New Voices Essay: Paris Lee Bennett

On Friday, May 10th, I was interviewed at the Clemens Unit, the unit to which I am assigned, by Mike Barajas, a reporter with the San Antonio Current. To the best of my already considerable and perpetually growing knowledge of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s (TDCJ) rules and regulations, offenders meeting with media representatives are to be afforded a measure of privacy. No such privilege was granted to Mr. Barajas and me. Our meeting took place among a group of interconnected offices located just past the gate that admits one into the prison proper. The “walls” dividing one office from the next are hardly more than whitewashed wooden partitions; the doors are not much thicker and have (what I posit are not glass) windows set into them at chest height. I find it hard to believe that anyone in the office could have missed our conversation had we spoken loudly enough.

As if this wasn’t enough, a Clemens official insisted in sitting in on the interview. I do not remember his name, only that he claimed to be the Family Liaison Officer. His justification? Security concerns. Let me point out that at no time did I give any indication that I wanted to harm Mr. Barajas. If harming him had indeed been my intent, then I would not have gotten very far with an attack for having everyone in the office know about it immediately. It would not have been much trouble for officials to place us in the general-visitation area, to be separated by a partition of bulletproof glass. Clemens is a mid-level security unit: if the officials had insisted upon placing me in mechanical restraints, I would have gladly complied.

But no. We had the Family Liaison sitting there, not ten feet from the table at which we had been directed to sit. Throughout the interview, he stared coolly at Mr. Barajas and I. He could hear every word that was said. The topics discussed were very sensitive, as they concerned my offense. His presence affected the interview badly, making my discussion with Mr. Barajas very awkward.

I believe his intent was to intimidate me, at the behest of his superiors, into saying nothing that might reflect poorly on TDCJ. TDCJ’s shortcomings were not the topic of the interview, yet he could not have known that. We were given an hour for the interview. By my reckoning, we took roughly forty-five minutes to work through the questions Mr. Barajas has prepared. Afterward, he asked me if I had any questions for him, concerns, etc. I mentioned that I felt I would make a better source for an article about TDCJ’s failures, its lapses in upholding policy consistently, and the abuse of our (offenders’) rights by officers, because my natural aversion to sharing personal matters would not affect such a discussion. As he was replying about being glad to consider me for future pieces and sharing my name with his colleagues, the family liaison was quick to declare our time had expired and push me out of the room.

Before I left, however, I turned to the family liaison and asked if I could count on him to leave what was said in the room there. After all, I pointed out, I had just spoken at length about a brutal crime I perpetrated against an innocent child—my little sister, no less–, and who but child murderers and molesters are bigger targets deserving a beating in the eyes of my peers? (Never mind that I myself was a child when I committed the offense; few here would make such a distinction.) A slip of the tongue would have everyone knowing the details of the interview by Monday. He seemed offended by my boldness. He told me sternly, “It’s my job to know about everyone and what they did. You don’t have to waste your time worrying about me telling your business.” More or less. I was not assured.

It seems obvious to me that the officials are worried about what criticisms I—or any offender, really—have to offer to the media. Yet this does not mean that those who wish to speak out should not be afforded the same rights and privileges as others (i.e. privacy). For TDCJ not to do so makes it seem a lot like Big Brother.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Shaw, I find your views disgusting that you think you know everything but I won’t spend time trying to educate you any further! Charity im from the uk and I recently saw the ITV interview with Paris Bennett i like to keep an open mind although I’m sure you understand at times its difficult over the years im sure you have been asked the same horrific questions and im sure you have been judged by small minded idiots but I just want to say to you that you are SO incredible and I send you all my love and prayers to you and your family and I just think your strength is astonishing!! All my love kayliegh smith from the UK. X

    1. Shae*

  2. I am curious @Charity, what personal responsibility you hold for how your son turned out?
    I ask this out of my own research in genetic-nature/nurture of people, especially children, who are socio/psychopaths. I also ask, because I had a mother (she is now dead) who had severe mental illness and witnessed and experienced the damage she caused.

    I watched the documentary. And while it does not go into a lot of details, there are clearly some issues that led to Paris turning out the way he did. There are clear signs of nature and nurture that can be seen which resulted in Paris being a truly broken human.

    Genetically, he was handed down mental illness from your side of the family and his father’s side.
    Physically, he was born to a drug addict. While you make claims that you stopped using as soon as you found out you were pregnant, that is a claim that one must have faith in that you are being honest. You do not mention how far along your pregnancy with Paris was, before you stopped. Drug use in pregnant women affects the brains of unborn babies. Withdraw also affects the brains of unborn babies.

    Environmentally, he was brought up in chaos, dysfunction and evil. You admit you knew your mother killed your father. Yet, you exposed Paris to the evil that your mother is. Young Paris also had to be subjected to dysfunctional men in your life…later, raised with no father figure at all. All studies show that kids raised with no father (at least a father figure) end up having a plethora of issues. This is one of the biggest faults in the black community – the lack of fathers and stable fatherly figures. Now you have continued down this destructive path with a new innocent life.

