The Marshall Project

The Curious Case of the Prisoners in the Wrong Cellblock

A mystery unfolds during an urgent phone call.

This article was published in collaboration with Vice.

The female robot voice recording begins:

“Press one for English. Para Español oprima el dos.”

Life Inside Perspectives from those who work and live in the criminal justice system. Related Stories

While pressing one, I notice two guys — from a different housing unit — walking into our cellblock. Both are young white men covered in tattoos, one with scraggly red hair and two-day-old whiskers, the other a clean-shaven blond. Suspiciously, they are wearing winter coats during the hottest stretch of summer.

When I make this call, Oregon is in a state of emergency. It’s been 49 days without rain, and over half a million acres of forest are burning. The nearest inferno is 59.8 miles away and has turned Salem’s air quality hazardous, while depositing

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