Scratching the Bitch

Joseph Paiva was born defective, but prosecutors stamped him a habitual criminal.

Paiva's odds of winning a shorter sentence are abysmal; Clark says he has never lost a habitual-offender appeal. Besides, even if Paiva receives some relief from his sentence, there will always be the issue of where he should go next. Prison might not be the right place for him, but then, where else is?

Holding a conversation with Paiva is an exercise in patience. There are long pauses between his sentences, as if he has forgotten the conversational thread. If he hears too many questions he can't answer at once, his brow furrows, and he becomes first frustrated, and then angry. He apologizes for not remembering much. He prefers to talk about his art. He is a talented sketch artist, and his drawings are posted in many of the cells in the Arkansas Valley Correctional Institute outside of Rocky Ford.

Paiva's mother admits that over the years, nothing really has had an impact on her son's behavior. "I don't think anything helped him," says Sheila Powers, "other than maybe controlling his temper a little bit. He's got a terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible temper."

 
Hadley Hooper
 
Despite his disabilities, Joseph Paiva is a talented 
sketch artist.
Despite his disabilities, Joseph Paiva is a talented sketch artist.

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Consequently, she says that she, too, is at a loss over what to do with him. "I told him if he gets sent up to prison again, I wouldn't visit him," she says. "If he gets out, he ain't gonna have no place to go, because his aunt and uncle ain't gonna help him again. I don't know what to do. I think he could live on his own. I think."

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