Shame: Few visit women prisoners

Ladies in lockup

“I was arrested downtown after selling less than $10 worth of crystal meth,” Briscoe says. The cops found a marked $20 in my purse. It went down on 10th Avenue, near the Starbucks.”

Briscoe is allowed only to go to and from her a part-time job at a nearby mall, and to a five-days-a-week rehab program. If she goes anywhere else, local police will be notified, at which point she will be sent back to Las Colinas.

“The other day, I had a bunch of missed phone calls from the San Diego Sheriff’s Department. If you continuously charge [the ankle monitor] like they tell you to, you won’t get calls. Once the battery gets down to 35 percent, they’ll call you and say, ‘You are in direct violation.’ At the time of their phone calls, I was at work. I didn’t know what to do. I can’t charge my leg at work, because my coworkers would find out I’m on house arrest. I had to go down to the ice rink in the mall. I unplugged a Coke machine to charge up my leg. There I was, amongst families going ice-skating, charging my house-arrest ankle bracelet. Turns out, it was charged just fine. They just messed up my schedule and didn’t know I was at work.”

Despite small hassles, Briscoe is grateful for her freedom. The 28-year-old has been in and out of Las Colinas seven times in five years.


Cassie talks about her life after jail.

Before Ashley Maya’s arrest, she’d never received so much as a parking violation. Maya describes herself as responsible, someone who isn’t a big partier, who has never done drugs; she isn’t a big drinker. In Yuma, where she was stationed, she had her own house. Her single mother and five brothers lived with her, to help make ends meet. At 21, she was a den leader to her little brother’s Boy Scout troop.

“I was living like a 40-year-old woman,” she says. “On base, they used to call me Mama Maya. Everyone was surprised over what happened. No one could believe it, because I was a really good Marine.”

The night of the accident, Maya and her best friend, Pedro Conceicao, were celebrating his release from the Corps.

“It was going to be our one last shebang before he left to go back home to Virginia,” Maya recalls.

Pedro and Ashley met in Meridian, Mississippi, while attending aviation-operators’ school. They became instant friends. Later, they were stationed together at the Marine Corps Air Station in Yuma. The two were inseparable. According to Maya, if you saw Pedro walking around base, she was with him.

Ashley doesn’t remember every moment of the accident. There are, however, vivid images that have stuck in her mind. For instance, she was barefoot. Her friend Vasty had loaned her a pair of high heels to wear to F6ix, the Gaslamp club, but Maya had kicked them off before driving home. She remembers the explosive noise her car made when it flipped over, and the silence that followed. She recalls Bryan Salcido, the front-seat passenger who escaped the wreck with minor injuries, helping her out of the car. She cannot forget the horrible moment when she realized that backseat passengers Vasty and Pedro had been ejected from the vehicle.

Vasty’s body flew so far that she landed on the 8. Pedro was on the 163. They heard Vasty yell, and Bryan headed in her direction.

Ashley found Pedro nearby.

“I checked his body for external injuries. I’m trained as a combat lifesaver. I was trying to save his life. I held him and waited for the ambulance.”

When the ambulance arrived, Maya wasn’t allowed to ride in the back with Pedro.

At Maya’s trial, prosecutor Jim Waters said, “When police arrived at the scene, [Maya] was cradling the head of the deceased, and at that time, police thought she was seriously injured, because there was so much blood on her blouse. In fact, it was the decedent’s blood.”

Maya was given a Breathalyzer at the scene. She blew into it three times before it could get a reading, because, unbeknownst to anyone at the time, she had a collapsed lung.

“You wanna know something crazy?” Maya asks. “That night, before we went downtown, Vasty took us to her church. We watched a movie [called Courageous] about a man whose daughter was killed by a drunken driver.”

When Maya was admitted to the hospital after the accident, she was told by law enforcement that Pedro didn’t make it.

“They read me my rights. I told them I didn’t want to talk to them, I wanted a lawyer. I knew it was bad. I’m a Marine, and someone died. They had a cop on watch outside my door 24/7. I cried for two days straight. I kept expecting Pedro to walk through the door and say, ‘Ha! I got you.’ But that never happened.”


To this day, when Maya closes her eyes, she sees Pedro as he was that night. “A moment embedded in my mind is Pedro’s face after the accident. Our eyes never left each other’s. It’s locked in my mind. I don’t want to remember him that way. It took me three days to wash his blood out from under my fingernails. A day doesn’t go by where I don’t talk about him, think about him, or dream about him.”

