I was in jail from Friday night – Sunday night.
I wasn’t a trouble-maker. I was teaching and administrating at a respected school.
I merely had some friendly drinks and dinner with some friends. I drove just a few blocks away then decided I wanted to quickly pull to the side of the road to safely send a text before finishing my drive home.
At 2:00 am on a WIDE road with practically no one driving by, I figured it wasn’t necessary for me to park perfectly since I was about to leave shortly anyway. I was about a foot away from the curb, half on red.
Immediately after sending the text I looked up to see flashing lights behind me. They questioned why I was parked awkwardly and if I had any drinks. “Yes, just a bit. I was having dinner with friends.” (In California, it’s apparently legal to refuse a sobriety test but I just did it assuming if I follow the rules and answer honestly, they’ll go easy on me.) Well to my surprise I hit the illegal limit EXACTLY to the point.
Handcuffs were on and next thing I know I’m in this cold brick building. Keep in mind it’s summer and I was dressed as any other sassy mid-20 year old would dress – in shorts and a thin top ready to hit the town.
They sat me in an isolated cell as they stated that they would give me a few hours to sober up so I could drive home and deal with the court orders as they arrive in a few days. A few hours had passed and there I was shivering in a filthy cold brick cell with my knees to my chest – teeth ACTUALLY chattering. “Please, can someone give me socks or a blanket. I’m so cold. Also, may I please know the status of my identity check. I believe I’ll pass the sobriety test now and I will comply with the next steps in my legal processing.”
“Our system is down. You have to wait. No, we have no blankets. That’s it. STOP ASKING.”
This series of questions happened a few times in a row after a few hours in a row.
I was then moved to another cell block with another young woman arrested for a DUI… & more. I learned that she was cheating on her boyfriend that night. The man she was cheating with drove her car into oncoming traffic then tried to drive off but was chased. For hours, I heard her trying to call her boyfriend for the limited minutes we had, “NAH, BOO. I’m so sorry! I wasn’t cheating! I love you! I’m sorry.”
This was around the first time that I saw a clock so I assumed 2–3 days had passed. I had no idea and anytime I asked the guards what day it was they told me to, “Shut up & wait!”
Food that looked like it had sat out and old for days.
Still cold. Flesh is numb. Feet are dirty.
Dirty toilet about a foot above ground in the corner.. out in the open.. in front of everyone.
Toilet paper sprawled across the dirty piss & shit floor.
I finally realize I can’t hold my pee in anymore so I squat embarrassed, defeated, and small. I don’t even bother wiping lest I get an infection.
Still no blankets or socks. I try to cover myself with another cot. They don’t care. The cold and loss of time douses me into countless hours of sleep. Periodically I wake, “Excuse me, guard. I understand the systems are down but is there a manual way to confirm my identity as I’ve been here longer than I was informed. I can give you phone numbers, addresses, etc.”
“STOP ASKING US. YOU ARE NOT GETTING OUT UNTIL THE SYSTEM IS UP.”
I wake up periodically to the sound of an elder woman yelling in pain a few cells away, “You pigs don’t understand I have an addiction! I need meth. Even just a little! You’re actually killing me. This hurts so bad. Someone just please understand! Helppppppp!!! Heellllpppp me!!!”
Guards: “SHUT THE FUCK UP!!”
I felt like cattle. They didn’t care about us. We were numbers they laughed at. They didn’t care about my background. They didn’t care about who I was. Their chests puffed up laughing at us as they passed each cell – I thought to myself, “You have no real education. You do not understand you are actually killing and torturing that woman who has an addiction. I don’t care how foolish you think she is. You think you’re better than her. You’re making sure she knows that. I’ve never witnessed anything so cruel! You don’t know her story, how hard her life may have been. Nor do you care I’m a teacher and my entire career can be ruined. You don’t care to ask. I used to respect the police. I used to defend them whenever anyone said, ‘Fuck the police!’ I used to defend their order, protection, and efforts…..Now…. I began to say,….. ‘FUCK the police.’”
But I stayed quiet. All these thoughts kept to myself. Trying to remain a respectful woman so I could be let out as soon as possible.
They move me to another cell now with a multitude of women. Mostly prostitutes gleefully chatting away to my astonishment. This is their norm, their territory. One looks freshly pregnant as if she just had a baby. She shits on the toilet and groans.
One beautiful young 20′ something says, “I’ve always wanted a white wedding. No one will marry me now since I’ve been hoe’in.”
I thought quietly to myself, “Yes, they will. You’re beautiful. You poor thing… I’m sorry you’re not told you can turn your life around in here.”
Another beautiful young 20′ something says, “Shit, my feet ain’t dirty. That means I ain’t made no money & that’s what they don’t understand. Once I get out, my feet gon’ be dirty.”
I laid on a dirty cot toward the ice cold wall trying to sleep again. I now think 4 days have passed. I wonder why these poor souls are returned to shit and piss ice cages again and again and again – instead of being referred to employment, education, or therapy. That’s what a truly caring community would do for their citizens in need, right?
Finally, the sweet darling prostitutes manage to get me to speak. “Why are you here?” I told them the whole story to which they said, “Girl, they say that to everyone! That’s just how they make more money. Here, call this number. They will confirm your identity. You’ll be out in minutes.”
I called. I was out in minutes. It was an external agency free of cost that helps people like myself without a criminal background get out of unusual circumstances.
Immediately upon release, I think it’s Monday morning – time for my class. I text my manager and apologize profusely saying there’s a family emergency which is why I didn’t call earlier to say I wasn’t going to make it. Oddly, she said, “Hmm..ok. That’s fine.”
I walk outside. It’s night time. WHAT? What time/day is it?
Still mentally dazed I double-check my phone, it’s Sunday night. My friend picks me up holding a bag of popcorn and I scarf my first real meal down in days.
I learned not to judge that day. I earned more compassion and respect for the prostitutes – than the police who were supposed to share my legal rights with me but did not… all so they could feel powerful. And if the prostitues were right, for money. I was never certain about that part – but I was certain that the guards cared less if I fell ill or died.
** I understand not all police are like this and I applaud those who are not. I was deeply surprised to see my defense of the system destroyed by this experience.
** I take responsibility for drinking and driving, regardless. I do realize that was selfish even if it was a moderate amount. I now uber whenever I drink.
** I love and respect misunderstood souls. You are all valuable to me.
Just some minor notes:
- Drunk driving shouldn’t even be a crime, biblically speaking. If you impact or hurt someone or someone’s property, you have o pay it back. But merely being drunk is not an issue. So, people should be allowed to drive slowly, or just park somewhere.
- (Also, it’s much safer than making it illegal, and so encouraging people to quickly drive home.)
- There shouldn’t even be a prison system in a Christian society. You pay your debts, and go most of the time. Sometimes, the payment required is your life… but human governments are not authorized to create an imitation of hell.
- The state is not interested in justice: it is interested in power and money. Even Christian states should be carefully watched (or largely abolished: certainly, it should be minimized). As for secular states, which has no god above itself? The results speak for themselves
- Finally, the current penal system exists primarily because Christians, especially those “God-fearing, law and justice” believers, deem it to be right and just.
No, it isn’t.
(Those Quakers who came up with the American origins of the prison system have a LOT to answer for!)