Father Steals Best: Crime in an American Family
August 21, 2002
By FOX BUTTERFIELD
SALEM, Ore., Aug. 15 - Rooster Bogle came up to the rich Willamette Valley here from Texas as a migrant worker in 1961, already having served hard time in prison and with a habit of beating his wife and teaching his children to steal.
Rooster, as Dale Vincent Bogle was known, taught them well. By the time the boys were 10 years old they were breaking into liquor stores for their dad or stealing tractor-trailer trucks, hundreds of them. The girls turned to petty crimes to support their drug addictions.
In time, everybody went to jail, or to state prison, as did many of Rooster's brothers and their families. By official count, 28 in the Bogle clan have been arrested and convicted, including several of Rooster's grandchildren. Rooster Bogle (rhymes with mogul) himself died in 1998, of natural causes.
"Rooster raised us to be outlaws," said Tracey Bogle, the youngest of Rooster's children by his wife, Kathryn, now 55. "There is a domino effect in a family like ours,"Tracey said. "What you're raised with, you grow to become. You don't escape."
Tracey Bogle, who is 29, would know. He is serving a 15-year sentence for kidnapping, rape, assault, robbery and burglary at the Snake River Correctional Institution in the high desert of eastern Oregon near the Idaho border. He committed the crimes with one of his older brothers, Robert Zane Bogle. Their oldest brother, Tony, is serving a life term in Arizona for murder. Their mother was released from Klamath County jail only last month.
For all this criminal activity, the Bogle clan is merely an extreme example of a phenomenon that prison officials, the police and criminal justice experts have long observed, that crime often runs in families.
Justice Department figures show that 47 percent of inmates in state prisons have a parent or other close relative who has also been incarcerated, said Allen J. Beck of the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Similarly, the link between the generations is so powerful that half of all juveniles in custody have a father, mother or other close relative
who has been in jail or prison, Mr. Beck said.
Despite this statistical evidence, until very recently states paid little attention to the family cycle of crime. But in the last year Oregon has introduced a pioneering program that tries to break the cycle by asking all newly admitted inmates whether they have a relative who has been incarcerated and whether they themselves have children.
If the inmates do have a relative who has been locked up, the state is now offering services for them, including drug and alcohol treatment, mental health counseling and courses in preventing domestic violence. In addition, Oregon has begun to try to keep track of the inmates' children more carefully, identifying who they are staying with and
whether the children are at risk of being exposed to physical or sexual abuse.
The cost of ignoring this cycle of criminality is a burden to taxpayers, said Fay Gentle, the training and transition coordinator for the Oregon Department of Corrections.
An analysis by her office found that the cost for incarcerating just five of the 28 convicted Bogle family members was almost $3 million. That is not counting the expense of their trials, or of probation or parole after their release, or the costs if they are arrested again.
A nephew of Rooster's, Louis Bogle, 42, will be a cost to Oregon for as long as he lives. In 1993, five days after his last release from prison, he went in search of methamphetamine. Louis had a total of 25 arrests, everything from drug possession and theft to endangering
the welfare of a minor. He had always survived, but this time his luck ran out. He owed money to the Mexican drug dealers he went to buy methamphetamine from, so they shot him up with liquid Drano.
That put him in a coma. Louis recovered consciousness a month later but remains paralyzed from the neck down, a resident in a nursing home paid for by the state in the farm town of Lebanon.
"Too mean to die," Louis said, lying flat on his back on a hospital bed, his arms and chest festooned with prison tattoos.
There are a number of reasons that people with parents who have been incarcerated are more likely to be locked up themselves, Ms. Gentle said. Many grow up in families afflicted by poverty, abuse, neglect and drug use, all factors that can lead to criminality. But to Ms. Gentle, a critical reason is simply how the children in families like the Bogles learn to imitate their parents. "Instead of learning appropriate behavior, they are learning how to cheat, lie, steal and manipulate," Ms. Gentle said. "Kids are so eager to please, they imitate their parents."
Ms. Gentle herself had a childhood not that different from the Bogles'. Her parents were migrant workers who abandoned her in Oregon after a bad car accident. Like the Bogles, her parents came to Oregon to pick apples, pears and cherries, and she lived in the back of the car and ate food her father stole at truck stops.
"I loved my father so much that even when he beat my mother when he was drunk, I'd wait with him when the police came,"Ms. Gentle said. But after she was abandoned, she realized she had been lucky. It broke the cycle of violence.
For Tracey Bogle, now at the Snake River prison, some of his earliest memories are his mother's blood when Rooster got drunk and beat her. His father carried a knife and taught the boys to fight and steal. If they did not fight and steal, he beat them for being cowards. Rooster said he was a Gypsy, that his mother was a Gypsy from Germany, and
so they would live by stealing.
So Tracey started with shoplifting food, toys and clothes, and then graduated rapidly to stealing semi's, those big rigs running up and down Interstate 5 through Oregon. Semis were more desirable than cars because they carried much more gas and could go farther, and because they could survive a crash.
Once he and his brothers stole a semi in Salem and rammed it into the side of a gun store, right through the wall, making off with the guns. One semi he stole, loaded with $100,000 worth of sugar, landed him in the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Salem when he was about 15.
Altogether, he must have stolen 300 semis, Tracey figures.
That has netted him 12 years of incarceration since he quit school in eighth grade, most of his life since then, including jail time in Idaho, Nevada and California. But sitting in prison now, dressed in state-issue blue denim, he laughs loudly at his youthful memories. It was his childhood, the only one he knew, and so it was fun, even
when it was painful.
For the girls in the extended Bogle family, most crime has involved drugs, but some have learned to be violent, too.
Florence Bogle Black, a niece of Rooster, remembers her father, Elvie, beating her mother when he was drunk and then when Florence was 11, sexually molesting her. "I don't hold it against him, he was drunk," Florence said. "But after that, I changed."
Soon she was doing drugs - methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin. "I would do whatever I could get, and if I didn't have the money, I'd lose all my morals," she said. She had her first baby at 15.
She was convicted of stabbing her husband and her best friend, who was also her husband's girlfriend. She was, she now recognizes, re-enacting the violence done to her.
Florence was saved by her sister, Tammie Bogle Stuckey, the recognized saint of the family, who has never been arrested or abused drugs but did go through two abusive marriages. Tammie now helps run five halfway houses for 45 newly released inmates as women's director of Stepping Out Ministry, a nonprofit religious agency started by her current husband, a former inmate himself.
"Working with these inmates, it seems perfectly normal," Tammie said. "They're just like my family."
Sometimes the residents in her transition houses are her family, including her brother Mark Bogle and a cousin, Jerrie Lynn Bogle Jones, convicted on prostitution charges related to her drug addiction.
One resident was her own son, Jason Bogle James, 27, who started drinking and taking acid at 13 and progressed to heroin and robbing a store, for which he was sentenced to five years in prison. When he was released, Tammie took him into her program, which has a strong Christian component, but found he was not serious about kicking his habit and was breaking her rules.
She kicked him out of the program and watched as his parole officer sent him back to jail when he failed a urine test. "I am actually relieved when he is in jail or prison," Tammie said, " 'cause I know he's not out trying to get himself killed."
Being a Bogle in Oregon carries a reputation. Tammie and Ricky Bogle, 23, the son of one of her cousins, say they have been stopped repeatedly by the Salem police simply because their license plates were registered to a Bogle. Driving while Bogle is the local form of profiling.
But once Ricky was stopped in a stolen car. That got him 13 months in Oregon State Correctional Institution in Salem, where he is confined now, in solitary. "Man, when you are raised in this family," Ricky said, "it's hard to get away from it."