added 200,000 jobs last month. target, costco and kroger report everybodyings this week. and president trump is expected to make a formal announcement about trade penalties on imported steel and aluminum. i'm elaine quijano, cbs news. how do you chase what you love
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>> whitaker: jailhouse lawyers are prisoners who manage to learn enough about the law while incarcerated to help themselves and other inmates with legal problems. we get letters from them every week. tonight, we are going to once again introduce you to shon hopwood, who is arguably the most successful jailhouse lawyer ever, having had one of his cases argued before the u.s. supreme court while serving a 12-year sentence for armed bank robbery. since his release, he's built a resume as a legal scholar, and been published in top law journals. we met him at one of the nations premier law schools, where he's become its newest professor, and as steve kroft first told you in october, it's a tale of redemption as improbable as any you are likely to hear.
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>> shon hopwood: question one is, was there a constitutional violation? >> kroft: in his first semester at georgetown university, professor hopwood is teaching criminal law. >> shon hopwood: were the first statements unlawfully obtained? yes. >> kroft: the irony isn't lost on him, or his students, who know that he's a convicted felon, and that less than a decade ago, was an inmate at the federal correctional institution in pekin, illinois. you're a professor at one of the finest law schools in the country. is that something that you thought you would be able to do? >> shon hopwood: ( laughs ) no! it-- it makes me laugh, hearing you say it out loud, because there are days where it doesn't make sense to me, and i've lived it. so i can see why it doesn't make sense to hardly anyone else. >> kroft: it's easier for me to imagine you as a georgetown law professor than it is for me to imagine you as a bank robber. >> shon hopwood: well, that's because the bank robber's long been dead and gone. >> kroft: hopwood was born here
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42 years ago, in the small farming community of david city, nebraska, surrounded by cornfields and cattle. he was a bright, cocky, stubborn kid from a solid family, and he hated rules; a good athlete and a miserable student who won a basketball scholarship to midland university and partied his way out of it in one semester. he drank himself through a two-year hitch in the navy, then added drugs to the mix when he returned to david city working in a feedlot. how much has david city changed? he was broke, unrepentant, and frustrated that things weren't going his way. so, this is where it started? one night, he got a call from a friend asking him to come down to the local bar for a drink, and listen to what turned out to be a very bad idea. >> shon hopwood: he said, "what do you think about robbing a bank?" and most people would have laughed that off, or said, "maybe we need another beer." ( laughs ) or anything, other than "that sounds like a great idea," which is what i ended up saying. >> kroft: really?
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>> shon hopwood: you know, i don't think either one of us thought that night that we were going to actually do it. >> kroft: it sounded exciting. >> shon hopwood: it sounded exciting. sounded like easy money that we didn't have to work for. something that fit with where my mind was at, at the time, which was a reckless, immature, foolish 21-year-old. >> kroft: it wasn't until months later, when they started scouting locations, that shon realized they might actually do it. so this is one of your banks? >> shon hopwood: it is. this is the third bank. >> kroft: the idea was to stick up very small banks in tiny towns like gresham, where there was no police presence and little risk of armed confrontation. >> shon hopwood: we wanted to get in and out of the bank as quickly as possible, not hurt anyone, grab as much money as we could, and run. and that's basically what we did in all five bank robberies. >> kroft: were you any good at it? >> shon hopwood: no. i did 11 years in federal prison for stealing $150,000.
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i don't think that's good. >> kroft: eventually, the f.b.i. put out a composite sketch and began closing in. in july 1998, he was apprehended in this omaha hotel, ten months after his first robbery. >> shon hopwood: when they arrested me, they searched my car and found $100,000 in cash that was directly traceable to the bank i had just robbed, and multiple guns, and a scanner, and binoculars. >> kroft: they had you? >> shon hopwood: they had me. >> kroft: and they would have him for a long time. when he entered the federal penitentiary in illinois in may of 1999, he was 23 years old. was it dangerous? >> shon hopwood: of course. in part because, there's not a lot for the inmates to do. >> kroft: he doesn't talk about the things that he witnessed and experienced in federal prison. he doesn't want his family to know, and he sees no value in reliving them-- except for the job he landed in the safety of the legal library, which every
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federal prison is required to have. >> shon hopwood: and for the first six months i worked at the prison law library, i didn't hardly touch the books. they were big, they were thick, they were intimidating. >> kroft: what was the spark that got you to start opening the books and looking at them? >> shon hopwood: self- motivation. >> kroft: it all started with a supreme court ruling that shon thought might help him get his sentence reduced. and it ended with him assisting other prisoners with all sorts of cases. >> shon hopwood: i spent two months working on my own case, researching, and i was never able to get any legal relief for myself the entire time i was in federal prison. >> kroft: but you were for other inmates? >> shon hopwood: i did. lawyers had made really bad mistakes, and it really cost their clients sometimes, you know, a decade or two in federal prison. >> kroft: inside the walls at pekin, he won the respect of fellow inmates, and discovered that he had an aptitude for something: the law.
