CAT’S PAW Mission Report – Alex Parkin
We’re growing close to the release of CAT’S PAW so I wanted to bring you up-to-speed on one of the two principal players in this drama: Alexander Parkin.
Born in Texas, Alex is in his early thirties, and his life has never been easy. His father was an over-the-road truck driver and his mother a drug addict. After their deaths, he put himself through college, then joined the DEA. Serving first in his home state, then Louisiana, he was one of their most eager (and effective) agents, which meant he made enemies. Chief among these was Russian crime lord, Vladimir Buryshkin.
In 2008, when cocaine was planted in his home office, Alex was arrested for possession. After a year in jail, he was tried, found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison. Even before the trial began, his wife filed for divorce and his much younger sister, Miri, was sent to live with relatives.
After his trial, Alex was remanded to Louisiana State Penitentiary (also called Angola or The Farm), the largest maximum security site in the United States. Angola has a long and vicious history. Located on the site of a former plantation, it was named after the slaves’ country of origin. The penitentiary’s extensive farming operation uses inmate labor and produces over four million pounds of vegetables per year, including cotton. It also has a large herd of cattle.
LSP is known for being one of the harshest prisons in the country. For example, it didn’t install air conditioning to the inmate housing units until the 1990s in a state where the heat and humidity are debilitating, if not life-threatening. Combined with the “for profit” prison system and instances of sexual slavery, a term in Angola would break any man.
Alex’s introduction to the place was brutal, like it is for many a newcomer, especially if they were a former law enforcement officer. As he put it, “I got lucky. I had someone who watched my back, or I would have been out of that place in a body bag within a month.” Curiously, it was Buryshkin’s nephew, Grigori Danshov, who became his protector. Alex readily admits that Danshov is the only reason he was able to walk out the front gates five years later.
When I asked him if there was anything good during that time, he said: “Two things: my cellmate Mikhail, and the rodeos. They are why I didn’t crack. And I had my sister to worry about so committing suicide just wasn’t an option.” (Mikhail Yovanoff is/was Buryshkin's "wet works" man and is currently serving a life sentence.)
Alex’s fondness for the rodeo is shared by both the inmates and the public. Angola’s twice annual event started as a small gathering in the mid-1960s, a competition between the prisoners and the prison’s employees. It continued to grow and now it’s the longest running prison rodeo in the U.S. Not only do inmates compete, but they also sell their arts and crafts. According to Alex, he loved the bareback horse riding. “I’m from Texas,” he said. “Riding comes naturally to me.”
For more information about the prison rodeo, check out this article:
Though Alex’s initial reaction to Morgan Blake, the woman leading the mission, was anything but positive, his knowledge of the drug trade, and the “street smarts” he picked up inside prison, proved vital for the CAT’S PAW mission. Combined with Morgan’s expertise from her years at the FBI, the Buryshkin crime family found itself up against two tenacious opponents.
Next week: the background dossier on Morgan Blake.
For further information about CAT’S PAW, please visit: