Jack, Charlie, and the Old Addict

Lives crossing and being so close to those you hardly know until those very lives’ cross paths? Whoever thought I would have the exact life beginnings as John Joseph “Jack” Nicholson, that well-known figure I enjoyed on the big screen?  John J. Nazarian and “Jack” share a gigantic commonality. His “event” began in 1937; mine would come along many years later.  As incredible as this might sound, it is all very true; incredible is not a strong enough word!  Over the many years, I often wondered if someone in my family took the “playbook” from the Nicholson’s family and used it on me! Surely, I have raised your interest, and I will touch on that in the weeks, and months, to come.  John J. Nazarian and John J. Nicholson have an incredible common thread other than our first two initials!

Recently I spoke of my interaction with the 3 Manson girls and a short encounter with “Charlie.” Once again, it was just a day on the job for John. It was 1983 when I had the assignment to take to the Ontario Airport one of America’s original terrorist. That word “terrorists,” to label someone in 1983, was absolutely the wrong word compared to what Muslim terrorists have done, and continue to do, to our Western Cultures. Muslims, and Islam, for me, are the epitome of the word terrorists.  This was the word used for Bill and Emily Harris (Emily Montague Schwartz), this was of course in the 1970s. The two of them had kidnapped and killed as members of the S.L.A. Big stuff in the ’70s. Bill and Emily were just bad actors and had no right to the title terrorists.

Emily Harris’s 1975 mugshot

Well, guess what. I had numerous interactions with Emily while imprisoned at the California Institution for Women in Frontera, California. Back in those days, C.I.W. was the only women’s prison in California, other than a few females at C.R.C. The California Rehabilitation Center was also the “academy” for prison guards when I was accepted to be a correctional officer. It was the place I lived and trained in an old run-down barracks with cubicles for bunking and studying.  And like many other famous murderous felons I had interacted with, she was not a problem for the prison or the staff; she was “programmed.”  It was 1983 when Emily Harris was released from the California Institution for Women, and it was my assignment that day to take her and her personal property to the airport in Ontario, California and watch her fly away to begin a new life.

Riots were always something prison guards / correctional officers dreaded, and to have a riot at a women’s prison was not a huge concern at the time. “Women. How bad can it be?” Well, as luck would have it, we had a full-blown riot at C.I.W. one day.  I am unclear why, as I sit and think today. I believe it was related to the death of an old addict, and the lousy care that was available at the time. Medical care and food are the two critical events that can trigger the explosion of a riot. Every day I would remind myself that this is a prison for females, and even as inmates would walk past me appearing very manly in appearance and dress, they were females!  (Nurse Whitehead was the nurse on duty most of the time with her staff, other inmates to treat the inmates) The “Old Addict” died pretty much from just being old and tired. Her sun had set, permanently. Interesting enough, it was this same inmate who, when I asked her as to why she was constantly coming back into custody, told me the following “When I get sick and tired of being sick and tired, I will stop.”  There were many times inmates could be very interesting to speak with, as long as it was not an attempt to manipulate you!  Inmates, being who they are and where they are, make it a hobby to manipulate new staff. Back in those days, I was assigned to the administration and read hundreds of files of some of the most vicious criminals in the State of California, and in this case, they were all females.

As I recall it all jumped off at the Wilson Housing unit. I was back to back with Captain Dave Escoto and a dozen other officers, attempting to get the inmates locked down. It was the first time I had closed my fist and punched a female inmate in her face who had grabbed me by my collar. An inmate was attacking me and remember what I said previously; there were no male inmates at C.I.W.; this female inmate could have passed for any male inmate in the system at the time.  * No inmate in the world is ever allowed to put his or her hands on a correctional officer with the intent to harm.

Tough as nails she was, a shot caller for some Latino prison gang. She never did like me, so I am guessing she thought this was her time to get some. She dropped like a load of bricks and would be later charged, and convicted, for assault and given an extended stay at C.I.W. Looking back on this, I may have done her a favor; a place to stay, food, and all the sex she could handle.  This was one of my first commendations with the California Department of Corrections, and it was given to me by Captain Dave Escoto. Captain Escoto had transferred from a male facility and was always in a state of shock as to what he would observe at C.I.W. Women and incarceration are very very different than any men’s joint; doing time have always been a little different for women than men.

In an upcoming remembrance, I will recall my first use of deadly force while on assignment, miles from the prison. Confronted with a serious situation, I would decide to use deadly force and discharge my sidearm and drop my attacker in its tracks.



By John Nazarian
©Straight Talk with John J. Nazarian, Private Investigator
August 12, 2019
All Rights Reserved, do not reproduce in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author

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