November 15, 1943
MEMO — Subject - Trip to Folsom and San Quentin by Alice Greenfield Nov 7-13, 1943
Visited Henry Leyvas at Folsom Nov. 8. Because there is a guard present at visits at Folsom, it is very difficult to establish the condition necessary to a free, friendly visit. Henry was very glad to have the visit and wass[sic] very cordial to Jaime Gonzalez. He told him (in Spanish) "I don't have the words to express my gratitude for your coming here and for all the things which people are doing." Asked for his opinion on the outcome of the case he said, in effect, that he wasn't going to let himself hope that the case would be reversed, because if it were not the disappointment would be too great. "Don't think I don't appreciate what you are doing, but I can't let myself in for a disappointment like I had last time. I thought then, too, that the worst I could get would be a few years. I figure I got a lot of time to do." He said he wanted to get back to San Quentin only so that it would be more convenient for visitors. This is a change from his last opinion that he did not want to be transfered back (because he would be persecuted there). He has learned watchmaking and seems to be very interested in it. He was very interested in seeing the brief and was delighted that a copy of it was to be left with him.
It would seem that letters do not come through every time, and that the Appeal News has, on at least one occasion, not come through.
Warden Plummer, although he was most affable, made it clear that he connected the Defense Committee with the same group who defended "them dynamiters" and that he saw no advantage in having Henry transferred back to San Quentin.
RECOMMENDED - That more letters be sent Henry from outside people, to build the feeling of community with those who are interested in the case.
RECOMMENDED - That letters be sent Warden Duffy asking him to transfer Henry back to San Quentin. Mr. Duffy has the power to effect the transfer. When he was spoken to he agreed to make an inquiry into Henry's record at Folsom. If enough interest is shown from the outside it is rather certain that the transfer would be made.
It seems obvious that no attempt has been made to alienate Henry Leyvas from the Committee, nor has anyone even seen or spoken to him.
The eleven boys at San Quentin seem to be in a fairly high state of morale. The first day of the visit, Nov. 9, they were seen in groups of three. They were pleased that Gonzalez had made the trip from LA to see them and reacted in a very friendly way. They were very excited at seeing the brief.
Nov 10, 111, and 12 were spent visiting each boy separately and also two other Mexican inmates, Eppy Galvan and Margarito Orona. (report included.)
― 2 ―There has been no complaint about the behavior of any of the boys. In fact, there has been comment from some of the officials that they had expected those "zoot-suiters" to be kind of rough and were surprized to find that they weren't "giving them any trouble." Henry Ynostroza said in confidence that there might be an article in the San Quentin News about them to the effect that they were all getting along well, participating in sports, and in the Club Azteca (inmate club of Mexican and Spanish-speaking men) and creating a general good impression.
Most of the boys repeated the idea that Henry Leyvas put across — they all wanted the appeal to be successful, but they weren't going to allow themselves to put too much faith in it. Several boys reapeated almost to the word the following — "For myself I don't care so much. I figure I have to do 4 or 5 years. I only hope the appeal goes through for Chepe and Henry and Bobby. I feel sorry for them." Chepe said "Don't worry about me. I'm getting along alright. Even if I have to do ten years I'll still be young when I get out. I hope the appeal goes through. Even if it doesn't, I'll never forget what the people are trying to do for us. I'll never forget it for the rest of my life." Bobby Telles said, almost word for word as Henry Leyvas had, that he figured he had a lot of time to do, but that he did appreciated what was being done by the committee. They all said it made them more hopeful when they heard about the activities of the committee, or were visited.
It seems that no one has been to see them, or has communicated with them, who might be trying to alienate them from the committee. They were cautioned about talking to anyone who might visit them in the guise of wanting to help them and were asked to refer any such visitor to the committee.
The only possible weakness in the relationship between the committee and the boys would seem to be that Delia Parra, the wife of Smiles Parra, has been in touch with Father Arthur (see memo of Oct. 26) and has been convinced by him that the committee has been ineffectual. Smiles asked, "Just what has the committee done?" It was explaned to him that the job of changing policy of the Spanish-language press, of creating a better public opinion, of obtaining legal defense, of distributing the pamphlet, of raising money — was not spontaneous, but the result of much hard work on the part of an organization.
RECOMMENDATION* - That Delia be drawn into the work of the committee, through the parents' group, or directly with the office, as soon as possible. Unless she is, she can be the source of much harm to the work that is being attempted.
Jack Melendez, who works in the psychiatrist's office in the prison stated that the records on Mexican and Negro inmates were filled with racist bias. He stated that the Ayres document was quoted in a report on a Mexican not connected with the Sleepy Lagoon case. He was reluctant to give details, although he said he knew who was responsible for the quotes. The next day Jack said he couldn't find the record he had referred to and couldn't give any further details on the matter. He did say that most of the records in the psychiatrist's office were biased and unfair. He quoted the record on Manuel Delgado (who is intelligent and stable) as saying Manuel was "worthless" and a bad subject for rehabilitation. (This is in direct contrast to the report on Manuel which the classifications secretary has drawn up. On the basis of this report Manuel was given the best classification ((minimum)) given in the prison. Jack also quoted part of a
― 3 ―record on a Mexican inmate not connected with the case, which came from the DA's office in Los Angeles. As well as memory serves following are quotes from that record - "Recommend that he be confined for the period of his natural life and that no parole or release be granted....killed a white man and should have been hung ...tremendous break to get a life sentence.... he was just laying up with this Mexican woman - not married to her, which is the usual Mexican standard of marriage."
NOTE: The above information must be used as cautiously as possible. The harm which could come from the indiscrete use of it would be immeasureable. Jack obtained it by going through records which he had no business to inspect. Not only might Jack be punished, but visitors to the boys would not have the generous privileges which are now extended to them by the Warden.
In a conversation with one of the prison officials he mentioned that he had referred to the Ayers document as follows - "About as authentic as the Ayers report —"
RECOMMENDED- That more emphasis be placed on visits to the boys from friends in San Francisco. They should be made to feel that such visits are important activities on behalf of the general work... and should make clear that the visits are representative for the committee. Also, a general campaign should be started for letters to the boys. Certain mechanical details of this matter can be discussed at a staff meeting.
That certain members of the committee write periodic letters to all the boys (Might be sent as supplement to the Appeal News.) Any letters they recieve are encouraging to them.
Visited inmate Eppy Galvan briefly because of information that he wrote the article in Spanish which was sent some weeks ago by Jack Melendez, which showed a good understanding of the case in its broader aspects. Discussed with him the idea of helping the boys to understand more clearly the tie-up between this case and the fight against discrimination generally, etc.
Visited inmate Margarito Orona, organizer of the Club Azteca. He is doing everything he can to build the reputation of Bobby Telles and Manuel Reyes through activity in the club, as representative of the group. He also understands the implications of the case and will probably be a good influence on the boys.
The boys discussed the fact that they will appear before the parole board in February. Unless there has been some action on the case before then, their sentences will be set at that time. Also recommendations willbe made concerning transfer to Chino, the honor prison (about 40 miles out of LA). Taking a very practical view.
RECOMMENDED - an immediate effort should be made to getcharacter references and other letters to the Warden and to the parole board - in the event that the appeal is not successful, everything should be done to influence the decision on the length of sentence to be served. Should the appeal be successful, but take a long time, it would be advantageous to influence a transfer to Chino for as many as possible. This would be an effort which they would appreciate NOW as much as any other (and would understand even better.)