Pitkin County Sheriff digs into Community Chest to help inmate | AspenTimes.com

Pitkin County Sheriff digs into Community Chest to help inmate

Sheriff Joe DiSalvo holds two get-out-of-jail-free cards that were to be mailed to a recently released inmate from Pitkin County Jail. The cards were later laminated and put in the mail, following the inmate's request.
Rick Carroll/The Aspen Times |

An area transient did not pass “go” and did not collect $200 after Aspen police popped him in June for breaking into a downtown lodge and spending the night for free. But he did go directly to jail.

In fact, the man remained behind bars until he was released Feb. 2. But for the 48-year-old drifter, his newfound freedom was lacking an essential item: Authorities didn’t return his laminated get-out-of-jail-free card — the one popularized in Monopoly board games.

After the man’s release, he contacted the Sheriff’s Office, which confiscated his belongings at the time he was booked June 22, demanding the card’s return. Court files also show he’d written the judge, while he was incarcerated, asking that his seized items be returned.

“He more or less accused us of taking his stuff,” Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said.

Authorities couldn’t find the card, so Don Bird, who runs the jail, photocopied his own get-out-of-jail-free card, laminated it and mailed it to him. Wrong card and not the original one, the man said.

He mailed it back, along with a hand-written note to DiSalvo.

“I’m asking you to please have whoever took my laminated card to please return it, … anonymously if need be,” he wrote in a letter postmarked in Dillon.

He also fired off an email to the rest of the Sheriff’s Office staff.

“now … mr. disalvo … i’m sending you via snail mail, what i received in the mail … IT IS NOT THE REAL ‘GET OUT OF JAIL CARD’ THAT WAS IN MY CONTRABAND PROPERTY! as you can see … a copy of the REAL card that was in my property was made … then laminated … and it was sent to me to make me angry…”

The man, who has been in and out of the local court system for various transgressions — his latest stint behind bars spanned 222 days — wrote that the card had been put to good use in the past. “The real card got me released from Golden Gate Park Police Station … so it has sentimental value to me.”

DiSalvo figured he would try to help him, and earlier this week opened his sealed, unused Monopoly game and removed two of the cards — one from the Community Chest, the other from the Chance pile. But it later occurred to the sheriff that his Monopoly game was a throwback edition, and its nostalgic cards wouldn’t be satisfactory.

“They looked different from the modern one, and I knew we couldn’t send them,” he said.

Enter Tim Gustafson, the civil administrator for the Sheriff’s Office. Gustafson also has the board game — who doesn’t? — and brought an orange and yellow card to the office. The sheriff’s administrative team had two cards laminated, and they were set to hit the mail Thursday.

“We wanted to make sure he got the same get-out-of-jail-free card he came in with,” DiSalvo said. “But we don’t know if it’s the orange one or the yellow one, so we’ll send them both.”

DiSalvo said the venture didn’t demand much time.

“I could ignore it, but I’m choosing not to,” he said. “This is customer service. This is what we do. It’s not taking a lot of my time, and there’s the comical part of it, too. I don’t want any unhappy customers out there.”

DiSalvo isn’t always as accommodating, however.

Around Christmas time, an inmate asked the sheriff if he would provide him a stripper, preferably from the Diamond Cabaret in Denver, for the holiday season. The sheriff declined.

“I’ve had some weird requests,” DiSalvo said. “And there are a lot that I’ve never acted on. We get some odd inmate requests. But (the card request) seemed so comical, I had to fulfill the request.”


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