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The Chrismans and the Mexicali Prison

The Mexicali Prison

The Mexicali Prison

We are Americans living in Mexicali, the capital of the State of Baja California, which is the northern part of the peninsula.

For some time, we have been following the news regarding the arrest of two Americans, in nearby Los Algodones – 40 year old Gary Chrisman Jr., and his 88 year old grandfather, Edward Chrisman.

The Chrismans are accused of approaching a 13-year-old girl asking to take nude photographs of her in her mother’s shop in Los Algodones on Jan. 8, 2009. The girl’s mother reported the incident to the police and the Chrismans were arrested and taken to the Cárcel Pública Estatal de Mexicali, the Mexicali prison.

Originally, the story about the Chrismans was in the news on a near daily basis. Now, news coverage had slowed. The latest news we can find on the Chrismans was on Feb. 11, 2009, when they were awaiting a decision from a Mexican Judge. No further word of the decision has been published. So we guessed the Chrismans were still in the Mexicali prison.

Being in Mexicali, we decided to check on the whereabouts of the Mexicali prison, and, if possible…the Chrismans. Jim, Matthew, and I got into our truck, and we were off.

The prison was difficult to locate so we stopped at a law office to ask for directions. A Mexican lady attorney, who herself was heading towards the prison, said, “Follow us – three stop lights, turn right and park.  Across the street from the prison is a big shopping mall. OK?” We thanked her, and followed her car.

As we turned right at the third stoplight, Jim, Matthew, and I found a narrow street, and, about half a block down, was the prison on our right. It was not the dingy place we expected – it is a modern looking gray-colored building. Looking at the building, you would never know it was a prison, unless you looked real hard and saw one of the gun turrets in the back.

Lawyer & Bail Bonds

Lawyer & Bail Bonds

Not knowing what to expect if we stopped in front of the prison, we passed by and drove down the street. There we saw several small offices advertising legal services, translations, bail bonds, a medical facility, and a church.

Down the road, Jim made a u-turn and we headed back to the prison. Jim stopped and parked the truck about a hundred feet from the main prison entrance. Matthew was a bit nervous and asked Jim if it would be safe to get out and walk to the prison. “Yup,” Jim answered, already halfway out of the truck.

Suddenly, Matthew spun around and hunched over.

“Matthew, is something wrong?” I asked.

“No,” said Matthew, “I’m trying to get my white gloves off.”

“Why?” I asked.

“If the police spot my white gloves, they will think I am a thief trying to hide my fingerprints.”

“Shucks,” Jim answered, as he stood and watched Matthew take off his white gloves, and hide them in his pocket. Jim then told us to wait by the truck as he headed for the prison.

The note from the Mexicali prison

The note from the Mexicali prison

Matthew and I waited by the truck, as we watched Jim disappear into the prison. A couple of minutes later,  Jim came back out and said, “A real nice lady officer wrote out this note. It says, ‘SOCIAL WORK – Needs permission to enter the prison and to visit a friend.’ The lady said the Trabajo Social or Social Work office was right in the next building.

Matthew and I followed Jim to the Trabajo Social, a modest building next to the prison. Inside, we spoke to a couple of very pleasant uniformed Mexican ladies.

They were very polite, and told us that the Chrismans were in the prison block in the large gray building, next door. Obviously, the whole prison staff has heard about the Chrismans.

The Trabajo Social

The Trabajo Social

Unfortunately, we could not see the Chrismans, even if we decided to do so. We were there on Thursday, and visiting day is Saturday. You can’t take money into the prison. Another interesting rule is that visitors could not wear anything with a marine blue color – maybe that’s the color the prisoners wear.

Walking back to the truck, we were able to take a good look at the large gray prison building. It was filled with Mexican police, and Mexican plainclothes detectives, identifiable by their badges hinged onto their belts.

Suddenly two Ford trucks with flashing police lights and loud sirens screaming, followed by a police car, screeched by, turning down a very narrow alley by the side of the prison. Most likely, they were bringing in some new prisoners.

The two Ford trucks had no police markings on them.  Good for us to know when driving on Mexicali streets. Best to be careful when driving through town – no speeding and watch out for the stop signs (which are sometimes hidden behind trees).

The U.S. Consulate General in Tijuana, which keeps an eye on Americans in Baja California is aware of the Chrismans’ incarceration. Unfortunately, the political reality is that the U.S. government cannot get an American who has been charged with an offense committed in Mexico, out of jail. Americans are subject to the same rules as the people living in Mexico. The U.S. Consulate assists imprisoned Americans, by helping them with legal advice, and with local attorneys. The U.S. Consulate also checks on the medical condition of all American prisoners, and does what they can for the prisoners.

