The above photos are a hobbycraft jewelry box created by an inmate. Shannon wanted to try to sell it, but I think this one's mine. I was given another jewelry box by an inmate, purchased from the artist, that is in the shape of a heart complete with a lid and made entirely of craft sticks. I treasure it. Inmates cannot earn income directly by the sale of art-or policies vary-but usually monies earned are given to the family or put in a general fund. Any ideas for selling inmate work? I'm always amazed at the creativity and intricacy of such work.
April 26, 2011
Pen Pal Dilemma
Today I was summoned to a meeting with the Deputy Warden, two CO4's and a CO3.
The meeting began with me asking the Deputy Warden "So, What's up?" What's this about?" The DW, a nice lady and fair Deputy Warden, responded, "You tell me. Is there anything you'd like to tell me?"
"Like what? What's the problem?" I said, sensing she was fishing for information on something she already knew about.
"Are you having trouble with anybody on the yard? We're just trying to be sure you're not being extorted, because we received an application, letter and request to have money taken from your account here to pay for another inmate's pen pal ad. Who is Gabriel Castillo, ADC #148258?" The DW explained to me. "Gabe is a friend of mine and I'm placing a penpal ad for him. I'm not being extorted. He's my friend and I want him to have somebody to write to." I responded. To my disbelief she replied, "He's not a friend. He's an acquaintance. This is prison." -Despite the DW's innuendo, I've found true friendship in prison although the word "friend" is used far too loosely in here and I am guilty of it too.
"You are not allowed to buy another inmate anything off of your account," she informed me. "I thought I just can't buy commissary and stuff like that for someone else? You know, stuff that's inside here." I questioned. "Nope. You're still using your money in here to buy things for another inmate. It's still borrowing, bartering, lending or trading with another inmate." The DW corrected me. "I didn't know this. I won't do it again. I just wanted to help him. He's a good guy with nobody on the outside here to help him. I thought if I could get him a penpal, he'd get some mail and maybe one would turn into a lasting friendship. I apologize," I tried to explain, but was cut off at my apology by one of the CO4s (a new one at Eagle Point).
"Whose handwriting is this?" he asked me, showing me the application, ad text, then letter to the penpal company. "It's my writing," I answered. "In this letter, did you try to get this company to go to the ADOC website and obtain another inmate's information?" Starting to feel like his line of questioning was getting to be more like him trying to make something out of an innocent mistake (of kindness), I told him, "I asked the company to go to the ADOC website, find Gabe's photo there and use that photo on his penpal ad". (ADOC sells inmates one photo for $2.00 which Gabe can't afford to buy on his meager pay raking rocks for ADOC).
This whole thing seemed to be resolved. I was warned that I cannot pay for Gabe's penpal ad. I further learned that no matter how much I'd like to do something nice for another inmate, to give them something beneficial to their future, somebody will try to make something bad out of it. It's the world we live in. The one I put myself in by my actions in 2002 when I broke the law.
I commend Eagle Point's vigilance in trying to crack down on extortion and protect inmates from it. Often times extortion goes unchecked in here. In this problem, and others, Eagle Point's Deputy Warden and staff have been doing a good job.
Unfortunately, Gabe won't have a penpal ad. Considering some of my closest, most trusted, most influential and most cherished friends began as penpals, it saddens me. I know I'd be lost without these people.
I'm sure if someone out there would like to write to Gabe, you might contact Shannon for his information. Blog editor