FLDS Leader Warren Jeffs Issues Harsh Edicts From Prison

Amy Robach has the latest on the infamous polygamous sect.
4:03 | 11/29/12

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Transcript for FLDS Leader Warren Jeffs Issues Harsh Edicts From Prison
Tonight, a well-known polygamist sect is back in the news. Authorities in texas are fighting to seize a compound in texas belonging to the group led by warren jeffs. You may remember jeffs was suspected of taking dozens of underaged brides, but he was convicted last year of sexually assaulting two young women. And, another of the towns where jeffs followers live is in the spotlight, as well, and this one is on the border between utah and arizona. Abc news spent a year investigating the education of children there and the control jeffs still exerts from his prison cell. Amy robach made the trip to a secret world. Reporter: Deep in the desert, on the border between utah and arizona, a polygamous sect of 8,000 people are still living a secret life. Obeying the commands of their leader, warren jeffs. He was sentenced to life in prison for the sexual assault of girls as young as 14. We miss our prophet, we know he is innocent. Reporter: A year-long investigation by "20/20" reveals that jeffs, from behind prison bars, still controls every aspect of his followers' lives. Obey the prophet when he speaks, and you'll be blessed. Disobey him -- it is death. Reporter: In this community, where a man needs three wives to gain salvation, warren jeffs married over 80 women. After week, he issues bizarre random orders. Now it is down that you cannot eat corn. No sex between husband and wife. At home you couldn't have any toys. You couldn't ride bikes either. Reporter: This community has often taken young boys out of school to work in construction. build this multimillion dollar house for jeffs even though he's sentence was light. They said if we build it then it would melt the bars or whatever in his jail and he would be released. Reporter: Is warren jeffs in charge? We asked people all over town about warren jeffs, but no one would answer our questions. Excuse me? Excuse me? Hello? But the most destructive form of control is jeffs' banishment of hundreds of people from the town. This midwife has birthed hundreds of babies. She's worked here for almost 40 years. On a busy day, I could see as many as 20 to 25 patients. Reporter: But just a few months ago, she too was banished. Willie steed's family was torn apart, too. What happens to your loved ones is hell. Reporter: A kind of underground railroad for those escaping from polygamy is now helping willie's family slowly adjust to modern life. Like many young boys here, he could barely read. Dodge? Close. Dog? Reporter: As for his sisters, a milestone. They were never allowed to cut their hair before. That was quite a time for us. Reporter: You get emotional, though, when you talk about it. We have to move on in life and leave things behind. Reporter: One family now beyond jeffs' reach. Thousands more still isolated in the desert, obeying his word. And amy robach is here now. Amy, no one can do anything about this? What about the board of education and the schools? Reporter: And we spoke with them and they say the flds is protected by a home schooling law that is separate in utah. Basically school officials, the board of education, have no rights to go in and make any assessment of what's going on inside these homes. They cannot tell the parents what type of curriculum to use or not to use. They say their hands are tied. What about the prison system? Reporter: We contacted the texas department of criminal justice who told us that most defenders like warren jeffs have basic rights. They have rights to send and receive mail. They have rights to use the telephone. They is rights to have visitors on preapproved gels lists. Tell me the name of the group that is help them get out? Reporter: Holding out help. They are so desperate because they provide so much for these families who have nothing when they leave. Not even a driver's license sometimes. All right, amy robach. As we said, going into a very secret world. Thank you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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