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>> shon hopwood: i would be sitting in my cell reading a federal reporter, which is a compendium of federal court of appeals cases, and i would just read that cover to cover as if it was a novel, just for fun. >> kroft: was it fun? >> shon hopwood: oh, i think the law is fascinating. >> kroft: in what way? >> shon hopwood: it was like a big puzzle for me. >> kroft: three years into his prison term, he got an opportunity to show just how much he'd learned when john fellers, a friend and fellow inmate, asked shon to appeal his drug conviction to the highest court in the land. >> shon hopwood: he came to me and said, "would you take the case and would you file this petition to the supreme court?" i said, "no, absolutely not." >> kroft: why? >> shon hopwood: his case was very complex, and i didn't think i could do it. but john was very persistent. >> kroft: he would spend months working day and night on the petition. it required him to master the facts of the case, understand
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the statutes and legalprecents,s made by lawyers and judges in the appeal process, and then craft an argument in the language of the court before mailing it off to washington. did the supreme court know that the brief had been written by a prisoner? >> shon hopwood: the first hint would've been the fact that it was typed on a typewriter. ( laughs ) i don't think law firms in 2003 were using typewriters to knock out supreme court briefs. >> kroft: four out of nine supreme court justices must agree for a case to be heard. that year, more than 8,000 petitions were filed. 74 were accepted. one of those was written by shon hopwood. >> shon hopwood: and one morning, a friend of mine came running and screaming my name, "shon, shon, shon," and what he had was a copy of the "usa today." and i read the article and it said the court had granted john fellers' case. >> kroft: what went through your mind? >> shon hopwood: i was shocked. i was shocked that the court had granted the case, and that i had done something that, you know,
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lawyers wait their whole lives to do, and done it the first time. >> seth waxman: it's not that unusual for prisoners to file their own petitions. what is freakishly unusual is for one of those petitions to be granted. >> kroft: seth waxman, a prominent appellate lawyer and the former solicitor general of the united states, is not easily impressed. but when he was asked to argue the fellers case before the supreme court, he said he would do it only if shon hopwood would work from prison as part of the team. >> waxman: i wanted him to be involved, because i was really curious. it seemed, actually, almost inconceivable that somebody with his level of education and his level of exposure to the life of the law could actually write a much better than average cert petition. >> kroft: so this would have been good for a washington lawyer? >> waxman: even for a licensed, appointed lawyer representing a
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federal prisoner, you would say, "wow." >> kroft: waxman won the fellers case before the supreme court in a unanimous decision, and became shon's mentor during his final six years in prison. >> shon hopwood: when a former solicitor general of the united states says that you did a good job writing a brief, that has an impact-- especially when you're surrounded in this environment where prison guards are telling you every day that you're worthless and that you don't amount to anything. >> kroft: did you win some more cases? >> shon hopwood: i did. i won another case on the supreme court, i won a case on the sixth circuit court of appeals, and i won cases-- mostly on resentencing motions for federal prisoners and federal district court cases, kind of all over the country. >> kroft: he found a purpose in life, and when ann marie metzner, who had once had a high school crush on shon, began writing letters and paying him visits, he started to think he might have some kind of future when he got out. but he knew there were huge obstacles ahead.
