“HELLO, DAD….I’M IN JAIL!!!!” (Part I)

Posted: 12th August 2014 by Sean Harris in Editorials

I managed to get nearly to forty years of age without ever having been incarcerated. It was a good run by most standards of the lower income male demographic.

But dammit, I’m no normal male. I don’t drive a car–I don’t do (or sell) drugs, and I certainly don’t steal (or at least I haven’t since I was a kid, when I switched Aaron Paoli’s Skeletor armor for my broken Skeletor armor while he wasn’t looking). I’ve never even cheated on an exam, come to think of it. I talked a lot in class growing up, and sure, I was suspended for the occasional fight and then for distributing my “pornographic newspaper”, but that’s about as up close and personal with authoritative reprimand that I’ve ever gotten. My rap sheet, as my booking officer would rightly exclaim: “was the most fucking boring thing he’d ever seen.”

So though I wasn’t entirely aware of it, being arrested was apparently on my bucket list, and it was time to cross that bastard off.

I don’t particularly want to air all the dirty laundry on the actual incident itself, but let’s say it was a fairly minor scrap with my younger sister, which is inevitably bound to happen when you live together as long as we have. Since we seem to have avoided physical altercations for the most part of growing up, I think perhaps we’re making up for lost time. Whatever the case may be, she has her issues and I certainly have mine, and there are many times, especially as of late, that they do not mesh together well. Shit happens, basically, and on this particular occasion, it came to me throwing a half-hearted sock into her left collarbone area.

Yes, I know and agree it was wrong. I’m human and I lose control of my anger, and siblings will be siblings. Sometimes you just can’t totally avoid clocking your kin to get your frustration across. White people of the same bloodline probably shouldn’t live together past adulthood, I’ve often read.

Law enforcement had been summoned a couple of times already in the past few months, all over shouting matches (as the only member with testicles here, I allegedly have the ability to sound the most intimidating), but aside from “ok, try not to fight and go your own ways” there wasn’t anything the boys in blue could really do about any of our domestic woes. This time, however, as I said, just enough of a line was crossed, so when they asked  her “do you want to press charges” she, in her anger and emotional/intoxicated state, retorted with a resounding ‘YES’, and that was all it took.

None of the initial result was particularly surprising, since California has rather strict battery enough laws (to the point of which you can knock coffee out of someone’s hand and be hauled off). I guessed, never having been arrested before, that I might spend the night in the Fort Bragg cell, and then get booked and sent him in the  the morning. Worst case scenario, an extra day, since it was the start of a weekend.

My detaining officer was a friend from grade school, and was courteous toward escorting me to the Fort Bragg department. On her command, I wasn’t even handcuffed; just showed to the backseat of the cruiser and driven away without hassle. Not long after arriving in their lovely gray holding tank, I was brought in for a quick pre-mug shot and then informed unceremoniously that I would be being transferred to county over in Ukiah.

The little record scratch sound went off then. “Low Gap? Excuse me? Um…wait a second–”

Before this could sink in, I was cuffed and chained around the back, and brought out once again to the patrol car. We departed for the wretched winding highway inland, which I’d like to add is not a fun experience as a passenger who gets carsick. With no real way to lay even my head down under the restraints, and the fact that we were going what seemed like about 70 over most of the mountain, my dinner tried very, very, VERY hard to revisit the scene.

Night fell while we commuted, and after somehow managing to not deploy the contents of my stomach all over the steel mesh cage before me, the city lights of the greater valley metropolis finally lit up the reflecting widows. We pulled up to the razor-wired gateway, and the sheer image of it made my heart sink. The severity of the situation was quickly dawning on me now, and I couldn’t make sense of how I had gotten here, when my original evening plan had been to get some banana split ice cream and maybe go out and see the new Godzilla in 3D.

The guards running the county jail aren’t as courteous and accommodating as your local grew-up-and-went-to-school-with neighborhood officer, you can imagine, so upon entering, I was turned and my head placed into a matted wall. I was then read some rules and asked some questions about tattoos, problems with ethnic groups, homosexuality, whether or not I had AIDS or anything contagious, etc, and my ear ring was removed along with my belt (which was the only thing holding up my too-large pants), shoes, and hair tie. I was taken down a hallway and put into a palatial glass-walled cell with three others. One of them was asleep, having stretched a sweatshirt completely around his head, torso and legs (just his socked feet were sticking out). A young Asian American with tribal tattoos was in the floor near him, trying to keep his head under the flanking metal bench that ran the perimeter of the room (obviously to lock out the soul draining fluorescent lighting), and the third caucasian, who looked a bit like Quentin Tarantino crossed with Popeye (not that they’re a terribly dissimilar pair already), was fast asleep on a toilet paper roll he had turned into am impromptu pillow.

