Correctional Center Tegwar

There’s a terrific scene in the great baseball movie, “Bang the Drum Slowly,” where Michael Moriarity, Phil Foster and Robert DeNiro engage a fan in a card game called TEGWAR. TEGWAR is an acronym for The Exciting Game Without Any Rules.

TEGWAR is, in fact, a game without any rules. It’s a game the ballplayers use to fleece and chase away the sycophants and hangers-on who intrude upon the lives of major leaguers. The object is to get these “marks” to ante up some money and engage in a game in which the ballplayers impose a series of inconsistent and irrational rules that keep changing with kaleidoscopic unpredictability until, at long last, the fans quit in frustration, leaving their losses on the table and the players alone.

Unwittingly, I’m sure, employees at the various Community Correctional Centers, the local lockups, have developed their own version of TEGWAR which they delight in playing with attorneys seeking legal visits. So, then, whatever legal visitation rules apply on one day inexplicably change on the next. Many times these rules change within minutes on the same day.

Correctional Center TEGWAR may involve the hours for legal visits. Some skillful Corrections personnel play the opening TEGWAR gambit by telephone.

“Hello. I’m calling to find out the time for legal visits.”

“9:30 to ll:00 am; 1:00 to 3:30 pm; and 7:00 to 8:30 pm”

“Thanks. It’s 10:15, now, I’ll be right over.”

Arriving at 10:30, briefcase in one hand, bar card in the other, you soon become the victim of a well-executed TEGWAR maneuver.

You approach the thick-glassed bunker and speak through the slot.

“Hi. I’m here for a legal visit.”

“Sorry, sir. No legal visits after 10:30.”

“Yea, but wait. I just called over and they said that legal visits were from 9:30 to ll:00.”

“They did? Who told you that?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t ask his name.

But is that right? Aren’t legal visits from 9:30 to ll:00 in the morning?”

“Well, I don’t know who you talked to but it sure wasn’t me.”

“No. I’m not saying it was you. But isn’t that correct; aren’t visiting hours from 9:30 to 11:00?”

“You’re not saying I told you that, are you, sir?”

“No, no. I’m not saying that at all. All I’m saying is that I was told that visiting hours are from 9:30 to 11:00”

“Yea, that’s right. Visiting hours are from 9:30 to 11:00 at this jail. Yes they are.”

“Well, look, it’s l0:35. It’s not 11:00 yet. Visiting hours are still on. I want to get in to see my client.”

“Oh, you can’t do that, sir. No one is allowed in after l0:30.”

“Yes, but nobody told me that.”

“Well, I don’t know who you talked to. It sure wasn’t me.”

Gotcha! You lose. The TEGWAR master chalks up another victory as you skulk away and hope against hope your client will somehow soon make bond so you won’t have to return to this hellhole.

Another TEGWAR ploy is the missing client. Again the preliminary phone call is the opening move.

“Hello, I have a legal visit for Warren Mitchell. Is he there?”

“Let me check, sir. Do you have his date of birth?”

“Sure. 12/4/71. Is he there?”

“Let me see. Mitchell Warren, right?”

“No, no. Warren Mitchell.”

“Right. Right. And was that date of birth again?”

“12/4/71.”

“No, nope. We don’t have him.”

“Are you sure? He called me from there last night. I promised I’d visit him. He’s expecting me today.”

“Look, sir. I already told you. We don’t have anybody by that name here.”

“Well, ok. Thanks.”

You don’t know it yet but you just lost again. You learn this a short time later when your receptionist buzzes and asks if you’ll accept a collect call from Warren Mitchell at the jail. Of course you say yes.

“Warren?. Where the hell are you calling me from. I just called the jail and they said you weren’t there. I was going to come and visit you.”

“What do you mean I’m not here. I’ve been here since two days ago waiting for you to come out and see me. Hey, wait a minute, what name did you ask for me under?”

“What do you mean, what name? I asked for your name, Warren Mitchell, of course.”

“Well, you see, counselor, that’s the problem. They got me listed here as Mitchell Warren. Unless you ask for me by that name you’ll never get to see me.”

Bingo! You lose.

A similar but more devastating TEGWAR tactic is the “lawyer name” game. No telephone is necessary. In fact a trip to the jail is essential if this hand is played to its optimum. You confidently enter the building, approach the bunker and address the guard behind the bullet proof glass.

“Hello. I just drove here for a legal visit. It’s 9:35 am so I know I’m not too late. I’m here to see Warren Mitchell. His date of birth is 12/4/71. Do you have him here? You may have him listed as Mitchell Warren so you probably want to check both names.”

“Yeah, we got’em. Warren Mitchell. He’s on D Block. I’m going to have to see some identification. Do you have a bar card?”

“Sure. Here. It’s a photo ID card. It has my picture right on it.”

“Well, let’s see if you’re listed in our lawyers book.”

“Gee, I hope so. I’ve been practicing here for better than 20 years.”

“Well, I’ll tell you what, counselor, I don’t see your name listed in this book. And if you’re not in the book, my instructions are not to let you in.”

“Look. I’m not trying to give you a hard time or anything, but I’ve been visiting people at this jail for twenty years. I have to be in book.”

“Sir. There’s no need to get angry. If your name’s not in the book, I can’t let you in.”

“Okay, okay. I understand you’re just doing your job. Please, do me a favor. Will you please ask the Lieutenant if I can get in to see my client? His trial starts tomorrow and I have to see him.”

“All right, sir, I’ll phone him.” He then talks into the phone. “Lieutenant, I got a lawyer here who’s not in the book and he wants to see his client. His name? His name is Dow William and he’s not in our book . . . Hold one, Lieutenant. What’s that, sir?”

“That’s William Dow, not Dow William.”

“Ok, Ok. William Dow. Right.” He runs his finger slowly over the list of lawyers names and stops. “Uh, cancel that Lieutenant. You can go right down to see him, counselor. I’ll call up to D Block and have him sent down.”

Aha! At last! The fruits of victory. You’re in the right place at the right time, on your way to see the right client. You’ve beaten the system.

But wait. Not so fast. You’re not supposed to win at Correctional Center TEGWAR. You descend to the cell block and approach the jailer.

“Who are you here to see, sir?”

“Warren Mitchell. They already called for him from upstairs at the desk. How long do you think it will take for him to come down from D Block?”

“Who’s that? Mitchell? Warren Mitchell? He’s not on D Block anymore. Didn’t they tell you that at the desk? They moved him way upstate to Somers prison yesterday. You’ll have to drive up there to visit him.”

Correctional Center TEGWAR is a very tough game. Even Sisyphus would lose his patience with this one.