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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Interview -- January 11, 2010

Earlier today, I was finally called over to the Office of Internal Affairs to learn why my property boxes were confiscated. I was invited into a small office which had a desk, a couple of chairs, some file cabinets, and an unmistakable one-way mirror (I knew that from the other side someone could watch and possibly hear what was being said). The man conducting the interview was a man I knew from many years ago when he worked as a guard at Joliet Correctional Center. As all people who knew me back then, he asked if I had, or am suffering from, some illness. I have lost about 35 pounds of muscle, and people assume that I contracted cancer or some other debilitating disease. I responded, "No, that is what 15 years in prison will do to you. I am not sick, but I injured my lower back and cannot lift heavy weights anymore." Since my 30's, I have focussed mostly on my cardio-vascular health and to be cut up rather than big. If I intend to live many more years in prison, longevity and good health will be more important than looking like a professional wrestler.

I cut through the small talk, and asked him if I was going to get my property back. After some hesitation, he said I was going to get some of it back, but it was to be very little. He went on to tell me they had decided to return my clothes, papers, books, electronics, and some miscellaneous, but all my food and hygiene commissary plus pre-stamped envelopes would not, other than what I can prove I purchased in the last six months. This was grossly unjust. The vast preponderance of my large box was stacked with food. I had dozens of packages of tuna fish, roast beef and pink salmon, 20 bags of Trail Mix and mixed nuts, 10 packs of beef stew, 5 bags of granola cereal, several boxes of oatmeal, and 5 packs of chicken breast. I also had about 10 bars of soap, deodorants, and Colgate toothpaste, along with several bottles of shampoo. Plus I had several hundred pre-stamped envelopes. Considering that I rarely shop, and have accumulated my property over the years, I was going to be robbed of almost $500.

I told my interviewer this was outrageous. I have been in prison 15 years, and he was expecting me to only have property that was purchased in the last 6 months. I told him that, at a minimum, he should go back a few years to view my commissary purchases. I asked him if he had the authority to do this. He avoided the question, and told me they could go back further in my records, but it would be redundant because they know that my property was procured from gambling. According to his confidential informant (snitch), I was the "kingpin" bookmaker of Stateville.

I was asked if I cared to explain how I got so much property. I told him that about a quarter of the property they took was not mine, but my cellmate's, whose boxes were so cluttered that he kept commissary outside of his box. He was not aware of this, and told me that he did not conduct the search of my cell, nor the inventory of the property taken. His duty was limited only to this interview. I also told him that Stateville goes on lockdown so often, and during those times we are not allowed to shop. Even when not on lockdown, lately we have only been shopping once or twice a month. I have intentionally stocked up on food and other things so I will never go without certain things. I tend to also hoard what I have, and much of my property, even packaged foods, is over a year old. I was asked if I knew how many pre-stamped envelopes I had. I answered that I did not know the exact amount, but it was alot. He said, "352. How did you get 352 envelopes with the new rate of 44 cents on them when you have not bought a single write-out since the rate was changed?" I responded, "If you like, you can ask my counselor, and she will tell you that I asked her to exchange some 200 envelopes last spring." He told me they do not believe my counselor. That is all fine with me, I thought, but my trust fund records will show that I purchased extra postage for those envelopes.

I was then asked if I cared to explain what I was doing with a NFL schedule, and carbon paper. "Carbon paper?" I asked. "I use carbon paper to make copies of all my legal correspondence, and my legal work product. It is difficult getting on the library list to have copies made over there, and it is much quicker and easier if I just use carbon paper. As for an NFL schedule, I watch football. In fact, over the weekend, I watched all four NFL playoff games." I asked him if he caught the final game between the Green Bay Packers and Arizona Cardinals, which was the best of them all, and went into overtime. He said he did, and we spoke a little about the game including the ending where Arizona's defense got away with two penalties which could have changed the outcome. He told me this is why he doesn't gamble. "By the way," he asked me, "the Packers were still good with the spread, yes?" I looked at him and said, "No comment." But, no, a wager on the Packers was still a loser. The game ended with the Packers losing by six points. Some odds makers gave the team a field goal, but others had the game a pick with no spread. Either way, if you wagered on Green Bay, you lost.

Repeatedly, my interviewer asked me if I was in any danger or being threatened by inmates or staff. I was also asked if I wanted to be placed in protective custody. The reason for this questioning was that if I was taking bets and was not able to pay winners, they would take their money in blood, or lumps to the head. "No," I told him time and time again, "I am not under any imminent danger." Finally, I said to him, "Mr. Tejada, I am beginning to think you actually care about me, despite gangstering all my property. Is this line of questioning from your own concern, or is it merely a ploy to get me to confess, or just your job?" He said, "Maybe all of the above, but you can see how it is my responsibility, and that I could be held accountable if something happened to you."

My interview by Internal Affairs was rather relaxed, and clearly, I.A. has more important investigations to pursue in a maximum-security prison filled with violent, and the most unruly, convicts. After the incident that occurred tonight, I am sure that I.A. will have their hands full if they were not already. I will wait to address what occurred this evening for my next journal entry, but in the last couple of weeks, I.A. has been very busy investigating all types of matters, including gang disputes, fights, drugs, and more. I have learned since my property was taken that, initially, I.A. was not even investigating me, but a fight on a yard between gangs and a card game that went awry. While questioning people about that, someone dropped my name.

In the next few days, I will be filing a grievance about how my statutory rights were violated when I was left in my cell for 11 days with nothing but my TV, radio, dirty laundry, and the clothes on my body. I will also grieve how my Constitutional rights were violated when my property was confiscated without due process. Internal Affairs is only an investigative body. They have police powers, but are not permitted to set rules or make adjudications. My property was taken without any proof of illicit conduct or illegitimate property being in my possession. A prison snitch and a lot of property does not make one guilty of being a bookmaker! However, the justice system in prison is far worse than the one in our courts. I will almost certainly be forced to file a lawsuit in order to be compensated for my losses. The time and work I will have to spend will be time and work I would much rather put into fighting for my freedom. Nevertheless, I will do so, if I must.

7 comments:

  1. Why DID you have 10 bars of soap and several hundred envelopes? Isn't that a bit excessive?

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    Replies
    1. At maximum security prisons, inmates stock up on certain items because they do not know when they will be able to shop again. Lockdowns occur regularly and it was just recently that Stateville set up a commissary schedule. Furthermore, prisoners use various goods such as stamped envelopes as barter.

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    2. But...is it common to have several hundred envelopes ??

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    3. Did you get your envelopes back?

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    4. No, I never received any of the property Internal Affairs stole from me.

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  2. This is a tactic to remind you -you are in prison don't get to comfortable.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm... I tend to think there was a greater motive or purpose, however, I am not the best judge of people's intentions.

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