Stephen H. Wilson Papers

Manuscript Collection #301
Wilson, Stephen H.
Physical description
0.22 Cubic Feet, 65 items , consisting of correspondence and clippings (1973-1975, 1977).
Preferred Citation
Stephen H. Wilson Papers (#301), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection

Papers (1973-1977) of counselor at the Tideland Mental Health Center, Washington, N.C., who was imprisoned on drug related charges in Mexico, 1973-1975 consisting of correspondence, clippings, playboy magazine, abusive treatment of prisoners, etc.

Scope and arrangement

Stephen H. Wilson, a counselor at the Tideland Mental Health Center in Washington, N.C., was imprisoned in June 1973 on phony drug trafficking charges while on vacation in Mexico. His correspondence during this period (1973-1975), to friends in North Carolina and family in New Jersey, reveal the lack of Mexican justice and the condition of Mexican prisons, and concern the activities of the U.S. Narcotics Agency in Mexico. Clippings (1973-1975, 1977) reveal the plight of Americans charged with drug trafficking and focus on prison conditions.

Wilson's correspondence concerns his imprisonment, first at San Luis and later at Nogales, both in the border province of Sonora, Mexico. In one letter (July 1973), Wilson tells of his arrest, imprisonment, and prison conditions at San Luis Prison, while other letters describe the racial tensions there, the predominance of drugs within the prison, and the abusive treatment received by prisoners during interrogation (undated).

Other letters tell of the conditions under which Wilson was transferred to the Nogales Prison, a major prison riot by Mexicans against American prisoners, the forced payment for protection, and a riot that ensued after the Americans refused to pay additional money.

Throughout his correspondence, Wilson describes the unjustness of Mexican law when applied to foreigners. These letters describe the schemes of dishonest lawyers who use prisoners to extort money from their families, and how those without direct political influence or money are in a hopeless position. Wilson also charges that sentences for Mexicans were much more lenient than for Americans due to the direct involvement of the U.S. Narcotics Agency.

Wilson also comments on the unwillingness of the U.S. consulate to intervene on the behalf of U.S. citizens in Mexican jails.

Finally, after a long, costly, and unsuccessful legal battle in Mexican courts, Wilson escaped from Nogales prison. This story is retold in a letter to Playboy magazine (March 1975).

Administrative information
Custodial History

April 26, 1976, 66 items, Correspondence and clippings (1973-1975), pertaining to imprisonment in Mexico. Deposited by Mr. Stephen H. Wilson, Greenville, N.C.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Mr. Stephen H. Wilson

Processing information

Processed by M. Quintanilla, November 1986

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Key terms
Personal Names
Wilson, Stephen H.
Corporate Names
United States. Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs
Criminal justice, Administration of--Mexico
Drug traffic--Mexico
False imprisonment--Mexico
Mexico--Foreign relations--United States
Prison riots--Mexico
United States--Foreign relations--Mexico