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Wrongly released inmate:  I tried to tell prison guard

Walter Redawn Dixon

Walter Redawn Dixon

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Updated: November 6, 2013 6:05AM



As Walter Redawn Dixon was about to be set free from Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet last December, he tried to alert a guard that they were making a terrible mistake — that he was supposed to be on his way to federal prison.

But when Dixon protested to the guard, he was told not to speak out of turn, then he was thrown in “the hole” — before being shown the door, Dixon said Thursday in a telephone interview with the Chicago Sun-Times from his new cell at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago.

“He was damn rude to me,” Dixon said of the state prison guard. “He was like, ‘You don’t do that here.’ They put me in the hole. I actually told him I was supposed to go with the [federal] marshals.”

As the Sun-Times reported last week, because of a paperwork error, Dixon was let go when he should have instead been transferred to federal custody to begin a 16-year prison term in connection with an Iowa drug conspiracy case.

The Illinois Department of Corrections says Dixon was released because the agency never received a federal order to keep him after he served a one-year sentence for aggravated drunken driving.

The Cook County Sheriff’s Office — which had custody of Dixon just before he was sent to Stateville — disagrees, saying their records indicate the federal order was almost surely known to state prison officials.

After about nine months of freedom, federal officials finally scooped up Dixon last week outside a vocational school on the Near West Side, where he was learning about plumbing, carpentry and air conditioning systems.

Dixon, 33, didn’t know anything about the paperwork snafu last year, when the prison gates opened before him and he was escorted to Joliet to board a train.

“They waited there with me, and they gave me $27 in a little brown envelope,” Dixon said.

Dixon got on with his life in Chicago, staying in shelters and with friends, he said. Dixon assumed his release had something to do with his lack of understanding of the federal prison system.

“I never heard of them letting nobody out,” Dixon said. “I thought maybe they were trying to monitor me. But you know, I complied with everything. I was seeing the parole [officer]. I wasn’t really hiding or anything.”

The state Department of Corrections doesn’t dispute that last part. Tom Shaer, the department spokesman, said earlier this week that Dixon was checking in regularly with his state parole officer.

Shaer strongly disputed Dixon’s account of his release from Stateville last December.

“We don’t have a hole,” Shaer said. “It may be Mr. Dixon’s vivid imagination. The person to tell anything to was the parole agent with whom he had regular contacts over months” of visits.

Dixon said his freedom ended when a group of men in plain clothes approached him before class at the vocational school last Friday.

Now, as he sits in a federal cell downtown, awaiting a transfer to begin his lengthy federal term, he says he should be given some credit for staying out of trouble, getting an education and doing “the right thing.”

“I don’t think I should be let out,” he said. “I mean, I should get a reduced sentence for complying [with parole]. I basically turned myself in by going to the parole officer.”

Email: sesposito@suntimes.com

Twitter: @slesposito



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