Episode 28

SUBSCRIBE to the podcast: iTunes | Stitcher | RSS


Produced by The Kitchen Sisters
in collaboration with Life of the Law

Every time we do a piece, so many great stories and extra material gets cut because of time constraints. The same is true for this story about Wall Street. We thought we would put up an early transcript of the mix, one before we had to cut for time, because perhaps some of you might be interested in seeing how we lay out our work and because the stories and little extra lines that hit the cutting room floor are ones we miss and are haunted by.

WS 6-by Nigel Poor

Curtis Carroll, aka Wall Street, photo by Nigel Poor


MUSIC: The Coral Route, Lanu (establishes and fades under)

WALL STREET: I couldn’t believe that this kind of access to this type of money could be accessible to anybody. Everybody should do it. And it’s legal.

MUSIC: Doors and Distance

WALL STREET: Business to me is like watching a soap opera. Always trying to anticipate what’s happening. I’m excited when I get the newspaper. Can’t wait to get home to read. I probably read about 5-600 articles a week. Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, Fast Track, Entertainment Weekly, Movielines… I like to know what the CEO’s doing. I like to know who’s in trouble. Once I read the articles I memorize certain content that I need. I create stories.

MUSIC: Seahorse, Moondog

NANCY MULLANE: He sits in this very small room at a desk, like one of those old school desks that has a big opening where you put your books. He’s made it like an office. Nobody sits at that desk but Wall Street. He invests in stocks from inside San Quentin Prison. And he helps other people. He’s their financial advisor. He’s called “Wall Street” inside the prison. Everyone knows him that way.

MUSIC: Everybody Got Their Somethin’, Nikka Costa

NARRATION # 1/ KITCHEN SISTERS: (Davia) We first heard about Wall Street through a friend who teaches yoga at the prison, hatha yoga, weekly inside San Quentin. Curtis Carroll aka Wall Street, was raised in Oakland, mostly homeless. His mother was addicted to crack, his grandmother too. Curtis and his brother ran the streets.

(Nikki) Curtis hated school, fell in with a gang, paid other kids to do his homework. His first crime, at 11 or 12, was robbing a mail truck with his brother. Someone told him the welfare checks were being delivered that day in his neighborhood. The envelopes were color-coded, they said, so those were the ones they looked for and stole.

MUSIC: Strut


WALL STREET: My Number One Rule is “Don’t get what?” Don’t get greedy. Criminals are greedy by nature. We want it all, all the time…

TROY WILLIAMS: Wall Street came inside the prison system at 17 years old. He was illiterate. Didn’t know how to read or write. One day he stumbled upon the financial section of the newspaper. He thought it was the Sports Section, he used to have his cellie read it to him. This guy asked, “What are you doing with that financial section? You don’t know nothin’ about that.”

WALL STREET: I was like, “What’s that?” The guy asked me if I played stocks. I had never heard the word before. He explained to me how it works, he said “This is where white people keep their money.” When he said that I said, “Whoaaa… I think I stumbled across something here.”

MUSIC: Elfdance, Moondog

NANCY MULLANE: Is there a regulation that a prisoner cannot invest in the stock market? Not that I know of. I’m Nancy Mullane, Producer of Life of the Law and a reporter on prisons. Wall Street feels that he is a natural. He was made to do this.

TOM DE MARTINI: Everybody knows Wall Street. Everybody. They seek his advice out. He pins up on the wall all his picks. You’ll see the COs, the Correctional Officers, go in and they’ll be writing stuff down. A lot of sergeants talk to him about it.

NANCY MULLANE: He makes predictions. Tapes them to the wall in an envelope, dated. And they check to see how well he did. It was like a game they all played.

WALL STREET: (in class, teaching) Do the math …if you buy a thousand shares, every ten cent hike in the price is how much?

