Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

New Mexico inmates sell food to raise money, donate to local charities | Local News

Empanadas, carne asada, chitlins, offal sauce, homemade filling, cream cheese pie, biscochitos, tamales, red chilli enchiladas and grandma’s pumpkin pie.

A group of prison club presidents stood in a circle in the New Mexico Correctional Facility on Level 2 Thursday, remembering the holiday dishes they used to enjoy outside.

“It’s not a Christmas thing, it’s bacon,” said one man. “I haven’t had it in 10 years.”

“Homemade food,” said another.

“And love,” said a third, “the fun times to share with your family.”

Some of these men – who hailed from Lordsburg to Raton and beyond – haven’t seen these goodies in years, and may still be in years, if at all.

Even so, they found a way to connect themselves and their communities outside the prison walls – through food.

There are eight self-help clubs in the 280-man facility, which are often referred to as work camps because everyone has a job there.

With names like Gray Eagles, Haciendola, and Pillars of the Community, they come together over shared heritage, life experience, and interests.

There is a Black Awareness Club, a Vietnam Veterans Club and the Power Demons for weightlifters.

Each month, members take turns selling food ordered in restaurants to fellow inmates – prisoners who earn between 25 cents and $ 1.25 an hour doing chores like weeding and baking in the prison kitchen – for money to collect to support their clubs.

Inmates order in advance; the money will be debited from their accounts on the day the food is delivered.

The majority of the proceeds are used to finance club activities – such as recruiting speakers and buying food for seminars.

But club members also set aside some of the money to help each other’s children and the community.

Five percent of the money raised from food sales goes to a special education fund that pays scholarships for the inmates’ children, department head Christy Vigil said Friday, and 10 percent goes to various charities selected by the clubs .

Chicken from an Albertson’s Hot Bar and pizza are high on the list of alfresco foods popular with inmates, Vigil said. The clubs have also ordered from Panda Express and this week they are getting hamburgers from the El Milagro restaurant.

This year, Vigil said, clubs saved their charity money over the past five months and donated a total of $ 2,100 in December.

The organizations selected by the inmates include St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Gerard’s House for grieving children, adolescents and families, and St. Elizabeth Casa Familia, a shelter for single women and families with children.

“It’s just a way to be there and support homeless mothers and children,” said one man. “We see what’s on the news. Even if we live inside, we are better off than some. “

Including some of her fellow prisoners.

Throughout the prison complex, New Mexico South Prison Levels 4 and 5 – state inmates are divided into six security levels, with Level 6 being the maximum – men do not have the freedom to form clubs or help raise funds.

On the south level, inmates live in groups of 12 and spend most of their time in solitary cells that surround a bare central room with a microwave, two telephones, and a few tables with seats bolted to the concrete floor.

You are allowed about five hours a day for “animal time, programming and recreation,” said assistant director Robert Sanchez.

They spend the rest of the day in their cells, where they take their meals from trays they brought with them from level 2.

Even in such a cramped place, Thursday showed signs of the holidays to come, an occasional treat, and an, albeit weak, connection with the outside world.

In the southern facility, prison staff organize regular pizza sales, take orders, and deliver food to the men’s cells.

That year, the facility raised $ 850 from pizza sales and used the money to purchase 40 gifts for residents of Santa Fe’s Youth Shelters & Family Services.

On Thursday, a group including Sanchez and section chief Wendy Perez, both of whom have worked in prison for more than 20 years, delivered pizza to the pods.

They brought a laundry cart with the presents piled high – wrapped in paper with silly penguins wearing Christmas hats and winter scarves – so inmates could see how much good was being done with the money they made from their grocery purchases.

Most inmates received the pizzas through slits in their metal doors that rattled when they opened and closed.

Two Little Caesars boxes fit nicely.

One inmate, Ricky Sena, was allowed to leave his cell to fetch his food.

Sena said his family paid for him to buy groceries from the grocery store and the prison canteen so that he would not have to eat the food prepared by the asylum.

“I pretty much make a living from the police station,” said Sena. “I don’t really eat [off] the trays. “

Comments are closed.