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did you decide you wanted to be a lawyer while you were in prison? >> shon hopwood: i did, but i didn't think i could. i had had countless number of lawyers tell me i could not go to law school, and even if i could, i would never get licensed by any of the state bar associations, given my crimes. >> kroft: when he was released to a halfway house near omaha in 2008, he had never seen an iphone, never been on the internet, and was computer illiterate. but, as if by miracle, he saw an ad for a document analyst at cockle legal printing, one of just a few companies in the u.s. that helps attorneys assemble briefs for the supreme court. andy cockle and his sister trish billotte remember that shon showed up for his interview in ill-fitting clothes, with a rumpled letter from seth waxman and an 11-year gap in his resume. >> andy cockle: we work with attorneys every day, all week long, that are trying to get their case granted. and none of them do.
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and this guy comes out and says i had-- >> trish billotte: two. >> cockle: two of them granted. oh, yeah. >> kroft: did you believe him? >> cockle: no. ( laughter ) i-- i thought he was delusional. >> kroft: but his story checked out, and they gave him the job. you're glad you hired him. >> both: oh, yeah. >> billotte: it was sad to see him go. >> kroft: he spent three years with the cockles in omaha, completing the undergraduate degree he'd begun in prison, and continuing to impress the lawyers he worked with. with their help, and against all odds, the university of washington law school took a chance on him. he won a full scholarship from the bill and melinda gates foundation and upon graduation, was admitted to the bar. how did you do in law school? >> shon hopwood: surprisingly well. >> kroft: you were already a lawyer? >> shon hopwood: well, i mean, it was-- it was a new experience, doing well in school. >> kroft: he did well enough to land a prestigious clerkship with the united states court of appeals for the district of columbia, the second most important court in the country. >> waxman: the idea that a convicted bank robber was going to go work for janice rogers
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brown-- you know, a very conservative judge on a very important court. surprising in the absolute sense? yes. in the context of who shon hopwood is and where, what he was setting out to do? not that surprising. >> kroft: a year later, it led to a highly competitive teaching fellowship at georgetown law's appellate litigation clinic, where he did so well, the faculty awarded him a position as a professor of law. how hard is it to get a job teaching law at georgetown? >> steven goldblatt: it's very hard. >> kroft: professor steven goldblatt is the faculty director for the supreme court institute at georgetown law. >> goldblatt: to have somebody who's a credible voice, who actually lived the experience, who understands what it's like to spend a day in prison, much less 11 years, is highly unusual. so i think this was a unique opportunity to get somebody for whom there are no others out there, and that the potential was enormous.
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>> kroft: along with his other accomplishments, shon hopwood also got to marry that girl from david city, annie metzner, who is now a law student herself. they have two children. are you surprised how this has turned out? >> annie hopwood: yeah. yeah. i had no-- no idea of what the future would hold for us. neither one of us had any clue that this would-- all these wonderful things would happen. >> kroft: hopwood's main interest now is criminal justice reform. he is an advocate for shorter prison sentences for most crimes, and more vocational training, drug treatment and mental health counseling, which are often non-existent. >> shon hopwood: prison is not the place for personal growth. we warehouse people and then we kick them out into the real world with very little support, and hope that a miracle happens. >> kroft: but somehow, all the things stacked against you, you were able to do it? >> shon hopwood: yeah. it was people that helped, that went out of their way to provide grace to me, that made the difference.