Troy Williams, photo by Peter Merts

Troy Williams, photo by Peter Merts

TROY WILLIAMS: My name is Troy Williams. I just paroled from San Quentin State Prison after serving a life sentence. We started a Financial Literacy Group prior to my leaving prison called Freeman Capital. Right now, Wall Street is the CEO of that organization on the inside He will teach the stock program. That’s his realm.

WALL STREET: (teaching) There’s four steps. Every person on this planet that has made money has mastered these four simple steps.

TROY WILLIAMS & WALL STREET (duet): We easily (SAVINGS) have about 70 people in our class a week. (COST CONTROL) We teach the men personal finance (BORROWING PRUDENTLY) about stock investments, (DIVERSIFICATION) about retirement and how to manage your money. (THAT’S IT).

TROY WILLIAMS: You got a lot of older guys at San Quentin. I myself am pushing 50. A guy getting out at the age of 50, who hasn’t invested anything into his retirement at all, what is this guy gonna do? Half the prison guards don’t know who’s managing their retirement fund. They’re just somewhere in La La Land and it’s being taken care of.

MUSIC: Entrada (Music for Bowed Piano), Stephen Scott. A mix of Entrada and sound design from the sounds from San Quentin run under the next section

TROY WILLIAMS: The original prison, they would put prisoners on this boat at night and row them out into the middle of the water and they stayed locked up there. In the morning they would come get the barge, bring the men back to shore and they would do the work of the prison.

Fog Over San Quentin by Sandow Birk

Fog Over San Quentin by Sandow Birk

: The first state prison was a boat called The Waban, moored at San Quentin Point in the 1850’s. My name is William Secrest. I’m the author of the book, Behind San Quentin’s Walls: The History of California’s Legendary Prison and Its Inmates 1850-1900. During the Gold Rush San Francisco Bay was filled with hunreds of abandoned ships. People sailed to California and couldn’t get to shore fast enough to hunt for gold. They abandoned their ships in the harbor. They had to have prison because they had criminals pouring into California. The prison ship filled up pretty fast. They were 8 foot square cells as many as they could squeeze in the bottom of the ship. That was the beginning of it.

SOUND: Fog horns emerge from the mix with music and sounds

A cigar box full of tiny nooses

A cigar box full of tiny nooses

NARRATION 2 / KITCHEN SISTERS: (Davia) The first time we came to San Quentin the prison was covered in fog. We parked and the woman next to us looked over, rolled her eyes and said “Fogline. Good luck getting in.” San Quentin, just north of Golden Gate Bridge is right on the fog path that famously shrouds San Francisco. Perfect conditions for an escape, the passing of contraband, the procurement of a weapon. Prisoners are kept in their cells, visitors kept out. It’s the Bay Area, where fog and eccentrics and do-gooders pour into every nook and cranny of the region, including San Quentin. (Nikki) For two and half hours we sat on a bench outside The East Gate with all the others who couldn’t get in that morning … the computer guys teaching coding to the men, the Mormon guy who goes in to talk to the inmates on Death Row like he does every few weeks. The volunteer at the San Quentin Museum who oversees their historical artifacts, including a cigar box full of tiny nooses made by the last hangman at the prison. The woman sitting nervously, waiting for her husband to be released after 15 years. We waited for the fog to lift.

MUSIC: Bouncin’ Back, Mystikal

CLARENCE LONG: My name is Clarence Long and I’m in San Quentin Prison. Me and Wall Street was cellies at one time. He used to stay up til four in the morning studying his stocks. I be sleeping. He be up going through his portfolio and reading papers.

WALL STREET: When I first learned how to read, I started reading candy wrappers, clothing logos and it was like my mind opened to a whole different thing. Once I read the articles and memorize content that I need I take a vanilla envelope and I file them into a system. Currently I’ve probably got about 10-15,000 articles that I got in my cell right now.

CLARENCE LONG: I used to see him teaching classes on the yard, people sitting in bleachers listening to him. Once he showed me you could invest in companies and get dividends that what got me started learning about the stock.

