Prison guards see all kinds of convicts come and go in their line of work.
Below are 10 stories from prison guards who believed that one inmate they had might have been innocent.
1. Was a guard a few years ago, had an inmate in who was in for a parole violation.
He was on his way to his parole officer, got in a bad car wreck and broke his collarbone and two ribs. The hospital called the parole officer to reschedule, but his parole officer said 'too bad. If he does not show up today, he will go back to jail.' Needless to say three days later he walks out the hospital, to be immediately arrested and put in jail.
2. I work in booking, so I see them when they come in, and when they go out, I also do all of their paperwork and read the criminal complaints the officers file before arraignments.
I have seem people get pretty lenient charges, and a few get something more harsh than I would have charged them with, but I have yet to see someone come into my jail that wasn't guilty of something.
For example, we have a 19 year old female come in a couple times a week on a T-47 hold, which is a non-criminal 12 hour sleep off. Yet she is under the drinking age and rarely does the officer ever charge her with a minor consuming, let alone a minor consuming-habitual. I have watched her kick numerous officers as well, yet she never gets assault 3 or assault 4 on an LEO.
On the other side, I also have an old man who was 74 and no priors come in on a assault 4 domestic violence, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest. All because he got emotional and pushed his step-son at his wife's funeral (step-son's mother) and then made a scene and refused to leave when the cops showed up to arrest him after the stepson called the cops on him mid-way through the service.
Step-son was a regular in our facility for theft and apparently told the old man, that essentially he was happy she passed so that he could get her stuff. He was guilty of the Assault IV, but a little tact and compassion would have gone a long ways to avoid the other charges from taking place.
3. I was a Correctional Officer for five years. The closest I know of someone actually being innocent was the case of the three strikes law. (basically, upon being found guilty of a third felony, you're hit with a MUCH stiffer penalty).
He was a bouncer at a bar, and broke up a fight. Steps outside with the doorman and there happens to be a news reporter there, reporting about the nightlife, and they ask for a interview. He said no thank you. Cameraman keeps filming, and is asked to stop. He get all high and mighty on his freedom of the press speech and shoves the camera in the bouncer's face, saying that he can't do anything about him filming. Natural reaction, bouncer palms the camera lens and pushes the cameraman away.
Now, he did it with some force, but by no means with any malicious intent. Viewfinder hits the cameraman above the eye, and cuts his forehead, he immediately screams causing the two police officers on the other side of the road come running over. One officer ends up recognizing the bouncer from previous charges and arrests him for malicious wounding, a felony. This is the bouncer's third felony and therefore is immediately sent to prison upon being found guilty. Did an extra ten years for the three strikes law. If anyone else had done the same thing, I feel like the responding officers wouldn't have arrested them.
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4. Actually all the time. Remand times are a big concern, sometimes people can wait in jail for a year waiting for trial and sentencing to be finished, especially if there are witness testimonies to arrange, victim impacts, pre-sentence reports etc.
If you've already got a lengthy criminal record, to the extent you'd be denied bail, which is common, it's in your best interest to plead guilty for minor crimes whether you did it or not. You could sit in jail for a year proving you didn't make that threatening phone call, or you could just plead out and be home in three to six months, because if you sat there a year you'd likely be sentenced to six months time served anyways.
5. 19 year old kid at my facility was sentenced 10 years for manslaughter and DUI. Kid was 17 at the time of the accident. Swerved to miss a deer, lost control and ended up hitting a tree, which killed his girlfriend, who was in the passenger seat. Kid blows a '.02' on the breathalyzer. Not impaired what so ever ,but he was under the age of 21 (legal drinking age) and was still given a DUI, which led to the manslaughter charge. I guess this is just more of an example of the f*cked up system in place.
The girl's family visited him every weekend until he was transferred.
6. One guy had been found guilty of sexual assault at a bench trial even though his DNA did not match the perpetrator's. Let that sink in. A judge found a man guilty, even though it was not his semen in the victim.
Possibly the worst case I ever saw involved a man whose daughter was molested at her day care. The perpetrator, the husband of the lady who ran the day care, had molested several children there. After the trial, the day care owner claimed that the father of one of the victims had molested her child several years earlier. The cops asked him to come down to the station to talk about it. Having done nothing wrong, he agreed. After talking to him for hours, the police nevertheless believed they had a case against him. He was arrested, could not make bail, and sat in jail for a year. He intended to go to trial, but on the day of the trial the prosecutor offered him a deal: plead guilty, get time served, go home that day. He agreed, pled guilty, got four years.
Working in a prison gave me a front-row seat to the awfulness of the criminal justice system. Most people in prison really were career criminals and very bad people, but the wrongful convictions were horrifying. I will never agree to talk to the police under any circumstances, and I have no faith in the benevolence of prosecutors or judges.
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7. As an ex-officer, it's difficult to believe anyone in prison. The inmates that you don't want to believe did it will usually admit it to you. The inmates that lie all the time will blame it on someone else. "Well, Boogie was out with Money, and Shante didn't like Boogie. Money killed Boogie, and I took the wrap for it."
You hear sh*t like that all day.
However, there was one inmate would was in for over 20 years with a life sentence that was released after new evidence showed he really didn't do it. He's now writing a book and attempting to sue the state.
8. I have never seen someone that I believe to be innocent but I have seen guys come in that were what I feel to be unfairly imprisoned. We had one guy who was a normal blue collar type who missed a child support payment. Then his lawyer didn't tell him about an upcoming court appointment and he was given 30 days in jail. The lawyer admitted to not telling him but the judge wasn't having any of it.
One guy in my institution is in his late 60's and has a sparkling clean record but is in on manufacturing of a substance charges. His son has had several charges in the same thing before so we all think that he took the charge to keep his son from doing time.
9. I'll share a story about an inmate that everyone I talked to felt was wrongly incarcerated.
I worked with this one inmate an older black gentleman we'll call Mr. Grass. Allegedly Mr Grass owned a lawnmower repair shop that was well respected in the community. One day some guys bring in some lawnmowers to sell and Mr Grass purchased them for a fair price. What these fine young lads neglected to mention is these lawnmowers were stolen. Mr. Grass is arrested pleads guilty and is sentenced to quite a few years.
10. Been a CO for a while now, and while I'm sure there are a few, there is only one that strikes me as likely being innocent.
He's an old black guy on my rock. Hes claimed for years that he's innocent. My partner and I read his file (basically contains all the info from his arrest including statements and court docs, along with docs from his incarceration like security level reviews and tickets) and both think there is at least a good chance he's innocent.
He was arrested in the early 60s for allegedly robbing a store and killing a white woman. There were eye witnesses there stating it was a local man by the name of Perry (changed for obvious reasons). The make and color of the car was also reported. Seems like a pretty easy case.
Said car is tracked down being driven by our inmate, let's call him Miller. They immediately arrest Miller and charge him. Even though this is a different man than eye witnesses report (though they aren't really that reliable, it's all they had).
But this is where it gets weird. Instead of charging him as miller, they call him Perry and charge him under that name. So his legal name, which even appears on the back of his DOC ID is Miller, but he's on our count boards and computers as Perry.
Now this is a very old file, and pages may be missing, so maybe someplace in there, there's an explanation for this whole thing, but based on the file doc we have, it seems really shady and weird. Like the police figured they had a black guy driving the right car, good enough.
He is still trying to file appeals and such, but he's so institutionalized he wouldn't even know what to do if he got out. He also absolutely hates when you call him Perry, always says that's not my name. He's one of the better inmates I've ever had, so long as you call him Miller.