Shortly after Pedro’s death, his family contacted Maya.

“Talking to them was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was brutal. I would have hated me, but they accepted me. They forgave me and said they hoped the courts showed me leniency. They are Christians. They believe Pedro is in a better place. I pray for his family every night. If I feel this way, I can’t imagine what they must be going through. ”


Cassie Briscoe receives a drug test at least once a week. She has been sober since her arrest on August 27, 2012.

“I did drugs because I was hiding from the pain of my past,” Briscoe says.

Comments

It's "Marine". Lower-case is fine if we're talking about Mexican marines or marine soldiers from anywhere else. But the USMC consists of big-M Marines.

I doubt that distinction will be necessary for one who has a dishonorable discharge.

Interesting read. I’m sad to say there are actually 33 (not 22) state prisons in California. Also, noteworthy: Inmates have not and will not be "released early without supervision" under AB 109. The only way to be released without supervision is if an inmate serves his/her full sentence. If an inmate is paroled early, he/she must be supervised by a parole officer.

AB 109, aka Public Safety Realignment, mandates that non-serious, non-violent, non-sex offenders (sentenced AFTER AB 109) will serve their sentences in county jails instead of state prison. NO INMATES CURRENTLY IN STATE PRISON HAVE BEEN OR WILL BE TRANSFERRED TO COUNTY JAILS OR RELEASED EARLY UNDER AB 109.

It is accurate to report that the state has been ordered to bring the prison’s population down to 137.5 percent capacity by June 2013 but the pertinent reason for the order should be included. That reason being: The “horrendous overcrowded conditions inside CA’s prison” were found by the Supreme Court to be “inhumane and unconstitutional,” contributing to the death of 1 inmate every 7 days. Target deadlines for reducing the population have been missed.

Currently, the Governor and other top state officials are at risk of being found in contempt of court if they miss the target deadline in June. There's an ironic story...

I have a friend in Los Colinas. I visited her and since she has been there (three months) I was her only visitor. Only a few people were there visiting on that Saturday afternoon.

Huh? Can someone translate that to English?

I doubt it. Punctuation, spelling, syntax, and grammar aren't a gender sort of thing.

There are prison ministries that go out and visit several women's prisons. I was involved with one that went out to area women's work camps a couple of years ago. There were a lot of rules to follow and a big background check to pass but it was worth it. One Saturday per month, we would gather a group and drive up to these places and hang out with the gals. It was a very rewarding experience for us and I think the incarcerated ladies enjoyed the attention too.

In response to the Reader Poll question, "Have you ever visited someone in prison?", 83% responded yes. Interesting.

Many believe that AB109, California's answer the federal mandate to reduce prison overcrowding, is affecting public safety.

Eleven men, once pegged as lower-level criminal offenders, have been charged with committing violent crimes in San Diego County since a new law shifted responsibility for supervising them from state to local authorities. (San Diego Tribune, Jan. 19, 2013, Shifting inmates to local control not a perfect fix by Dana Littlefield)

AB109 was intended to encourage alternatives to incarceration, not merely the shifting of responsibility for housing and supervising certain criminals from the state to counties.

While the funding provided by Proposition 30 is not anywhere near enough, a good chunk of it should be spent on providing more effective drug, alcohol and mental health treatment, job training, incentives to employers to hire rehabilitated offenders and halfway houses, NOT MORE JAILS. Now is the time to start thinking outside the box to find better community based alternatives to incarceration. Without quality, sensible programs to assist those released (like the two ladies in this story) to transition and integrate back into society, we will most certainly set them up for continued failure and ourselves to suffer through an escalating cycle of crime.

What a great article. Really enjoyed it. I am currently going through my wife of 16 years being incarcerated. She is currently at Las Colinas. We do see some visitors. What's bad about LC is, even the lowest security level has to do video visitation. It's horrible. You see your loved one on a very small monitor. It's horrific for our kids. I am trying to get my Wife's voice heard. We have started a blog from her letters she sends once a week. These letters are very powerful. Sad, but powerful. Shows, strength, sadness, hopelessness, depression. Please take the time just to hear her voice. Thank you!

http://orangethenewblog.blogspot.com/

Steve Brase

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