Drama in the Big House: Part 2 - 'The Scarecrow'

News 12 gets a rare look behind the walls of one of America's most notorious maximum security prisons - Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining - where a unique theater program is giving hardened criminals a second chance at life.

For the first time in the theater program's 20-year history, family members of the prisoners were allowed inside to witness one of the productions come to life, and our cameras rolled on the emotional journey from practices to the big day when relatives reunited.

News 12's Tara Rosenblum spoke with an inmate who was involved in the notorious 1990 Long Island movie theater massacre. Lawrence Bartley Jr. has served over 27 years in prison. He played the Scarecrow in a first-of-its-kind production inside Sing Sing.

Bartley was 17 years old when he was involved in a deadly gun fight during a midnight showing of "The Godfather: Part 3" on Christmas Day in 1990.

While multiple combatants fired shots, the bullet that killed a 15-year-old boy matched Bartley's gun. He was later convicted of second-degree murder.

"That was my first time firing a weapon," Bartley says. "I felt afraid. I didn't want to do it, but I did so at the end no one could say, 'You didn't do anything.' It was part of the lifestyle."

Now 42, Bartley is married and a father of three children.

With a family of his own now, he says he's spent a long time thinking about his crime.

"I can never expect to be forgiven by that family," Bartley says. "Can't imagine the hurt they feel."

Now, as the Scarecrow in the prison performance of "The Wizard of Oz," Bartley aptly sings "If I Only Had a Brain."

Katherine Vockins, the Rehabilitation Through the Arts program director, says acting helps convicts break down old decision making.

"Programs like RTA give you an outlet not to be a person stigmatized as a killer," Vockins says. 

"If they put all this time and effort into us, I don't want to embarrass them and go home and be like a recidivist on TV -- commit another crime...I don't ever want to be that," Bartley says. Nor does he want to disappoint his young son. 

Before the show, Bartley had a little time to reunite with his son, noting, "It will feel good to be his hero for just one night."

After the show, his wife and kids teared up in a tender moment even a scarecrow could appreciate.

Tune in tomorrow at 5 p.m. for Part III of this News 12 special report: Drama in the Big House.

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