Some insights on life at San Quentin

February 4th, 2012 // No Comments

My friend Valerie and I have an appointment to visit Charles again. Getting such an appointment isn’t all that easy. In prison and on death row people have nothing but time. It’s about years or death. Considering the alternative, time is in your favor. Amazing how people adapt. Some rebel and pay for it. Charles learned quickly that he’d rather play by the rules and is considered a model inmate. Now that we visited him several times we developed a kind of friendship. At first he was suspicious about talking to us regarding his life. Now he enjoys sharing his thoughts and impressions of the world outside he gets to see on his TV screen. After being shut off for some 25 years so much changed that it must be difficult for him to relate to all those i gadgets people can’t live without anymore. He spends his time designing origami pieces of art, he paints, reads and thinks and bears with the noise in prison. Just imagine some 50 inmates communicating with each other across an empty space – at the same time. The noise level is so excrutiating that the law provides earplugs to inmates. The help some. He is quite upbeat and by now accustomed to life in prison. So much so, I think, that he accepts the inevitable. From his accounts of what happened and how he got involved with those crimes he is accused of, I see a very different story from what the court came up with. There is no evidence that he killed anybody. Yes, he was a fugitive for rather minor offenses. Shoplifting, stealing weapons (a common crime in the military only he was punished for), escaping from the police (who wouldn’t under those circumstances). He did time. And is still doing time for the rest of his life, unless — yes?

Lake was a fascinating character. I have known fanatics like him – many neo nazis fall under that category – obsessed with perfection according to their standards. Of course they never take a look at themselves. Most of us would feel disgusted at them the way they are disgusted at people who do not fit their standards. Lake, a charismatic fellow and the only “friend” who took Charles in, became a buddy. As such, Charles would help out, provide services. The person who should be interrogated and investigated is Lake’s wife Cricket. She was with Lake all the time, enjoyed kinky sex and was able to switch the evidence, replacing her videos with those that show Charles. He is not innocent and certainly did a number of stupid things, but not vicious ones. When she refused to testify in court, or show up when subpoenaed, etc. nobody seemed to care. They let her off as if it was perfectly OK for her to be involved in Lake’s activities without any justification or accustions. Why should the court care as long as they had Charles, a suspect who was pronounced guilty even before he had any hearing whatsoever.

For the moment this is as far as I got. Will keep you posted as I discover new angles of this tragic drama. Vengeance is not justice.

Tomorrow I’ll see Charles again and buy some fruits, a salad, juice, ice cream and a hamburger from the vending machine. He eats while we visits. He is not allowed to take anything to his cell, but must pack left-overs – should there be any – into a plastic bag and dispose of it before returning, handcuffed to the world he is condemned to live in.

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