“My name is Steve Peterson, and in 1974 I was sentenced to four and a half years inside of the worst prison in Mexico- which is saying something, because Mexican prisons are pretty bad. It’s gonna seem hard to believe at times, but everything in this book really happened, most of it exactly the way I describe it (although I have combined a few characters and events here and there to make it flow a little smoother.)”
“In all other respects these stories are true, as crazy as they might sound. I lived through them, and after all this time I finally feel like I’m ready to share them with others. So imagine you just sat down on the next bar stool over, and I’ll get started…” Steve Peterson
I’m not exactly sure what drew me to this book. True stories of prison life are not typically something I would pick up, but whatever it was that drew me did not steer me wrong, and I found this book to be fascinating.
This guy Steve decides that he’s going to smuggle some marijuana across the Mexican/American border. Unfortunately, he and his buddies get caught in the act. I love what he says as he’s thinking back on his planning: “It didn’t seem like that big a deal because in those days pot was everywhere and like I said, I knew it was illegal but I didn’t believe that was right. (For some reason that seemed like a sensible thing to factor in at the time, the unfairness of the law. I look at it now and it’s like, who cares if it should have been illegal or not, it was illegal, and that should have been the end of the story right there. Well, whatever.)” He’s so right, and so many people justify what they are doing by what they believe to be right or true. The thing is, you must follow the laws and rules of the land you are in. Once they are in jail, awaiting trial, which I’m not sure actually ever happened, Steve recognises that his friends are not coping well and signs a form stating that he doesn’t know them and he was the only one carrying drugs over the border. His accomplices are released and Steve prepares his mind for survival.
The book then continues with story after story of life in La Mesa prison. Some stories have you laughing. As you see these situations through Steve’s eyes, his humor and amazement pull you in so you want to read more. Some stories are so over the top unbelievable that you think you’d like to see it with your own eyes. And just when you begin to feel that it’s simply a foreign land that he is in, he reminds you that it is prison, and it is awful, and it is frightening and dangerous.
I’ll leave you with Steve’s final thoughts.
“I still think about La Mesa almost every day. I remember the scary times and the good times, the friends I made and the terrible things I saw. It was years before I could sleep through the night without waking up screaming from awful nightmares of the walls closing in on me, crushing me in a little box. But even with all that, I can’t say I look back on that year with regret. Not entirely. It was a challenge, no question, but I got to experience a world that most people can never imagine and I survived it. In that sense, I feel fortunate; not many people can say that. And if nothing else, I came away with some pretty cool stories to tell.”