NANCY MULLANE: The way it works is they have access to a phone. They can call anyone who will accept their call. “This is Global Tel Link. You have a call from Wall Street, San Quentin State Prison…” (fades under Wall Street)

WALL STREET: I don’t have any computer time. I don’t have access to be on the Internet. What I do is I call home and I say I want to buy 1000 shares of American Apparel. When I’m on the phone with them they’d be on the computer — online brokers, E-Trade. And they’ll tell me what the closing prices are for the day and I would know what to tell them to buy.

TOM DE MARTINI : Wall Street really has some far out ideas about finance. He doesn’t feel that buying and holding long term is going to make it for him. My name is Tom De Martini, volunteer at San Quentin Prison Financial Literacy Program. Being a prisoner he’s willing to take more risks.

WALL STREET: If you talk to a hedge fund manager he’ll tell you they never go with penny stock. Because the book says don’t go with that. But I never read the book so I don’t know what to fear. I don’t grab penny stocks, I grab stocks trading at penny status.

NANCY MULLANE: Inmates in California prisons can have jobs. Most inmates make something around 15 cents an hour. They don’t get all of it. Some of it goes to restitution. Some of it goes to an account for them for the prison canteen.

WALL STREET: Every time you’re working over there in the PIA (Prison Industry Authority) when you get that check for $50 you shouldn’t be spending $50 at the canteen. When your family send you 20 dollars that’s earned income, and if you’re not putting that aside you’re not setting up that nest egg.

TOM DE MARTINI: There’s a lot of guys in there who are trading through their family. They call every week. We talk about that. There’s Sam in therer whose got his daughters who he’s teaching. He’s providing information to her. They call every week and talk about that. So I ask, what did you tell your daughter this week, what did she tell you?

MUSIC: Under My Hat, DJ Vadim

WALL STREET: I’m in prison but I’m on just the same playing field as Warren Buffett. I can pick the exact same companies. I can’t buy as many shares. But technically we’re just the same…

Sam-Robinson-doorLT. SAM ROBINSON: I’m Sam Robinson, Public Information Officer at San Quentin. I think if that guy had had different opportunities in the community he was in, we wouldn’t be talking about Wall Street behind walls in San Quentin. He may have been Curtis Carrol, The Baron of Wall Street. You never know.

NARRATION 3 / KITCHEN SISTERS: (Nikki) Wall Street is 37 now. He’s been in prison for 20 years doing a sentence of 54 to life.(Davia) Word of Wall Street has started to leak outside of San Quentin. Small community-based investment clubs have been reading about him online, people living paycheck to paycheck, trying to get a financial toe-hold, are being drawn to his strategies and his story. Wall Street, they tell us, has the time they don’t to study the market and get wise about money.

WALL STREET: Overall the goal is to get the money to give back to the communities. When I look at how Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have made these pledges to give 90% of their wealth away I thought what better way than to go back and help the things I’ve destroyed.

MUSIC: Everybody Got Their Something

TROY WILLIAMS: These men are coming home. Guys who have been locked up for 20-30 plus years. You’re given 200 bucks and it’s like: “Good luck. We’re gonna pray for you. Stay out of prison.” Who do you want coming home? Do you want the animal that’s been caged away for years that’s the same bad-assed gangbanger that he was when he went to prison? Or do you want somebody coming home thinking differently?

WALL STREET: I try to re-iterate to the men that I’m not teaching you some for-sure plan. I’m teaching you to plan. It’s fine to take a loss, it happens. You just know I take loss and it doesn’t have to lead back in to whatever you was doing, drugs, or crime or gangs.

WALL STREET: So this is your homework, 1 call home to your family and I want you to say, “Hey! Do you have a retirement plan? Do you have a 401K? need to know everything happening with your money…”

KITCHEN SISTERS SOC: For NPR News, We’re The Kitchen Sisters, Nikki Silva & Davia Nelson