The good news is that the Mexicali prison looked modern, and the people there were all very polite and helpful.

Hopefully, the Chrismans will be well-treated. We understand Edward Chrisman has been moved to a ward for the elderly, and sleeps on a mattress in a room with only three other prisoners and is able to take hot showers.

There are a lot of conflicting accounts about what the Chrismans did, and whether or not they are guilty. We are as much in the dark as anybody else, but are especially concerned about the 88 year old grandfather, Edward Chrisman.

Carl's Jr

Carl's Jr.

The visit to the prison over, it was lunchtime.

Right next to the prison is a Carl’s Jr. We went there for a well-earned lunch. The food there is just like in the U.S. – but with two main differences. It is much cheaper, about two thirds what it would be in the U.S. Also, after you place your order, they bring the food to your table, and when you’re done they pick up the trash. Amazing!

We couldn’t help not talking and worrying about old Edward Chrisman.

22 comments to The Chrismans and the Mexicali Prison

  • Dave:
    Interesting. Think I know someone who can help you. Will communicate off line.
    God Bless,

  • David Henry

    Greetings MaryAnn,
    A friend sent me your email/website information. He knew I was struggling to find information about how to get a sample of salt sent out of the Mexicali area to the US. What I am searching for is a sample of salt, not from the Sea of Cortez and not from the Pacific, but from the old, broad, dry Colorado riverbed south of Mexicali, from alongside Carretera Federal 5, about an hour south of the border. We want to study it for its agricultural minerals; both for crops and for animals. Do you have any suggestions of how I might get my hands on this kind of a sample? I read your account of a successful track record with the Mexican Postal System. Sounds good to me.
    All the salt exporters that I know of sell salt condensed from the sea; we don’t want that kind of salt. The sample size I need is in the 15 to 20 pound range. Could something like this be a day outing for one of the girls you work with. It would be a bit of a change from jewelry-making. 🙂
    I have tried about nine different ways to do this, but I keep hitting dead-ends. Depending on the results of our lab work, I will probably be wanting more samples later on. What would you charge me for travel time, fuel and postage? OR do you know anyone else who could do this task for pay? Can we talk by phone? The actual labor at the site will be about one minute of shoveling I think. It will take more time to package it than to dig it. I am trying to create an income stream that could help fund a variety of mercy ministries in Mexico.

  • John:
    Tough break, but I am impressed that – in the end- that you see the bright side con el tuo espanol.
    God Bless,

  • John

    I’m from Wellton,AZ. In 2008 I was arrested in Algadones,Mex. I had 4 box’s of shot gun shells in the trunk of my car. I was aware that ammunition of any kind was illegal, I forgot a friend of mine put these box’s in my car it was dove season. To make a long story short I was sentenced to 5 years. Mexico is still under the old French laws. You never see a judge all the proceedings are done with out your presence, When a decision is made they notify you of the results. In Mexico you are guilty until proven innocent. You get 3 trials, No such thing as appeals. Money is the order of the day court leniency and understanding is proportionate to the cash involved. I watched more than one lawyer abscond with the retainer. Be careful my advice is to stay the heck out of Mexico. On the bright side my spanish es muy claro.
    John C.

  • Jay:
    From the link, the prison is where it reads “Sur” go to street view and you will see it. The link is
    God Bless,

  • Jay Jerome


    I’m writing a story (novel) and want to have a scene at the Mexicali Prison you wrote about above. I would like to look at the prison on Google Map, to see the general layout, for descriptive purposes — but though I’ve searched for an hour now on line, I can’t find the prison address anywhere, in English or Spanish…

    Would you be so kind as to email me the prison address, so I can check it out? It would also be helpful to know what route someone would take from the American Side border crossing to reach the prison, and about how long that would take…

    Any help you can give would be sincerely appreciated…
    Thanks in advance…

  • Bruce: We don’t run into any Americans here, either, although there must be quite a few. Like you, we pick up our mail in Calexico. Our friends here are are very nice Mexican neighbors. I think the local police are good – especially when compared to Tijuana, where we have had to bribe our way to get back to San Diego. All the best, MaryAnn

  • Shannon

    Gary’s Sister:

    I am glad to hear that your grandpa is doing good. I hope your brother get’s better. Are you able to visit him often? I’m sorry for the mis understanding I never dated your brother Gary I know the Chrismans from dating one of Mr. Edwards other grandsons in Arlington Washington, they live right next to Mr. Edward. Such a nice honest family. I recently took a trip home to Washington and so many people have so many good things to say about all the Chrismans and are just so sad to know that this kindof thing happened to them. I’m sure there are so many innocent people in these prisons in Mexico, It’s just not right. Do you know when his trial date is? Soon I hope, Are you from Arlington also? We will keep you in our prayers and I truly wish the best for your brother and your family. Here is my email address, please keep in touch.

