At one point, Maxine Paul was an entertainment lawyer, busy with client meetings and legal briefs.
But now a filmmaker, she has had the chance, for example, to sit face to face with a serial killer discussing his cannibalization of women. She spoke with Correspondent Russ Mitchell on CBS This Morning.
It was all part of a fascinating five-year journey that transformed Paul and her neighbor Amy Kalafa from suburban working moms to filmmakers, exploring the world of American prison life.
The three-part documentary they made is called Inside The Criminal Mind, and the final episode airs Wednesday night on Court TV.
Paul and Kalafa were granted considerable access to eight Northeast prisons. But the heart of their work focuses on therapy programs, aimed at rehabilitating criminals, some of whom will someday leave the bars behind.
For Paul, one overwhelming emotion throughout the project was really how much criminals seemed to be just like the rest of us living on the outside. She observes that most people have a fantasy of striking out or getting even at some point in their lives.
These inmates were people who just didn't have the coping skills to keep the fantasy from becoming reality, she said. And in most of her experiences, the most heinous criminals appear "normal" when you meet them, she added.
For example she interviewed David Berkowitz, otherwise known as "Son of Sam.Â" "He looked more out of place in a maximum security prison than he would have in an H&R Block office. He was nonthreatening; he expressed himself. I didn't feel nervous at any time being in the room with him," she recalled.
Interviewing a guy like Arthur Shawcross, a cannibalistic serial killer, was a bizarre experience that even gave her nightmares, though, she said.
"I must say that I did have goose bumps sitting in the room listening to his stories. We spent about an hour and a half with Mr. Shawcross in the room," Paul said.
"What was more remarkable to me was that during the interview - during his therapy session, the fact came out that someone married him while he was incarcerated," she said.
But overall, she said, the experiences she had changed her perceptions about herself. On a personal level, it reinforced her belief that where thereÂ's a will, thereÂ's a way. And in another sense, it made her realize how critical rehabilitation is.
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