Prison Preparation: 101

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But then he stopped short: All the backward driving had confused him about which side his passenger was on. Eventually, Dale Hammock appeared. Hammock was 65, white, his head shaved completely bald, both arms wrapped in black tattoos. He wore sweat shorts, a white T-shirt, canvas slip-ons and white socks pulled up near his knees. All his clothes were bright and brand-new. As he approached Carlos and Roby, he thrust his chest toward them as far as it would go. Inside, this might have signaled strength and authority, but out here, it looked bizarre, as if he had some kind of back deformity.

Carlos handed Hammock the key and asked if he wanted to pop the trunk. Hammock was sent away in , at a time when stiff sentencing reforms around the country were piling more people into prison for longer amounts of time. Many spill out of prison in no condition to take advantage of the helpful bureaucracies the re-entry movement has been busily putting in place. This became clear in , after California voted to overhaul its three-strikes law and a criminal-justice group at Stanford Law School, the Stanford Three Strikes Project, started filing petitions to have roughly 3, prisoners serving life sentences set free with time served.

So far, close to 2, have been released. Unlike typical parolees, third-strikers are often notified of their release just before it happens, sometimes only a day in advance.

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It can take months for a judge to rule after papers are filed. Then, Carlos and Roby started driving around the state and waiting outside to catch them. The job started as a simple delivery service, to carry some of these discombobulated bodies from one place to another.

In late , the director of the Three Strikes Project, Michael Romano, contacted a nonprofit called the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, which has built up a close community of formerly incarcerated people in Los Angeles. Romano, who is also an A. Romano asked if A. They wound up spending almost two hours in the store, just looking. It was extraordinary: All day, Carlos could see this man coming back to life. He wanted to do more pickups, and he wanted to get his friend Roby involved.

He told his bosses he needed a partner. By now, Carlos and Roby — officially, A.

It helps to have a wingman. But what if Acosta had accidentally bumped into a waitress, knocking over her tray and shattering dishes? What if that man had glared at him, instead of greeting him, or snapped at him to get the hell out of the way? On one ride home earlier this year, I watched a third-striker venture inside a convenience store, alone, to buy a candy bar while Roby pumped gas. The man seemed emboldened after a few hours of freedom, actually hopping a bit as he walked.


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But then he tripped over the curb and tumbled forward, arms thrashing, nearly face-planting in front of the door. The restaurant was overcrowded, loud and full of the kind of hyperdifferentiated nonsense that ordinary Americans swim through every day, never assuming it can or should be fully understood. There were two kinds of hot sauce and four different sweeteners on the table.

Trivial Pursuit Tomato Ketchup. The first meal after a long prison sentence is an ostensible celebration laced with stress. The food tastes incredible. But ordering — making any choice — can be unnerving. Waiters are intimidating; waitresses, especially pretty ones, can be petrifying.

How successful re-entry into society helps break the cycle of recidivism

Hammock ordered a chocolate milk, too. Then he changed it to a Lumberjack Slam. One morning 21 years ago, Hammock was pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt, and the cop found a half-pound of methamphetamine under the passenger seat. He was given a sentence of 31 years to life.

He moved through 10 different prisons and watched firsthand as the age of mass incarceration took hold. Facilities started running at percent capacity, gyms were converted into dorms, all kinds of privileges were discontinued some prisons even outlawed fresh fruit, to crack down on homemade alcohol and everyone, Hammock said — the inmates and the guards — started walking around with more abrasive attitudes.

Hammock, meanwhile, had mellowed somewhat, become an old man.

Read an excerpt from Lessons From Prison

He was too worn out to be menacing anymore. His milkshake came. He took a tentative sip, then removed the straw and started gulping. Roby took a picture on his phone, showed it to Hammock, then zapped it off to the team at Stanford.

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Hammock was amazed. It was like having breakfast with a time traveler.

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Was it true that everyone had stopped using cash? Later, in the restroom, he wrenched the front of the automatic soap dispenser off its base instead of waving his hand under it. Carlos and Roby had been careful so far not to overwhelm Hammock, but with his milkshake in place, they eased into discussing some practicalities. They talked about cellphone plans and how to get two forms of ID, so Hammock could register for welfare and other assistance. Hammock seemed determined to figure it all out. If he was serious about cutting hair, Carlos said, there was a government rehabilitation program that might pay for his licensure classes.

Roby offered to buy him a set of clippers so he could get a little business going right away, giving haircuts to the other third-strikers at the housing facility where they were heading. In fact, Carlos added, he commuted past there every day. You know how to dictate how people treat you. Hammock nodded. This seemed to make sense to him in a way that nothing else had so far. His breakfast took up three separate plates.

He ate inelegantly and quickly, working the food over with his half-set of dentures and toothless lower gums. If the individual has pending charges, you may want to consult with the prosecutor on the matter before the interview. This holds very true when conducting gang interviews. If the individual you are interviewing thinks you already know something, they will freely give you information. You are only helping them help you.

You may only have a small piece of the puzzle and that little bit may be enough. If the gang member believes you already have the information, they will continue talking about the gang and their activities and, thus, inadvertently fill in the missing puzzle pieces for you. Always record the interview for your protection. How or when the recording is used is up to you. You are conducting these interviews for the safety and security of the facility.


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  • Any other information is secondary and not the original intent. Consider these pointers during the interview:. Q - What Barrio, Hood or Set ask according to suspected gang lingo. If and when an inmate requests to talk, always remind them their attorney would not want them talking to you.

    In my experience the inmate usually informs me they do not care what their attorney thinks. Remind them the interview is taking place at their request. Remind them not to talk about the current case. This information is solely intended for training and educational purposes and shall not be considered as legal advice. More CorrectionsOne Articles.