Like most San Diegans I didn’t have a clue as to what the La Mesa prison was like. These guys filled me in as best they could. I had a hard time believing the stories.
  • Like most San Diegans I didn’t have a clue as to what the La Mesa prison was like. These guys filled me in as best they could. I had a hard time believing the stories.
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This hand-written manuscript arrived with a request from the writer to withhold his identity.

I am a third-generation Southern Californian. I graduated from Upland High School in 1962. Unfortunately, it looks like I will spend my 30-year high school reunion in a Mexican prison. I have an Associate of Science degree from Chaffey College, Alta Loma. My major was lithography (offset printing). I spent 15 years as a job shop pressman. The only time I was out of work was when I wanted to be. I started my apprenticeship at the corner of 45th and Western in Los Angeles the year after the Watts riots. Among other places, I’ve lived and worked in Newport Beach, Las Vegas, Sacramento, Lake Tahoe, and Oregon.

I’ve talked to several other Americans since I’ve been here, and every one of them has said someone ought to write about this place.

The pressures of that lifestyle plus a heart attack caused me at age 36 to seek a career change. I’ve always been around boats, fish, and the water. I was two years old the first time my father took me to Catalina. When I was in my early 20s, I worked as a deckhand on a long-range sportfishing boat out of San Diego. I loved the work, but I was under pressure from my family to get a “real job.” I always wanted to return to fishing, so at age 36 I came back to San Diego and the sportfishing business. I worked several seasons out of here and San Pedro and Long Beach.

You will need $40 to buy your way out of work. Pay the head guy in operations, not the foreman or anyone else.

Like a lot of guys, I got tired of taking other people fishing, so I drifted into the commercial end of the business. I’ve chased albacore tuna from Guadalupe Island, Mexico, to a couple of hundred miles inside the Canadian border. I’ve looked for lobster all around San Clemente Island and all over the Cortez Bank and fished rock cod around every island and bank from Cedros Island, Mexico, to the Farallon Islands off San Francisco. I have enough sea stories to fill a good-sized book.

During the off-seasons, I learned shipwright skills and worked in various boatyards up and down the coast. As the fishing business has declined. I’ve spent more and more time in the restoration and repair of boats.

Fnd out who the head guard is on a shift and give him 50,000 pesos.

I did some work on a yacht here in San Diego. I was hired to crew on the boat and deliver it to Puerto Vallarta. No problems on the trip down, and we made it there in seven days. But my latest adventure began when I was returning to San Diego, the Tijuana cops arrested me on Revolucidn at 9:30 one morning.

I’ve told you my story, and now I’ll take you inside La Mesa prison for your first three days. I’ve talked to several other Americans since I’ve been here, and every one of them has said someone ought to write about this place. I guess I’ve been elected.

The first stop was the Tijuana police department for fingerprinting and to be observed by Tijuana cops. I couldn’t believe the number of cops that poked their heads in the door to look at me.

If you still want to smoke, I would suggest loading up on Faros. They are cheap, about 30 cents per pack. Stash your good cigarettes.

Next we went to my hotel room. I was in a car with two TJ cops. We were followed by another car with four more. My hotel room was searched, my property seized, and we returned to the police station.

I was placed in a holding cell at the tourist division while the cops did their paperwork. I signed the statements when told to, and the arresting officers then placed me and my property in a car and I was taken to the Federales.

Throughout the whole arrest procedure, I was treated in a very professional manner by the police.

I am sure many people have had different experiences, and in no way would I question their stories.

I can only speak for myself. It could be that since I treated them with respect, I in turn was treated respectfully. I don’t know, but it is a younger generation of cops and more professional.

The Federales have a two-story building with holding cells in the back. The jailer takes your shoelaces and your cigarettes. The cells have mattresses on the floor. I was placed in one of the holding cells around one o’clock in the afternoon.

About 2:30 I was taken to the doctor’s office. I was asked by a Mexican doctor if I had any chronic illness or contagious diseases. I said no, but I did have a partially paralyzed right arm due to polio at age seven. I showed him my shoulder and popped it in and out of the socket a couple of times. Mexicans all like to see that. I was returned to a holding cell.

Two Mexican prisoners had been brought in while I was at the doctor’s office. This was my first contact with other prisoners. One guy was a coyote, running illegal aliens. The other guy had shot another Mexican in some dispute. They both spoke some English and I speak some Spanish (enough to get in trouble). Along with me, these guys were in on federal charges. We spent a couple of hours shooting the breeze.

One of these guys had been in La Mesa Penitentiary. Like most San Diegans, I knew there was a penitentiary in Tijuana; and like most San Diegans I didn’t have a clue as to what it was like. These guys filled me in as best they could. I had a hard time believing the stories. The worst time I had ever done was three days in the San Bernardino County jail for drunk in public.

A jailer appeared, and I was escorted to a room on the second floor. It was here an employee of the U.S. consulate general introduced himself, explained my rights, translated my statement, and arranged my phone call to the States. I signed the statement and was returned to my cell. The two other guys were gone.

Around nine in the evening I was escorted to a Chevy Suburban, along with a female prisoner. I was handcuffed in the back and taken to La Penitenciaria de La Mesa.

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