    All the men you have ended up with have been fucked up in one way or another. Substance abuse and untreated mental illness. Having knowledge on both, there is little doubt that there was a very unhealthy environment Paris had to be subjected to. What kind of drama, abuse (of any kind) and other negative influences was he subjected to that you have failed to admit and acknowledge in your quest to have this story told and make a profit from it – albeit maybe not financially but a profit is being made….if not just the feeding of attention you may crave.

    Paris never stood a chance. He had tainted genes, and a tainted ,unstable childhood.
    At least you do acknowledged that he is damaged goods and a danger to society. That makes me wonder why you feel he has the right to interact with your new son. Why would you allow such an evil and manipulative monster have access to such an innocent child with a Maible mind?
    You were warned to change identities and take up hiding from Paris – yet you refuse to heed warning – a 2nd time. Why would you offer your new son up to be another victim of Paris – because that is exactly what you are doing.

    Home videos clearly showed Ella was in danger, and you did nothing to protect her.
    Professionals warned you that Paris was a danger, yet you did nothing to help him.
    Now you are repeating the cycle. You are living in a false sense of security because he is behind bars. But Paris’ sociopath reaches behind physical means. Your own mother whom you have chosen to keep in your life and Phonex’s life – admits that the entire lot of you is manipulated and spoiled. All of you are mentally fucked up, according your mother.

    I do not see you as a victim, except maybe by your mother; however, you are choosing for her to be a part of your life still and that victim-hood is null and void now.
    I see Ella as a victim. I see Phoenix as a victim – yes, he is a victim to your incredibly bad bad choices.
    And I see a little bit of Paris being a victim based on your choice to hand down mental illness genes and your choice to raise him in a life of dysfunction, chaos and evil. With that said, that does not mean I excuse him for his choices. He should be put down like a rabid dog. There is no cure for sociopathy.

    At the end of the day, you have never sought treatment for your own mental illness (yes, you exhibit severe mental illness). You continue to make very poor decisions in your life which will affect Phoenix’s life.

    Please stop making more victims. Use birth control.
    Get the fuck away from your mother.
    And drop all communication from Paris and STOP allowing him to communicate with Phoenix.
    Last but not least, get your own professional help. You showed zero empathy or emotions during the entire documentary. That alone is incredibly scary. You fail to admit and acknowledge your complete failure in all of this and you continue to live a life of chaos and dysfunction.
    Unless you make some serious changes, sadly, life is only going to get worse for you. It doesnt have to be that way.

    1. Well it seems you have all the answers so there is no need to answer any of your questions. However, I will point out that the facts you have based your conclusions on are wrong. I will also point out that you assume you know enough about us based on watching a documentary to have any answers. I will also point out that you know way less about mental health and mental illness than you think. You also sound vaguely like a Nazi.

      Thanks for your opinions.

      1. That’s a really shitty comment. Just an fyi – you’re communicating with a mother who’s child was brutally murdered. Based on the heartlessness of your tone, you may be a sociopath yourself. I’m sure she’s raked herself over the coals & spent many sleepless nights playing the ‘what if’ game. This might surprise you ‘Shae’, but she’s not responsible for the murder of her daughter. Mother’s raise kids, we do our best, we make mistakes, we try again. We don’t control them. They’re not extensions of us. Definitely not by the age of 13 anyway. What her son did is horrific, the fact she’s still putting one foot in front of the other is admirable. How she copes, finds strength to carry on, tries to find meaning in all of this….no one can judge. She’s the only one in this nightmare and she has a right to have peace, however that’s attained.
        Charity – I’m very sorry for your loss. Your story is heartbreaking, but your strength is inspiring and your insight is valuable

    2. Shae,

      I simply find your response to Charity unacceptable. While you were writing this horrific rhetoric, the closet door broke open and all of your skeletons fell out. I think you should tend to your own mental issues as you clearly have them to write such a cold-hearted diatribe to someone you do not know and about a family you know nothing about, based only on a hour or so documentary. How dare you? You have a lot of nerve.

      Before you judge someone else, your better make damn well sure that you are perfect.

      Charity, I apologize on behalf of this person who thought that this was acceptable. For someone to write something as vicious as this speaks volumes about them. Not you.

      Sending love and hugs from NY Charity!

    3. SHAE- Wow, that was a disgusting read. You should have saved yourself some time and venom and done your “research” on yourself. What makes you think that you can make such a harsh judgement on awful situation that you saw a measly 2hr documentary on? What is going on in your brain that makes you such a hateful asshole that sees no problem spewing hate to a woman who has gone through hell and back trying to get through as best as she can? Tell me, in your case, is it nature or nurture?? Charity I am so sorry that you have to be exposed to these hateful, lowly internet thugs. You are such an inspiration and quite frankly one of the most bad ass people I have ever seen in my life. I could not imagine the courage and true grit it takes to not only get through such a heartbreaking situation but to come out on the other side still kicking ass & helping others. Thank you for being so strong and candid to share your story with the world. You are seriously like a true superhero!!! I wish nothing but the most wonderful things for you on the road ahead!

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