McNeil Prison Closed in 2011; Prisoners Have Reunion
I was reading a sample of Lee’s book about the Starwood, Hollywood and his life in Rock n Roll. Good work, Lee! That is a great story. I can’t believe how many times that you saw Holmes at Nash’s… or the orderly procession, however slow, that it took each guy to get in to see Ed in his inner sanctum. Just Amazing work, my friend. Stay in touch.
I guess that either Wonderland or the Liberace movie was on TV yesterday. … because the site received 2,000 visitors. Several dozen people even searched “people that entered witness protection after Wonderland” or something like that. I don’t think there is a list online but, nobody is on it anyway. The only person offered a deal was Holmes or Thorson. And they blew it.
Check out the date that McNeil officially closed… spooky.
We have discussed Ron’s prison time before on this blog. Ron was sentenced in 1973-74, and probably served 3 years up at McNeil… with a final year in SoCal at Chino or elsewhere near Los Angeles. McNeil was closing as a federal prison and Washington state was taking it over. They had to empty and transfer the federal prisoners by 1981. Alvin “Creepy” Karpis of the Ma Barker Gang died just a few years before Ron’s arrival. Al was 147 years old.
Even though McNeil Island operated as a modern institution, in 1976 the Bureau of Prisons decided to phase out the 107-year-old federal penitentiary, declaring it “obsolete” — too big, too old, too remote, and too expensive to maintain and renovate. The trend was toward smaller, more manageable prisons, housing no more than 500 inmates.
By 1979, the shutdown operation was in full swing. At the Federal Work Camp, the beef and dairy herds were moved to the Federal Correctional Institution at Lompoc, California, and the rest of the livestock was sold. The Federal Prison Industries shops and equipment were moved to other federal institutions.
In 1980, at the request of Senator Warren G. Magnuson (1905-1989), the Bureau of Prisons agreed not to further dismantle the penitentiary. Washington state wanted to use the facility temporarily, to help relieve overcrowding in the state’s institutions. In February 1981, Governor John D. Spellman (b. 1926) negotiated a contract with the General Services Administration to lease the prison for three years, with two one year extensions permitted, for $350,000 a year.
In March 1981, the last of the federal prisoners were transferred out and the first state prisoners moved into the penitentiary. Control of McNeil Island was formally turned over to Washington State Department of Corrections on…. July 1, 1981.
After his release, I don’t know how Ron skated through parole without keeping a job, unless someone helped him, or he had a medical exemption (Agent Orange?) or if the parole office had bigger fish to fry. Many questions….
If the men in the 8 man dorm were your friends, I guess you could call that “Easy Time”:
The article below is satire but it cracked me up. Carly Simon…
“Sentimental Prisoners Remember McNeil Island Penitentiary”
Closing Prison Hosts Prisoner Reunion
McNeil Island – McNeil Island Corrections center will close its portcullis this month after 136 years housing federal and state criminals. An unlikely gathering of past prisoners is gathering to say final farewells and share memories of the isolated prison. They silently debark from the ferry, Carly Simon’s “Let the River Run” playing on the boombox of a Maratrucha 13 gang member. Real teardrops glisten like dew in the spiderweb tattoo covering his face and neck.
“I can’t believe it’s really closing,” chokes the Pokey Puppy, an inmate who spent decades moldering in Cell Block 2. “I mean, it was a shithole, but a historicshithole.” Several of the inmates expressed difficulty coming to grips with the closure. They laughingly compare knife wounds and wonder whatever happened to the serial rapist who escaped through the sewer back in ’96.
(There are some recent photos here but I gathered most of these from the Washington state archives, and sorted by Ron’s stay, with a liberal date range from about ’73 to ’78)
“There Was Love Here”
Perhaps it’s not surprising to see such an upwelling of emotion from prisoners; after all, incarceration can turn the most hardened sociopath into a professional regretter. But there are things about the prison to miss: the glorious views of the South Puget Sound, the corner of the yard where prisoners would gather around a new, stripped prisoner, spontaneous shankings in the chow hall, and the way the spilled blood would blossom on the white floor.
“I had hopes that one day my son would do time in this prison.” A bald man with a swastika tastefully embroidered on his flight jacket murmurs. “I could have given him some good advice to get along in here. Son, I’d say, sign up for the Aryan Brotherhood Leadership Development classes right away. They taught me to properly manage the accounting side of my burgeoning meth lab chain.”
One Last Memory
Staring at the imposing structure, one man has reluctant words torn from him. “I entered this prison as a federal agent posing as a DC Black in 1988, but what I found was true friendsh-” before he could finish he was set upon by former members of the United Blood Nation gang who expertly gave him a Columbian Necktie and spit on him as he gurgled his last breath.
“Blood in blood out, pig.” Says Pokey, wiping blood flecks from his hands. Then he sighs. “I sure will miss this place.”