Commentary: Account of Incarcerated Life

California State Prison Sacramento in Folsom. (YouTube)

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by Roberto Turcos

I got to Folsom State Prison in 1989. I was doing everything possible to stay away from problems. On 11/4/89, I got a visit from my family, at around 8:30 am. I had a small scratch on the right side of my chest. That scratch happened while I was working out on 11/3/89. As I was getting body searched before I got into the visiting room, the officer saw the scratch on my chest. I explained to him how I got it, and he let me in the visiting room.

When I went out to the dayroom at around 7:00 pm on 11/4/89, four inmates got into a fight. All of them had weapons. The fight took place right under the gunner officer so the officers saw everything.

When the fight was over, all of us got body searched. When the officer searching me saw the scratch on my chest, he cuffed me up and took me for an investigation.

The gunner officer asked me why they picked me up if I was not in the fight. My name was not on the incident report and the visiting officer said that I had the scratch before the fight.  Neither of the officers’ verifications helped me at all; there was a reason for that.

One of the inmates involved in the fight was working for the officers and they let him off the hook. It did not matter that his name was on the incident report.

The Lieutenant who heard my 115 told me that he knew that I was not involved in the fight and that he was willing to let me out of the hole. But if he did, he was going to have a hanging weapon, therefore if I gave him a name, any name for him to put the weapon on, then he would let me out. I was not going to give him a name, even if I knew it.

That’s how I ended up in Pelican Bay SHU. If Folsom was bad, Pelican Bay was worse; the mentality of the officer at Pelican Bay was to break us physically and mentally. In March 1990, I got to Pelican Bay. Before I walked into my cell, I took a look at what was in it. Only toilet paper was in it so I told the officer that I was not going to go into my cell until he put my fish kit in it which includes toilet paper, soap, toothbrush, writing paper, pen and five embossed envelopes. I told the officer that I didn’t see any writing material in my cell. He looked at me and told me that they didn’t have pens and, without a pen, I had no need for writing materials. I got his message.

Pelican Bay opened at the end of 1989. Since it opened, they were keeping the inmates without writing material, “uncommunicative” to the outside world. In the SHU, inmates are not allowed to have loose stamps. Most inmates like myself needed the embossed envelopes that the institution gives out.

Luckily I had a book of stamps in my bible. I made an envelope with my court papers and I used another court paper to write the letter. I sharpened my toothbrush to write with. For ink, I cut one of my fingers, squeezed the blood into my spoon and wrote a letter to my family.

Around 2:00 am, around 15 officers came to kick my door and ordered me to strip down and show them where I cut myself. They asked me why I wrote the letter with blood. I told them that I asked for a pen and that I was not going to wait until they felt like giving me a pen to write with. They told me not to do it again and I was going to get a pen in the morning.

The next day, all the inmates in the SHU got a pen. I was given a write up 115 for writing my letter with blood but that was not enough to pay for what I did. Five officers went into my cell and beat me up. That took place in 1990. Besides getting beat up, I was given another 115 write up where I was accused of Assault on Staff. The BPH used that 115 write up to make one of their favorite claims in order to deny my release date: “I am a very violent inmate and a clear threat to society.”

I already gave up hope on going home alive. I can’t change all the injustice and abuse of power that I have on my record today.

Roberto Turcios is incarcerated in California

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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