Fall Guy

Larry Gould was a long-time junkie on the mend in a methadone program until he was lured into a drug sting. Now he's doing five years. But he made a few undercover cops look good in the process, and that was the important thing.

Law enforcement agencies nationwide take in an estimated $1 billion in forfeited property every year. Closer to home, one public defender estimates that every year, the Minneapolis Police Department makes roughly half a million dollars through drug-asset forfeitures.

"How many cops lose their jobs if they lose drug money?" asks Swanson. "How many prosecutors?"

Gould still has 18 months to go at the minimum-security state prison in Red Wing--ironically, the same facility where he started his heroin-induced prison career some 35 years ago as a juvenile delinquent. He's the head of his unit's chapter of Narcotics Anonymous, the gardener in charge of his cell block's vegetable plot, and says he's been born again, accepted Jesus Christ into his heart.

"If I use when I get out, I'll die," he says. "Since I've been in here a lot of my friends have died on the streets of overdoses." An old acquaintance recently tested positive for HIV. "I think about that," he says, "I could have gotten AIDS. With how many times I used behind other people, I should have it." His fingers tighten their grip on his coffee cup; a souvenir from the Faribault prison, its logo says "Hard Time Cafe."

His two sons and one stepson are in their 20s now, and he wants to live up to their expectations. He and his lady friend of 28 years have finally concluded that their chemistry is all wrong, but they're good friends. When he gets out, at the age of 52, maybe he can get an auto-body job like he was trained for by the corrections system.

But as he talks, he almost seems to be trying out the idea of a clean life, seeing if it flies. He's been off heroin in prison, although he says he could probably get it if he tried. He's already thinking about how he'll have to rely mostly on his willpower to stay clean this time on the outside. Larry Gould is less sure he'll be able to stand firm if an old friend, perhaps a snitch with an extra incentive to get him to buy, comes sniffing around.

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