Characters: Narrator, Male Guard, Officer Duerr, Ryan Merlina, Male Speaker
Narrator Or serving a much longer sentence in state prison. It's 19-year-old Ryan Merlina's first day here.
Male Guard All right, gentlemen, listen up. When Officer Duerr calls your name, grab your property and step forward.
Officer Duerr Merlina.
Ryan Merlina I don't know what I would really compare it to. There's no comparison. It's pretty‑‑ pretty crappy here. I think this would be‑‑this is pretty hard time right here.
Narrator He's been convicted of forgery, burglary, and most recently possession of methamphetamine. A meth user since age 12, Merlina spent his teen years in and out of juvenile detention. This is his first time in the adult system. In exchange for pleading guilty, the court offered Merlina a deal. If he behaves himself, he’ll serve just 6 months at Tent City, but if he messes up, he’ll get 12 years in state prison.
Male Speaker You were not expecting this when you came to jail, huh?
Ryan Merlina No. This is pretty much my last chance. If I do mess up in here or on the outside, I'm looking at 12 years off the bat.
Narrator But surviving at tents is going to be harder than anything he's ever done. Merlina is surrounded by inmates who committed crimes ranging from shoplifting to manslaughter.