As part of “Justice for All,” a broader NBC News report on criminal justice reform, Lester Holt went to Louisiana State Penitentiary, the maximum-security prison known as Angola, for a two-night stay in a cell, Variety reports. The results will be shown on NBC’s “Dateline” at 10 p.m. Friday. On Sunday at 10, MSNBC will show a “town hall” broadcast from Sing Sing Correctional Facility, a maximum-security facility in Ossining, N.Y., where he will talk to singer John Legend, former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and 25 inmates.
“There is nothing normal about holding a town hall event at a maximum-security prison,” says Dan Slepian, a “Dateline” producer who worked with Holt on the project. NBC News faced an unprecedented set of challenges in taping its event in Sing Sing last month. The prison has stricter security measures than the White House: No outside communication devices are allowed. Audience members had to undergo security checks. NBC News had to arrange for some pieces of its town hall set – built at the prison with a forklift and other heavy machinery the network procured on its own – to be sent from Las Vegas. The spark for the project came from Slepian, who has long covered cases of wrongful conviction, and Holt, who has spent more broadcast time on criminal justice reform. He was the first to snare an interview with Meek Mill, the rapper and musician who has tangled with the criminal justice system for years after Mill’s release from prison last year.