Friday, December 12, 2008

Interesting family members

I have a first cousin, who for almost as long as I can really remember him, has been in prison. He's 49, 9 years older than me. My mom and his mom are sisters. I don't know everything about him, but what I do know is that about 20 years ago he was accused of killing two people over a marijuana issue. According to my cousin, it was a set up. In addition, according to his mother, there was tampering with the jury by other jury members. Apparently some jury members who wanted to vote 'not guilty' were being scared or threatened to vote guilty. Now, you would think this is a no brainer for a mistrial or at least a new trial. Nope. He's done what he can with the system, but at this point I believe only a pardon can set him free. He got life in prison.

I was about in high school when he got arrested. I have vague memories of him at family gatherings. Since I was a girl and he was much older we didn't hang out much. His one sister stayed with us for a week when I was 4 yrs old after my brother was born. He also has another sister and brother.

My cousin had the cutest daughter and son at the time he went in. Rachelle was only 2 yrs old at the time. I was completely in love with her since I was in high school when she was born and prime babysitting age so I'd follow her around while her mom visited everyone. Sean was a couple years older. In 2001 Rachelle and I were both pregnant with our first child together. We were both due in April 2001. She was a young mother. She now has 2 sons. Her brother Sean has a son and daughter. He's also a young father. We're talking 3rd cousins now. I have a big family.

He also has another daughter I didn't even know about until the year 2000 and she was 18 at the time. He remarried while in Folsom prison (because you know how some women totally dig prison men) which I knew, but they had a daughter which I didn't know about. She came to our last family reunion this past April. She's very sweet and beautiful.

In prison you belong to a certain group in order to survive. You have your Hispanic gang, black gang, Asian gang etc. Tommy's father, who died when I was young, was American Indian. His mother is Italian and Irish. Tommy choose to take on his American Indian heritage more strongly and belong to that group. He grew his hair long, totally worked out and got lots of tattoos.

Up until a few years ago he was in Folsom Prison in CA. Then he blew it. He was working in the dentist office of Folsom prison and there was a woman that worked in there too. She would just come for the day and leave. Hanky panky is a big no no. Well, he got caught fucking her in the back room. They wanted him to admit to some things, which I believe would have gotten the lady in bigger trouble, but he refused to comply. You absolutely cannot be a tattle tale in prison or your dead meat. As punishment for not cooperating they sent him to a different prison.

My cousin had been in the new part of Folsom prison almost his entire time, which as far as prisons go was apparently pretty nice. Large cells, and much newer with more modern conveniences. They sent him to Corcoran Prison in King City, CA which was older and not nearly as nice. He hated it. His mom and family tried to get it reversed but no go.

His mom was really upset for many reasons. Mainly, because she and her husband had moved to a nearby city on purpose, because it was only 1 hour from Folsom. She would visit him once a week. His new prison is many hours away and she just couldn't do the visits anymore. Now she lives in Florida, but is visiting this week and staying at my moms house for a couple days. I know she plans to see him while she's here.

At family reunions we each write a note to him that delivered by his mother. She keeps him pretty informed on the family. I've been encouraged by his sister to visit him, especially when my own grandparents lived in Folsom, but since I didn't really remember him well, I felt uncomfortable going. To visit you first must get approved by the prison administration. You have to apply so they can do a background check on you. In addition, when you visit the inmates you can't wear under wire bras, belts or anything that can be used as a weapon. The entire thing seemed too complicated.

Going off topic for a second. I remember once as a teenager, my parents, brother and I were visiting my grandparents for a weekend. They lived in the town of Folsom, CA. On a whim we decided to go check out the prison. We'd been there many times in the parking lot. I know that sounds weird, but my Granddad was a guard there for 22 years and at the end of his employment he worked in the towers with the rifles, overseeing the grounds and the Folsom Dam, which was right next to the prison. Everyday he would pack a peanut butter & jelly sandwich along with other food items into his lunch box and off he'd go in his uniform.

In summers I would stay there by myself for a couple weeks and I was always curious about my Granddads cool job as a prison guard. The prison was ominous. Not only that, but the road that you turned into to drive up to the prison had huge sirons on either side and was very long with nothing around. My Grandma would drive me over there and show me which tower he was in. I thought it was the coolest job ever. They have a barber shop, museum and store on site that you can visit. My granddad only got his haircuts at the prison. They even took my brother there once in the 70's when he was a boy and lopped off his long hair. My mom was pissed.

So that one day we decided to go see the museum and store. At the time I also had a classmate and friend named Carol, whose brother was also in the same prison for murder. She didn't talk about him much. As my parents and I walked past the visitor area where you wait your turn to visit the inmate, there was Carol and her family in line to visit her brother! Talk about awkward. They saw us and were shocked. I know her mom looked embarrassed. Carol wasn't though, she was more surprised so we chatted it up for a few minutes. Talk about coincidence!

Back to my cousin. I decided to look him up online and found the 2 below pictures with corresponding entries. He is on a couple pen-pal prison websites.


"I am a 44 year old Jicarilla/Ute half-breed with close connection to my spiritual nature, and find this in my Native American heritage. I have been in prison for 18 years and will be here as long as it takes to win my freedom. I fight the system to the best of my capability and in so far I have a little luck in these endeavors. If I should be fortunate enough to meet people from all over this world to talk with and share ideas with, then I would consider myself a lucky man.I have had the blessing of being a father, in turn they have made me a grandfather three times over - this is truly a blessing, I only wish I could be a bigger part of their lives. I do a fair share of writing in many forms, and I wish to share with others any and all of my experience. I have contacts in Northern Europe, and I like to expand out to the South-seas and New Zealand. Not to be petulant, but I find that I respond better to women that seek sharing life's gift and experiences
with a man who has an ear for understanding. I do not seek anything from anyone but exchanging letters. I have no needs but company and I enjoy humor and tales of wonder about family and friends, about travels near and far. I can offer the same in return.
"

The picture below is him with his daughter and her husband along with their son. I believe this must have been in 2001.


"For me it has been many years of suppression inside the walls of this system, but I fight on to win the freedom desired. While the twenty years have been hard, I have learned to become connected with the Spirits surrounding everything upon this path. I bead and write to pass the time - that is when not being worked - I am now 45 with three grown children and have been blessed with three beautiful grandchildren. In this way I am happy to have lived a life before all of this.I seek correspondence with WOMEN from all over the world who would like to help release the inner spirit, one trapped of loneliness, to travel outside these walls. I like to share your world with me - if you look tothe setting sun and find that you have a curiosity, if you feel you want some kind of connection - PLEASE, allow me the grace of your words, to travel to places only dreamt of. No expectation are placed upon anyone, only friendship and the thanks of a chained man."
I can't imagine what it's like to be him. But he's certainly made a life for himself inside.

2 comments:

Stefanie said...

Wow that is a pretty intense story. Are you fascinated with the details of the case? Any feeling one way or another re: guilt or innocense? Just wondering. Very nice post.

Sandra said...
This comment has been removed by the author.