Lockdown Predators

lockdown predators
behind bars (3/6)

This gritty series plunges head-first into the world of America’s most dangerous prisons, providing an unprecedented immersion into life behind bars and getting up close and personal with some of the world’s most hardened criminals. This programme explores the world of Ohio’s Lebanon Correctional Institution: a hunting ground where predators meet prey on a daily basis.

Lebanon Correctional Institution is a ‘close’ security prison – one step away from maximum security. Over 2,000 of Ohio’s most dangerous men live in one hall, and the general population is divided between nine three-tier cell blocks. The majority of Lebanon’s prisoners have been convicted of violent crimes: 30 per cent are killers, and 25 per cent sexual predators. On the outside, the strong preyed on the vulnerable and innocent, and inside it is no different.

Convicted killer Diedreikus Albert is one of the strongest of these predators, and is the leader of the Crips inside Lebanon. His gang competes with dozens of others to financially exploit inmates, with rackets including extortion, gambling and drugs. Albert explains how new inmates are quickly inducted into the system: initially offered friendship and protection, the vulnerable newcomers quickly realise that these things come at a price.

Young inmate Scott Crandall is well aware of the dangers he faces as a ‘new fish’. He found himself in Lebanon on an involuntary manslaughter charge after an accident he caused led to a woman’s miscarriage, and faces seven years inside. Crandall knows that he has to watch out for himself, but unlike many of the other prisoners, he is not violent, street-smart or strong.

At an orientation meeting, Crandall and the other new inmates are advised to steer clear of the type of prisoners who can make life difficult for them. “What I’m asking,” says warden Ernie Moore, “is you stay away from them and do your time.” Facing dangers from sexual predators as well as extortionists, Crandall really needs to know who to trust. His cellmate offers help and advice, but is he really watching out for him?

Another newcomer to Lebanon is 23-year-old Justin Johnson, fresh out of college with a degree in criminal science and about to be sworn in as a correctional officer. Johnson is considering a career in the FBI, and thinks that working in a prison would provide him with valuable insight into the criminal mind. He is enthusiastic about what lies ahead but also nervous: “Every day brings a new challenge,” he explains. “You always gotta be on top of your game.” To be taken seriously and respected by the prisoners, Johnson is going to have to stand his ground – weak guards are easily exploited by predatory prisoners.

Johnson is learning all the time, especially when he witnesses a huge ‘shakedown’. Acting on information that the Crips are planning an attack, members of the state’s Special Response Team descend on Lebanon and search the cells for drugs, weapons and illegal goods. Despite the sound of multiple flushing toilets signalling the loss of a lot of evidence, there are still rewards for those who know where to look. A second search by a gang investigation team hunts for evidence of gang activity and identifies almost 100 new gang members.

Diedreikus Albert is unconcerned about these searches, but an upcoming meeting is making him nervous. About to come face-to-face with the mother and widow of the man he murdered six years ago, Albert is preparing for the unfamiliar experience of a situation that he cannot control. “I hope I give them what they came for,” he says.

As Albert considers the implications of what is about to happen, Scott Crandall is gradually getting used to his new life and identity behind bars; and Justin Johnson continues to learn the ropes and grow in confidence – three men experiencing different sides of Lebanon’s predator-prey way of life.

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