The Rumpus Mini-Interview Project #27: Alex Behr in Conversation with Lucinda X

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The last time I saw Lucinda was around July 4, 2003. Marching around with sparklers in her back yard, drinking beer and laughing, she showed no ill-effects of being a California parole officer. Lucinda, 41, is now a California state investigator of lifers, and an aspiring roller derby vixen. Her boss approved this interview; but, due to the sensitive nature of her job, we changed her name.

Alex: So tell me that Viking tattoo story again.

Lucinda: Back when I was a parole officer, my ex-husband went to a bar with his volleyball team and karaoked onstage with a guy who had a Viking tattoo on his forehead – the helmet, the horns; everything. He told me about it; and I got hysterical, telling him, “Oh my God, that guy’s on my caseload.” It’s a white supremacy prison gang tattoo. He was not allowed to be in a bar.

Alex: You used secondhand info to put him back in jail?

Lucinda: No, we did an alcohol test the next day. He wasn’t supposed to be drinking because he had a commitment offense.

Alex: When I visited a tattoo removal clinic one time, I saw the pain ex-cons and or ex-gang-bangers went through to get rid of really stupid tattoos. Do you feel some sympathy toward some of your clients?

Lucinda: My experience has been that all of them level out in their mid- to late forties. When someone’s a parolee, it’s not like the first time they’re in the system; they all have long rap sheets. Some people think they’re scumbags, cockroaches, dirtbags. I don’t think like that. I’ve seen so many people outgrow the behavior; they’re winding down.

Alex: How do you cope with the stress?

Lucinda: There’s a lot of gallows humor that goes along with the job. In the field as a parole officer, I remember getting impressed with crazy crimes. One guy got a violation after drinking in a garage – these teenage boys were being cocky and harassing him. He dragged one teenage boy into the garage and put his head in a vice, and the neighbors intervened.

When he got out of prison and went on parole, I met with him. I shook my finger and said, “Everybody wants to put a teenager’s head in a vice, but you’re not supposed to act on it.”

Alex: How do you view your career?

Lucinda: I’m in it for the long haul. I’m not doing the stuff I used to do as a parole officer: drug testing, knocking on doors, etc. I do investigations on lifer inmates, specifically battered women syndrome. I check out their claims that their crimes were a result of domestic violence experiences. If true, it can be used as a mitigating factor in parole hearings.

Alex: I have a friend who gives pregnant inmates health assistance. What’s your interaction with prisoners who are also mothers?

Lucinda: As an investigator of battered women syndrome, I see a lot of mothers. I can see being in prison affects women really badly.  They’re lifers; their children are going to be raised by someone else. The women usually don’t press for communication. It’s a little sad; but I think when you have a lifer mom, it’s better to be situated with a new family.  As part of the investigations I often have to talk to kids.  They’re pretty bitter toward their moms.

Alex: How’s the roller derby team going?

Lucinda: I made it into the training program in July.

Alex: When’s the first meet? Is it called a meet?

Lucinda: It’s called a bout (laughs).

Alex: Do you have to tell them what you do for a living?

Lucinda: I don’t want to say what I do – I just said on the application that I’m an investigator. The crowd for the Sac City Rollers league is mixed. Some have purple hair, hipsters, but some are rough looking.


Alex Behr received an MFA in creative writing from Portland State University. Her writing has appeared in Oregon Humanities, Portland Review, Propeller, Evil Monito, and other online and print publications. She performed excerpts from her teenage diaries in Mortified in Portland and San Francisco - as a “brain butt.” More from this author →