Tag Archives: prisons

CALIFORNIA: Stockton and writing

Last week, I was lucky enough to spend some time in Stockton, California, one of my favorite towns.

I was the crime reporter there for the Stockton Record from 1988-92.

This time, I met with students at San Joaquin Delta College, the area community college, in a class taught by poet/instructor Pedro Ramirez. We were talking about writing and how they could tell their own stories — part of my Tell Your True writing workshops.

I’ll be posting some of them soon on my TYTT storytelling page.

The town has taken a lot of hits, entering bankruptcy in the wake of the housing collapse — which seemed reflected in the tales the students wrote, most of which were pretty grim.

Cops have left for departments elsewhere — Oceanside is one, I understand — when they lose their houses due to their salaries being reduced. Crime is again on a track to break records. I did notice a lot of the parolee/addict/hooker kind of folks downtown.

One of Stockton’s problems is that, by design or not, it is within a hundred miles of something like half the prisons in the state: this includes Folsom, San Quentin, Deuel, and the new prisons down by Corcoran/Delano, as well as a women’s prison and a youth-authority prison. That’s a lot.

But there’s a backbone to the town that I always liked, and a down-to-earth quality to folks that I did not feel, for example, when I moved to Seattle for my next job. (Civil folks, those Seattlites, but not at all friendly. And then there’s the rain, or should I say the constant drizzle.)

In Stockton, I note still a lack of graffiti, which is good. When I was there, it was the graffiti that most seemed to drag down the town and give it a defeated/defeatist feel.

These photos suggest the town’s stiff upper lip remains.


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Filed under California, Prison, Storytelling, Tell Your True Tale

PRISONS: A call to end racial warring

A group of inmates in California’s maximum security lockups — Pelican Bay, Corcoran and Tehachapi — are calling for an end to the racial warring that has been part of prison life in the state since … probably since I was born.

Among those calling for this within this coalition are members of the Mexican Mafia, which has warred with blacks in the prison system and ordered Latino gang members in Southern California to wage wars on the streets with blacks as well.

One of the leading members of this collective is Arturo Castellanos — a long-documented Eme member, aka Tablas, serving a life prison sentence for murder since 1980 — who, trial documents and evidence show, ordered up the Florencia 13 war on blacks in the Florence-Firestone unincorporated area that turned that area into a war zone for several years, the worst of which was 2005.

In the federal indictment of Florencia 13 members, the unindicted co-conspirator, identified only as AC, is, according to sources, Arturo Castellanos.

The Black Hand, about ex-mafioso Rene Enriquez, gives a clear idea of how the Eme has used activist groups, lawyers and others to promote their own financial/criminal interests. In interviews with ex-Emeros and their soldiers, I’ve heard these stories as well.

Those interviews have also made clear that the truce edict and the order to end drive-by shootings in the early 1990s were simply ways of organizing Latino street gangs in Southern California into units to tax local drug dealers and kick back some of the money to incarcerated Eme members. Among the edicts the Eme came up with during these years was an order to push Latino street gangs to war with blacks in their areas, rid their areas of black drug dealers, etc.

The result was virtual race wars in neighborhoods such as West Side San Bernardino, Pacoima, Azusa, Highland Park, Glassell Park, Canoga Park, Pomona, Harbor Gateway, Wilmington, Hawaiian Gardens and the aforementioned Florence-Firestone, among others.

Surely it’s a welcome thing to end racial wars in prisons, but history and evidence show that with the Eme you always wonder about underlying motives.



Filed under California, Gangs, Prison