The Librarian, the Clown and the Cop
"Stefan Parro was released in 2012."
Tags: lockup librarian
Added: 3 months ago
Season 8 Episode 18
The Librarian, the Clown and the Cop
Aug 03, 2014 on MSNBC
Three inmates are profiled, including a librarian with substance-abuse problems. Also: a clown and a police officer.
RASHA DRACHKOVITCH (LOCKUP EXECUTIVE PRODUCER): Most of the prisons we profile on "Lockup" are maximum security prisons. I mean, these are hardcore places with gang members, rapists, murderers. But every once in a while we come across a fish out of water story, kind of the guy next door, the neighbor. Where you ask the question, how did this guy end up here?
VOICEOVER: This is California state prison, Corcoran. A maximum security prison that has housed some of the nation's most infamous criminals, including Charles Manson and the founder of the Mexican mafia. Despite its reputation, violence doesn't come naturally to everyone at Corcoran.
STEFAN PARRO: I don't see myself as being like many of the people that are here. But what I saw the longer I was here was there really is a thin line between them and me.
V: Before he was an inmate, Stefan Parro was a librarian.
SP: I'm here basically because I'm an alcoholic and I've done a lot of drugs, too. Drugs are part of my story.
V: Parro's drug use resulted in a six-year sentence for crimes including burglary.
SP: At that time I had been married not very long. My wife was pregnant, and the fact that I couldn't stop drinking and I couldn't stop using, it was very difficult to deal with the shame and the guilt of all that.
V: Parro and his wife eventually separated, but he landed in prison for breaking into her home and stealing her credit cards to pay for drugs.
SP: I readily admitted to it. That was one of the problems in my defense, is I had no defense. I said, yeah, I did go in and take those credit cards, and the reason I took the credit cards is wisely enough my wife canceled mine.
SUSAN CARREY (LOCKUP FIELD PRODUCER): Stefan Parro was a very relatable guy to most of us who were filming "Lockup." He was a well-educated man and he expressed himself so eloquently and so succinctly. I think he was a cautionary tale because his crimes were committed because of his substance abuse, and I think most of us probably know people who have similar issues. But there was Stefan trying to navigate through an extremely violent world.
SP: I had an idea that I would never end up in prison. that I was somehow exempt. And I'm not saying I was an exemplary citizen by any means. But y'know, I had no idea that it could get this bad. and that's what i --
[ buzzing noise ]
SC: In the middle of interviewing Stefan, the alarm went off. And the protocol at the prison is all inmates have to get down on their stomachs and all staff and other personnel remain standing.
GUARD 1: False alarm.
GUARD 2: You look good down there.
SP: Hey, thanks Mr. Scott.
SC: It was a little sad, actually, watching Stefan on the ground because we were in the midst of having this great conversation almost and he started to think of himself, i think, as a regular guy, back out on the street and suddenly it was very clear, no, he's an inmate and he has to get down on the ground like all the other inmates, get dirty, until he is told he can get back up.
SC: How long did it take you to get used to doing that?
SP: Well, when I was in Jamestown I got a lot of practice. The yard goes down out there a lot. So -- glad that happened for you guys.
SC: And so I had made a little joke with him because I could feel his embarrassment and I wanted to just try to lighten it up a little bit.
SC: Did you arrange for that, Stefan?
SP: Can't say that I did. All right. That was a lot of fun. Okay. Where was I?
V: Parro went on to tell us that in order to survive in Corcoran, he had to understand Corcoran.
SP: You know, at the beginning, when I was facing the 41 months I thought how in the hell am I going to make it. I didn't see myself as being a part of this community. It is a community, no matter how dysfunctional it is. No matter how bizarre and asinine and ridiculous and stupid, because it is very stupid. There's a lot of rules here that are enforced by inmates.
V: Many of those inmate-enforced rules revolve around racial politics.
SP: A lot of the people here have affiliation to gangs. But they ask me who I run with. Well, y'know, I run with teachers and librarians usually. And when I find them, then I'll run with them. But I haven't found too many of them yet.
V: Parro must also deal with racial politics in his prison job as a housing clerk.
SP: I got a message that you had called over here.
SP: Usually I come in in the morning, I see who's paroled, if there have been any roll-ups during the last 24 hours and there's beds open.
SP: I've got 109 up, 242 up. those are open since yesterday.
SP: I kind of look at those and see who we have got waiting, then I place them. It is a bit of a puzzle because we have to house according to their ethnicity, gang affiliation and medical needs.
SC: Stefan had a job that afforded him a certain amount of information about the various inmates on the yard, so he really had to walk a tight rope between doing his job correctly and appeasing the various inmate groups on the yard, particularly the white group.
SP: Naturally, your own people have expectations of you that are greater than somebody else on the yard of different races and affiliations. so if you have information, you do go to your people first. The clerks in the past I know have had a lot of run-ins, been beat up for things that they've done, for things they have not done, for things they have said. My boss, he asks me all the time, at least three or four times a week, kind of jokingly, but not really. He goes, Hey, so I see you didn't get beat up today. And I say to him, I say, You know, that really isn't that funny. But I said the other day, "You know, that upsets me when you say that because it could happen."
SP: Thank you.
V: But Parro has seen his share of violence at Corcoran. When he arrived, he was determined to avoid trouble, but he was told by other inmates that he would eventually be tested and if he didn't fight back his time here would be a lot worse.
SP: So I fought. And that was pretty much the first fight I've ever been in in my life. I couldn't walk very well for about three or four weeks. I had black eyes for about six weeks. I thought it was hell. And it was. You eventually just start living. You start doing all these activities. You wash your clothes. You make the ritual of having coffee just like you did out there, you know. You don't have the option to go to Starbucks. you get Folgers out of the canteen and you make whatever you can make. I think one of the interesting things that I kind of woke up to was that that's what life is. Here or elsewhere. So you better get something out of it. So if I can actually enjoy making coffee here in Corcoran surrounded by a lot of loud people and a lot of other discomforts, then I'm going to come out a lot better for it when I get out there. if I'm going to live through this, and I have a son, so I better live through this, I've got to do something. No matter how difficult it is, you reach down and you find mettle you didn't know you had. And that's what prison is all about really. It's finding strength that you never thought you had.