By Christopher Zoukis
Chicago has earned its reputation as a city that knows how to show conventioners, tourists and other visitors a good time – but who knew some Chicagoans would go so far as to stage adult entertainment for the enjoyment of inmates in the Metropolitan Correctional Center, the 27-story prison operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons?
But that’s apparently what’s been happening on the roof of a self-service parking garage across the street from the prison. Chicago papers printed accounts of the X-rated cavorting on the garage rooftop, which has included performances by topless or nude dancers, and other displays the family papers have had difficulty describing. MCC inmates able to see the hijinks from their place of residence sometimes flash cellblock lights on and off to express their appreciation. Criminal lawyers with nearby offices also confirm these displays are not isolated or infrequent occurrences.
A BOP spokesperson, asked about the racy performances, says the agency is aware of the goings-on, and has notified the garage management about them, but adds the BOP “has no authority to remove people” from the privately-owned property. The garage operators, for their part, deny any knowledge or involvement with the performances. The Chicago papers state there’s no record of anyone having been arrested in connection with the rooftop shows.
And they're apparently not a new phenomenon. Some sources say the impromptu performances have been going on for years. On some occasions, rather than a striptease routine, the rooftop is the site of gatherings of inmates’ family members, who keep all clothing intact as they take pictures and wave toward the MCC.
One explanation for the rooftop shows is that well-heeled inmates are underwriting the performances as a way to show off their status to other inmates. This might explain why women gyrating on the garage rooftop sometimes display wads of currency. One prominent example of this is gang leader Thaddeus Jimenez, known as T.J., the leader of the Simon City Royals. He spent time in the MCC and claims some of the rooftop shows were put on for his benefit. Jimenez denies sponsoring the events, but says one stripper occasionally holds a sign reading “Free T.J.” and explains this is an expression of love.
If he had wanted to bankroll the shows, he could easily have done so. Jiminez won a near-record $25 million wrongful-conviction lawsuit against the city in 2012. Arrested on a murder charge at age 13, he was freed after 16 years in jail after a witness recanted testimony that Jimenez was the killer. He’s currently serving nine years in prison on a 2015 federal gun charge linked to shooting a gang rival in both legs. A fellow gang member videotaped the assault while riding with Jimenez in a $90,000 Mercedes convertible. The duo—and the video camera—were captured when Jimenez crashed the car as he was trying to escape the crime scene. But even though Jimenez has been transferred out of the MCC, the rooftop shows show no sign of abating anytime soon.
Christopher Zoukis is the author of Federal Prison Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons, College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Co., 2014) and Prison Education Guide (Prison Legal News Publishing, 2016). He can be found online at ChristopherZoukis.com, PrisonEducation.com and PrisonerResource.com.