In the metal communal toilet off to the side was some vomit and a few orange peels, nearby on the floor a 1% milk carton, more puke, and that was about it. Four walls and a bench. And a floor. A floor I didn’t want to be walking on, much less laying on like these other unconcerned gentlemen.

Which reminds me, I was the only lucky son of a bitch in the room without socks. This was a pure act of chance, since I had decided my pair was a little dirtier than my liking when I was leaving the house (just before I got into with my sister), so I had just ditched them and gone with my tennis shoes alone. I hadn’t planned to even spend the evening around friends, much less strangers, much less strangers in a filthy county jail, so hindsight had to take a long walk off of a very short pier in this instance. As my sneakers were now locked in a storage bin with my belt and other sparse contents of my pants pockets, here I now was, bare piggies on a cement floor that had various bodily fluids and half digested gruel strewn about haphazardly. I chose the cleanest looking spot on the bench I could find, and planted myself to await whatever fun exercise was next in store.

My friendly childhood officer driver had answered a few questions during the beginning of our lovely trek over the hill, and they played now in my head over and over. What was the booking procedure like? How long would it take? Her answers had been fairly “oh, you know, simple” in tone, and the picture I had developed for the routine before me was something along the lines of a little time on this comfortable bench, a half or so of questions and fingerprinting, and then kicked out the door in the morning.

This relaxed vision was a far cry from what fate was about to be induced. For the next twenty-three hours, myself and a rotating door of incoming and outgoing detainees were kept in stasis, left to sit on our metal benches, sleep on our concrete floor, and brave pissing in our shared commode of horrors. I suppose in complete fairness, at one point, they did move us into a warmer, larger cell, which thankfully had a newly cleaned latrine (albeit for about 20 minutes until a new DUI came in and splattered it with his extremely pungent Caesar salad and vodka mixture). I was caged close to 11 pm on a Saturday night, which is a bummer because court is out for the weekend, so I would have to be housed until I could appear before a judge a few days later during government business hours. Waiting to be booked is a drawn out procedure, as it is first come first serve, unless the detained can post bail, in which case they are bumped to the front of the line. As it was mostly DUI and marijuana cases coming and going at an alarming rate, the majority of the arrested seemed to have the cash lying around to enjoy cutting ahead, while yours truly with his hundred and fifty bucks in the bank had to take it on the chin. It would be damn near 10 pm on Sunday before I was given room and board in the resident luxury suite with the rest of the lucky sentenced or destitute inmates.

This brings me now to the phone call situation: if our jail system is anything, a money laundering system is it. The notices hung on the walls of the holding cell tell you that “LOCAL CALLS ARE FREE”, but don’t let them lie to you like that. Rather, expect to rape the party you call for damn near twenty dollars each time you dial out. Your destination transmission has to go through an automated process and put together a collect call account via credit card to cover the damage, and it quickly culminates into economic calamity.

But I digress…by the time my name was called and I was led into the little isolation booth for inquisition, I was wavering under lack of sleep and the first three helpings of “jail chow” (breakfast was two hardboiled eggs, a rejected by state standard orange, three slices of wheat bread, and a packet of cereal that barely qualified as a handful of generic Corn Flakes…thankfully lunch and dinner were marginally better in proportions) and although I was dreading being admitted, the thought of at least being able to lay down and have a blanket was sort of balancing out the expanding knot in my insides.

The paperwork finally filled out, I was then taken to the glamor room for digital fingerprinting on a machine that could not seem to function well (we had to do infinite passes to get anything that was considered readable, and I began to wonder if all the years of hand washing had somehow disfigured my skin). After snapping a set of exceptionally vile photos, I was told to strip, show several orifices to the nice officer to prove I wasn’t smuggling in drugs or weapons, and then slink into my new uniform. Clad now in a lovely green jumpsuit–complete with orange socks that looked to be pulled off of a dead Oompa Loompa–I was then advised to grab a bed to go with my issued bag of extra clothes and toiletries and carry it off to the non-violent offender wing I was being assigned to.

And during the whole time this never ending round of pleasure was transpiring, all I could think about was the fact that the old prick who hit me with his car got to go home without a slap on the fucking wrist.


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