NBC’s Lester Holt Spends Two-Nights at Angola to Profile Criminal Justice Reform
Friday night television viewers got an inside look at life in Angola when Dateline aired NBC Anchor Lester Holt’s two-night stay at the maximum-security facility.
“It was an incredible experience and one that you have to live through to really understand. There’s no way you can predict flushing toilets throughout the night, people screaming… but it was also very revealing,” said Dateline Supervising Producer Dan Slepian.
Friday’s episode was part of an ongoing series about the effects of “Tough on Crime” bills that Congress approved in the 1990s.
And Slepian says the program highlights the new rehabilitation practices put into effect under the Edwards Administration’s criminal justice reform plan.
The program features Henry Montgomery, who was sentenced to life when he was 17 for killing a cop. His appeal of juvenile life sentences led to the US Supreme Court overturning juvenile life without parole.
“Hundreds of people around the country have gotten out as a result of this case and we were there the day that he found out the decision.”
Montgomery was convicted in 1963.
Slepian says it took some work to get the Department of Corrections to approve the idea, and for good reason.
“It’s a risk for them to put the number one anchor in the country at a major news network, pretty much give him unrestricted access to a maximum-security prison. It’s certainly a risk, so we went back and forth.”
But he thinks they’ll be happy with the final portrayal of the facility.