    Thank you Ms. Shannon and MaryAnn and Dios te Vendiga

  • Gary's sister

    I am Gary’s sister Shannon. Thank you all for your positive support and concern. This whole ordeal has taken a toll on the entire family. Now that Grandpa is out, he is doing much better. Gary is still awaiting trial and has been sick since January, but he is still young enough to cope. I would love to hear from the other Shannon who dated Gary in high school.

  • Just a Guy

    Jessica please give me a call six one nine eight one three nine five two five. I have ways of finding things and people there. I can’t promise you anything except that I will do what I can.

  • Jessica

    Do you know the exact address of this prison? I got word my dad may be there although he is an american. I have been searching the web for any info on this prison and this is the only info i have found. Do you know anything else about this place and also the address again oh and maybe a phone number. If you could help me i would really appreciate it. Also do you know if this is the only jail/prison in mexicali because if it is then my dad is definitley there. Thank you so much and i look forward to hearing from you.

  • Shannon: Thanks. We will do what we can in Mexicali, and through my blog. Not sure we can visit, but may try again. Nuevo Laredo sounds real bad. We visited all the border towns from Aqua Prieta west to Tijuana. We settled on Mexicali. Things are good here – no problems with the police, and no drug violence. Mexicali is a working town – and the people are good here. Hopefully the attitude in Mexicali will somehow help the Chrismans. God Bless.

  • Shannon

    Something has to happen soon. I pray every day that they are released. I dated Mr. Edward Chrismans grandson not the guy that is in Jail but I know that they are a wonderful and honest family and they don’t deserve this. It’s just a big shock. I am from Arlington Washington Mr. Chrismans home town, but I live in Houston Texas and I heard about what happened and I feel so bad for them and their family. I know both sides of Mexico I have a house in Zacatecas where my husband is from and I know that everytime we go over the border Nuevo Laredo we have to have a couple hundred of dollars just to give to the border patrol in Mexico for no reason just because they ask us for money. Even the soldiers as you for money or cds or the hat off your head, police too. It’s Crazy. And then there are parts of Mexico that I love and alot of the people are so nice and appreciative. Honestly knowing that this could happen to someone so innocent and I know that they are really good honest people it makes me scared to go over to my own house in Zacatecas. We only go twice a year but I already cancelled our trip over Spring Break. It’s sad.
    It’s nice to see that people are suppporting the Chrisman Family and want to help. Keep writting about their status and God Bless you.

  • Thanks – What a guy! We hope you can help Edward. God Bless!

  • Just a Guy

    There is a lot of concern for Edward. There are somethings that maybe happening very soon for him, cross your fingers. I do know he is a man in the wrong place at the wrong time.
    As for his grandson, this is a wait and see.
    I can promise you this, I am working on this very hard, I hope he is home soon. The little girl is just that. A little girl. She speaks very openly and frank about what went on, down there.

  • Muchas gracias Elsa – nos gusta tu blog también!

  • Monica

    Hello and buena tardes, I found your blog when I was googling Mexicali houses for sale, my husband is currently incarcerated in Blythe and after 1 more year he will get deported, he is originally from Guanujauto where his mom and dad lives. Since he also has family in Mexicali and its close to the states I will be relocating to mexicali also. I have been there many times and I like the atmoshere, I dont feel so pressurred by the fast pace life out in L.A. After reading all your posts im even more excited to move over their. Do you anyone that lives in Mexicali and works in Calexico? Do you know if I would have to wait in that big long line to cross over everyday?

    Thanks again

  • Erica, Thanks for the compliment. Sorry to hear that Edward still remains in jail. Anything we can do, please let us know. We’re always here in Mexicali.

  • erica


    I really like your blog. I am a reporter for the local TV station in Yuma, Imperial Valley. I cover Imperial Valley. We will follow up on the Chrismans. I did talk to their family members and the last thing they told me was that Edward remains in jail. The family is sensitive and does not want to comment. But I will try to talk to them this week again.

  • MaryAnn

    Thanks. We’re gonna try, MaryAnn

  • Ginger

    I do hope you will return and visit these men. Please keep us informed.

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