October 27, 2009
By Joe Santana • posted at 1:22 AM EST
Joseph Raymond Santana. Former Echoes from the Street staff writer and youth assistant, reporting from inside Hartford County Correctional Facility.
Editor's Note: The phone rings on a Sunday night a few weeks back. An official robotic male voice, not very friendly, says "Hello, This is Global Tellink, and this call originates from a Connecticut Correctional Facility and may be monitored or recorded. You have a call from" (the voice pauses) "Joe Santana," says the person on the other end of the line.
Mr. Roboto continues, without missing a beat "an inmate at the Hartford Correctional Facility. To accept this call, press five now." I press five, and before Mr. Roboto turns over the line to Joe, he gives me a pitch for prepaid collect calls from prison. Then I hear Joe's voice: "Hey Ken." At irregular intervals during the call, Mr. Roboto reminds me that this is Global Tellink and that this call is from a Connecticut Correctional Facility.
With about 13 minutes, Mr. Roboto reminds us that we have but 120 seconds remaining. Mr. Roboto marks time again at 60 seconds. After a minute, silence. Usually the conversation gets cut off in mid-stream, although we try to time it and wind down appropriately. It's always an awkward ending. It's hard to squeeze a lot of life into 15 minutes.
Joe Santana joined the staff of Echoes from the Streets in January 2001, months before we ever hit the presses. His first article explored the history of hip hop. At the time, he was a freshman at an alternative high school because of some difficulties.
But he could write, he had excellent people skills and he showed potential for a reporter. Echoes sent him to New Mexico to report from the Taos Pueblo Native American Reservation with buildOn, the international educational aid organization based on Stamford, CT that builds schoolhouses abroad and encourages community service here in the US. Joe's cover story from September 2002 is here.
Joe earned his GED, and wrote about that triumph. As the years rolled on, his enthusiasm for telling stories was matched only by his propensity to attract trouble.
I wish I could say it is not painful to watch as a person, a friend, an employee, a mentee and a father makes mistakes, compounded by the built-in prejudice of the criminal justice system. It is.
But Joe still loves to write. I have been encouraging him to send this letter for some time. It came in the mail last week, pencil on three different sheets of paper. I offer it to you in its entirity. I look forward to publising more work from him.
Joe Santana, inmate number 306658 E2C4 at Hartford County Correctional Facility, 177 Weston Street, Hartford Connecticut 06120, always loves to get mail. Feel free to write him back. -KK
Well hello everyone. My name is Joseph and I am an inmate at H.C.C.C. I am here because I have made some poor choices in my life, and this is the way I am taught to correct my mistakes. It's a sad story in general, but in this letter I will not be discussing what I should have done.
I will be writing about the process inmates go through before or after sentencing. So pretend that I am an undercover journalist sent to jail to get the first scoop of life in a correctional facility.
Let's start off with whatever police department you're booked in. In my case, I had a choice of either West Hartford or Hartford. I told my bounty hunters to bring me to West Hartford because the officers there would actually treat me like a human being.
When I got there, I was searched thoroughly, told to take off laces and anything else I could hang myself with. Everything that was in my possession was bagged and put away.
Next was the finger printing, which in my case had to be done four times for four different warrants. I would like to thank the WHPD for serving all of my warrants in that one arrest. You might be asking "What's so great about it?"
The reality is would rather serve all these warrants nowthan to be caught off guard later in the near future. So because I was served all four, my bail is 10 percent of $325,100. Although there are bondsmen who will take you out of jail for five percent or even three percent.
Either or, I don't have anyone in my family who can put up that kind of money. After you sign all the paperwork and finish up with your phone calls, you are placed in a cell to wait for court the following morning.
Waking up to BK coffee and a croissant isn't the worst thing in the world, but it will never beat waking up starving at home.