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>> this cbs ports update is brought to you by the lincoln motor company. i'm greg gumbel. earlier today four schools earned automatic bids into the ncaa tournament. michigan won first big 10 championship at madison square garden. loyola chicago claimed its first ncaa tournament berth since '85678 lipscomb won the atlantic sun and secured its first-ever berth, and radford stunned liberty at the buzzer to take the big south crown. for more sports news and information, go to ♪ next chapter ♪
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referred to as "the waiting room of hell." how could such beautiful music come from such misery? in 2016, anderson cooper went to malawi to find out. ♪ ♪ >> cooper: this is the music that brought us to malawi, one of the least-developed nations on the planet. ♪ ♪ it's a place of staggering beauty. there's vast mountains, lush forests, and a long, idyllic lake. drive through the countryside, however, and you quickly see, poverty is widespread. for malawi's 18 million people, life is full of hardships. zomba is malawi's only maximum security prison, and the music you're hearing comes from behind these walls. ♪ ♪
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the prison was built to hold around 400 inmates. today, there are 2,400 here. ♪ ♪ what's so startling when you walk into the prison yard on a sunday morning, is that everywhere you turn, there is music. ♪ ♪ a cacophony of choirs. ♪ ♪ many here are hardened criminals-- robbers, rapists, murderers. others are casualties of a legal system that can be chaotic and arbitrary, where court files are routinely lost, and most suspects have no legal representation. ♪ ♪ in a small room off the yard, there's a prison band practicing
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every day on donated instruments. ♪ ♪ those men in green are guards. they play side by side with inmates. ♪ ♪ ian brennan, an american producer who travels the world recording new music in unlikely places, heard about zomba and, four years ago, flew to malawi to check it out. you're taking a gamble because-- you go to places, you don't necessarily know what's there, right? >> ian brennan: no, no, no. we-- we have no idea. it's a leap of faith every single time. >> cooper: his was not the only leap of faith. officer thomas binamo took one, too. he helped found the prison band ten years ago, and wasn't sure what to think the day ian brennan showed up. >> thomas binamo ( translated ): i was quite surprised, because i couldn't understand how this guy knew about us.
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and why would he be interested in our prison? >> cooper: it's not every day a white american knocks on the prison door and says he wants to come in? >> binamo ( translated ): yeah, it's true. it's not every day. >> brennan: what took you so long? >> cooper: brennan saw promise in this prison, and the possibility of an album. so, he set up his microphones and asked anyone interested to write and sing songs about their lives. men and women. inmates and guards. it was something most had never done before. ♪ ♪ what were you hoping to find? >> brennan: well-- you know, the thing we look for everywhere, which is, you know, music that resonates with us. this is what moves me, and hopefully it'll move someone else. >> cooper: and when you hear it, you know it. >> brennan: yeah. you feel it, usually. >> cooper: even if you don't understand the words right away? >> brennan: oh, it's better when you don't understand the words. because when you don't
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understand the words, you have to listen to what somebody means, not what they're saying. and if they mean it. ♪ ♪ >> cooper: officer binamo was reluctant to write and sing about his life, but when he did, ian brennan knew his music would be on the album. ♪ ♪ just listen to what he came up with one morning when we were there-- a softly-sung ballad about the sudden death of his wife. ♪ ♪ "you left without saying goodbye," he sings. "you left behind the children, too. they no longer cry." ♪ ♪ >> brennan: he writes songs and plays as beautifully as someone can. he's reached that level of transcendence where it can't be better than it is.
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it just is. it's something that just hits you. ♪ ♪ >> cooper: to fully appreciate the music here, you have to see the misery. but when we arrived at zomba, authorities didn't want us to show what life is like for the prisoners. so, much of what we filmed, we had to record secretly, without the guards knowing. inmates in zomba are fed just one meal a day, a small bowl of gruel made out of corn flour. the menu, we're told, rarely changes. on good days, they get a few beans; on bad days, inmates say, there's no food at all. chikondi salanje sang on the album nominated for a grammy. he was doing time for burglary. do you eat meat? chicken, beef? >> ( laughs ) >> cooper: you're laughing. that's not good. when was the last time you had meat? >> chikondi salanje: 2014.
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25 december. >> cooper: two and a half years ago? on christmas day? >> salanje: yeah. >> cooper: it's not just the lack of food. zomba is so overcrowded, prisoners say they only have enough room in their cells to sleep wedged against one another lying on their sides. stefano nyirenda also sang on the album. so you're sleeping on your side? >> stefano nyirenda ( translated ): when you want to turn, you have to do it together. >> cooper: right next to each other? how do you sleep? >> nyirenda ( translated ): we just sleep. we have no choice. >> cooper: stefano is in for robbery, and he is h.i.v.- positive, as are around a quarter of zomba's inmates. they occasionally get visits from an italian nun, sister anna tommasi, who runs a small charity providing some food and legal aid to prisoners. if you were writing a postcard
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to somebody, who had never been to this prison, how would you describe it here? >> sister anna tommasi: oh. i think it's impossible for somebody outside to get. there are no words which could explain, because-- >> cooper: what life is like here? >> sister tommasi: yes. i think-- before you came, three days ago, if i had written anything, would-- do you think you could have had a clue? >> cooper: no. >> sister tommasi: sometimes, i call it, it's the waiting room of hell. >> cooper: that's what this prison is like, sometimes? >> sister tommasi: yeah. >> cooper: if it is the waiting room of hell, salvation for chikondi salanje comes from music. when the music stops, that's when you realize you're in prison? >> salanje ( translated ): when we're singing, the walls are no longer there. but when we stop, the walls return, and then we're back to counting the bricks again. ♪ ♪ >> cooper: chikondi wouldn't have to count the bricks much longer. after five years here, he was about to get released.
