Developing Shanks and Shakedowns

blog post photo

by David Ross Smith

December 17, 2009

So far we’ve shot with several potential characters, and I feel we have one character fully developed and finished — he was released today:  Antwain Primm, scruffy-looking guy in his thirties. He was caught attempting to jump off the top tier (i.e. attempted suicide) of one of the pods. Kevin was shooting a disturbance in intake (which didn’t pan out), and I ran to Antwain’s incident, which was happening simultaneously. I shot the Special Response Team, or SRT, escorting him out of the pod to, ultimately, a table where mental health techs talked with him about his issues. It was an extremely dramatic trek to that table: Antwain was crying and moaning hysterically as two SRT officers dragged him down hallways, into elevators, etc. I’ve connected the mental health unit and SRT to Antwain’s story. The following day (today) we then shot, from two angles, a psychiatrist talking with him and assessing him.

I have another potential character in Marvin Lewis — big, muscular, intelligent/articulate African-American covered in tats — but so far I have nothing to connect him to. His story: he was dating four women simultaneously, one of them found out, and “framed” him in revenge. He’s intentionally vague about it, but we’ll get the real story from SRT. He has priors, including armed robbery. More later as things develop. I have a plan to flesh him out as a character; we’ll see if I can coordinate it.

So far, similar themes to the Portland/County Jail episode — dealing with the mentally ill, overcrowding, homelessness, drug addiction. I’d also like to develop the old cons vs. young punks concept, and I’d do this via Marvin Lewis (above), as he’s in his 40s and talked a lot about this concept in his excellent interview. 

The only gang here — the Heartless Felons — will not speak to us. We’ll try again soon…

December 25, 2009

We’re building on the following characters:

Ed Effinger: SRT guys praise Ed and credit him for the training, attitude and enthusiasm they have; however, interviewing/developing him seems to have created some ripples in the ranks, so I’m not sure how far I can take him…

Antwain Primm — Attempted suicide in his pod. I shot aftermath of incident with SRT arriving and escorting him to see nurse. Dramatic, crying, freaking out. We have multiple emotional interviews, b-roll, interviews with pod mates (witnesses) and CO in pod on duty at the time (witness), assessment with psychiatrist prior to release, interview with psychiatrist, release process, Antwain’s release into the free world.

Clint Boyd: Had an incident with an officer, SRT footage of him freaking out in restraint chair after pepper foam incident. We have interviews, crying. More coming up with him next week regarding the outcome of his hearing/complaint. Boyd says his incident involved a dietary need — a lactose-free/dairy-free diet, which he was not getting. He is now. I’ll get some shots of him receiving his non-dairy meal and commenting.

Alfred Morales: Morales was on Death Row and just got re-sentenced to 55 years to life for murder. I interviewed him before and after his re-sentencing. In the latter one, he talks a bit about the murder — killing his friend’s brother after a drug binge.

Leland Smiley: We taped interviews and the entire intake/booking process with Smiley. The CO  threatened to put him in the hole, where he ended up a few days later. More to come but limited…

January 8, 2010

I think we now have a youth/gang show on our hands. The Heartless Felons, a young gang that’s been taking over Ohio (and, more specifically, Cleveland), seem to be taking over the jail. The SRT (the good “gang”) is there to take charge, but it’s an ongoing battle, one that simply won’t end anytime soon.

Now, a scared informant in a pod dedicated to the younger inmates writes a kite to a CO — a plea for help and a warning to others in the pod — that
the Heartless Felons have a shank somewhere in the pod, and they plan to use it. The SRT then to the rescue — over the course of several days they remove suspected members and isolate them in the hole in an attempt to get to the bottom of this. We speak to three of the suspected Heartless Felons, none of whom claim to be members of the gang — but they sure seem to know a lot about it!

We still have the Antwain Primm story and the Clint Boyd story. Clint had an upswing and was doing better when I finished with him, which helps give
an arc to his story. LuAnn’s pod is still a contender to bring in the mental illness theme, which also connects to Primm and Boyd.

And then there’s all the SRT-related incidents — responding to inmate fights, finding drugs, and doing shakedowns, as well as training. And of
course, gathering up the suspected Heartless Felons, which is quite good footage!

Lockdown‘s “Shanks and Shakedowns” airs Wednesday, May 12 at 9P et/pt.


  1. EddEff
    May 13, 2010, 12:30 am

    Cannot wait to see the show! Counting down the minutes and the seconds! I know you will show us in a great light National Geographic! Thanks for the time you spent with us!

  2. ferg73rd
    August 12, 2011, 9:00 pm

    You say that you want to know more about the Heartless Felons???? Lol! Go Inside Mansfield Prison. Talk around the Streets of Cleveland (In The Ghetto). I could tell you some, not all, I was in O.D.Y.S. when it all started and know alot more than most could tell.