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and when we were there, recorded a new song for ian brennan. it's about leaving prison, and his fears of life as a free man. "don't call me a criminal," he sings. "when i get home, they'll reject me. when something goes missing, they'll accuse me of stealing. it hurts badly when you call me a criminal." ♪ ♪ in the men's section of this prison, there are rooms where prisoners take classes taught by inmates and guards. there are also two small libraries where they pour over faded books, and a rundown computer room. but in the women's section, there is no library, no computers. ♪ ♪ there is little else, but music. ♪ ♪
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until ian brennan came along, the women didn't have their own instruments, and they couldn't understand why he was interested in listening to their singing at all. >> brennan: they really-- were-- believed that they were not singers or songwriters. i mean, they were pretty adamant about this. and-- and just at the moment-- i-- i was getting pretty close to feeling like, "well, you know, we-- we tried--" one person stepped forward and said, "i've got a song." ♪ ♪ and the minute she did that, they literally lined up. ♪ ♪ >> cooper: rhoda mtemang'ombe was one of those women who stepped forward. the song she wrote for the zomba prison album is called "i am alone." ♪ ♪ what does that mean? >> rhoda mtemang'ombe ( translated ): i have no parents. i have no husband. and i'm here in prison.
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so i realize there's no one who can help me. so i ask god to help me. he's the only one who can guide me across this huge river. >> cooper: rhoda is serving a life sentence here in zomba. she's in for murder. do you feel like you're glorifying criminals? >> brennan: no. no, no, no. it's humanizing them-- >> cooper: humanizing-- >> brennan: --not glorifying them, at all, right? they've committed crimes. many of them have learned from their experiences. this is about humanizing individuals-- and that's for the benefit, not of them; that's for the benefit of the listener. >> cooper: the album ian brennan recorded at zomba did not end up winning the grammy, and it hasn't turned a profit, either. brennan has paid the musicians, and they have a contract to receive more money if there are future earnings. when he showed up at zomba with his wife, marilena, to present the prisoners with some gifts and their grammy nomination certificate, it was cause enough for celebration... ♪ ♪
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...though some of the singers, like stephano nyrenda, still had questions about what a grammy award really was. >> nyrenda ( translated ): can i ask a little question? >> cooper: yeah, of course. >> nyrenda ( translated ): this trophy, does it have any money inside of it, or is it just a small prize? >> cooper: it's just a token, there's no money inside the-- inside the award. >> nyrenda: ( laughs ) >> cooper: being nominated for a grammy has not changed life for the inmates inside zomba... ♪ ♪ ...or for guards like thomas binamo, living just outside the prison walls. but they are still writing music, and they have released another album. ♪ ♪ it's called "i will not stop singing."
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♪ ♪ inside this prison, it's the only promise they have the power to keep. ♪ ♪ >> in malawi, the road music comes with road food. for the tale, go to sponsored by prevnar 13. for pneumococcal pneumonia eased k that can take you out of the game for weeks, even if you're healthy. pneumococcal pneumonia is a potentially serious bacterial lung disease that in severe cases can lead to hospitalization. it may hit quickly, without warning, causing you to miss out on the things you enjoy most. prevnar 13® is not a treatment for pneumococcal pneumonia... it's a vaccine you can get to help protect against it.
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we go further, so you can. captioned by media access group at wgbh ♪ ah... ah... ♪ ah, ah ♪ we are golden, yes we are ♪ ♪ hear the thunder, see the stars ♪ ♪ we are golden for all to see... ♪ (song shuts off) (birds singing) yeah. amber, you are lost. again. nice one. man (whispering): help me... hello? help me...


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