My Day in the Clink - A True Story

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: True Confessions  |  House: Booksie Classic
A true story of my day in jail. Not for the faint of heart..

Submitted: August 24, 2012

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Submitted: August 24, 2012

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Clink. The cold metal of the handcuffs pressed into my wrists. I stared down at them, struck and confused. Was this judge for real?

I had come to court that morning because I had missed work service that I had been given for some bounced checks that I wrote years ago during the midst of my heavy drug use. Admittedly, it was the second time I had missed it, but this seemed excessive.

The bailiff led me to the benches towards the side of the court. I had work and kids in daycare. I mentally sifted through appropriate excuses that I could use for not showing up at work. I sat through the rest of the cases. This judge definitely got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning.

A young Asian man, who missed work service like I did, also ended up in handcuffs. The bailiff led him to the bench next to me. He looked just as taken aback as I was.

After the cases were complete, I sidled up to the bailiff’s desk.

“Can I use my phone, just for a minute, please?” I pleaded.

“Just a minute” he handed me my purse.

I texted my boss a bullshit excuse about having a child in the emergency room and called my husband to let him know I’d be spending the day in jail and he would have to be home tonight to relieve the sitter. He sounded somewhat amused. During his alcoholic years he frequented the local jails more than once, and had relayed to me some of his dreadful experiences.

The bailiff led me and the asian guy down a corridor and lined us up against the wall. Another bailiff patted down the young man. I swear it looked like he was fighting back tears.

He leered at me, “You don’t get the same treatment.”

He ran his hands over my shoulders, waist and legs. He then led me to a room with a metal door.

“Can I use the restroom?”

“There’s a toilet in here,” he motioned toward the back of the room where a small metal toilet was. Clank. The metal door shut behind me.

The room had brick walls and a cement floor with a wooden bench lining the wall. I eyed the toilet skeptically. What happened if someone walks in? Not to mention the numerous diseases I'm sure festering on the seat. I would hold it, thank you. I sat down on the bench and shivered. The room was freezing cold; a large air conditioning vent was right above me with icy air blasting out of it. I was wearing a short black and white dress with kitten heals. When I got dressed this morning I hadn’t an inkling that I would end up here.

There was nothing in the room. No one to talk to, nothing to read, nothing. Wow, I could see how this was an effective form of punishment. I said a small prayer thanking God for the comfortable life that I had, being sheltered from a place like this until now. Truth be told, I had done plenty of things that should’ve landed me here long ago. I drew my knees up and pulled my dress over them and tried to situate my hands so that the cuffs didn’t dig into my wrists.

After what seemed like forever, which in reality was probably twenty minutes, the bailiff came back and guided us down the corridors beneath the court house. We walked past holding cells packed with men that must have been arrested recently.

In each cell, the men nudged each other and crowded toward the small window, gawking at me as I walked past and saying undoubtedly disgusting things to each other. I hid my face and wished I could shrink into the woodwork.

We walked into a waiting area with metal chairs. He sat me down next to a middle aged black woman with wild hair and took off my hand cuffs. The nurse was taking her blood pressure and flashing a light into her eyes. A woman behind the desk motioned for me to come over. She shoved various forms at me which I signed. I sat back down and waited for the nurse to look me over.

There was a young pretty girl with ashy blond hair shackled to a chair. She seemed dazed and sat expressionless. A black girl who looked like a teenager and dressed like a boy was shackled to a chair across from her. She stared at the floor as tears streamed down her cheeks.

The nurse finished with the other woman. She took my blood pressure and my medical history then sat me down in a chair across from her. I looked around, desperately hoping that nobody was going to shackle me to a chair.

After a bit, a female sheriff called me over to the other counter. She had me stand against the wall, while two large bright lights flipped on and blinded me as she snapped a pic. I walked over to the counter and she put a red bracelet on my arm with my picture on it. I glanced down at the picture; I truly looked like a deer in the headlights. I hoped that this mug shot never surfaced anywhere.

The sheriff asked me if I was homosexual, bisexual, had gang affiliations, and if there was anybody I needed protection from. I was none of those things, but the question itself scared the daylights out of me.
 
She led me to another small cell. Clank. Another metal door behind me. There was one other girl in the cell. She looked to be a hard lived early thirties. She had long, stringy black hair with blond roots and a perpetual smirk.

“I’m Shana, what are you in for?” she asked. Funny, the same question they ask in rehab.

“Writing bad checks” I didn’t feel like expanding that the checks were for pills. “You?”

She went on to tell me a detailed story about how she innocently went to a hotel room to get a face tattoo (yes, a face tattoo) and the room was raided.  All eight people in the room were busted for a sack of meth, because no one person ‘claimed’ the meth. She did however; ‘claim’ her stolen car and bag of weed. I nodded sympathetically.

This cell was freezing also. I sat shivering while she made a series of calls from the payphone asking an ex-boyfriend to drop the stolen car charges.

At that point, I heard a woman screeching loudly. I looked out of my cell window to see what had to be the oldest living crack head.  Or maybe she just looked really old, it was hard to tell. She was screaming and cursing at nobody in particular.

Then, the cell door opened and we were joined by a pretty hispanic woman who looked like she didn’t belong here as much as I did. She ignored us and proceeded to make calls on the payphone trying to get bailed out.

Shana was motioning to her friend, the black woman with wild hair who was shackled to the chair outside. The hispanic woman finished with her calls and sat down on the bench.

“What are you in for?” Shana asked her nosily.

“I had an old warrant. They picked me up on disturbing the peace.” She replied, avoiding eye contact and looking at the ground.

“I’m Shana.”

“Sophia.”

I introduced myself also. Then Shana proceeded to tell Sophia her face tattoo story about being a victim to the people who didn’t ‘claim’ their bag. Sophia wasn’t as good as I was at hiding her distaste.

At that time, we were joined in the cell by the wild haired woman whose name was Vada. She and Shana chattered to each other about the ‘bullshit’ charges and how they were going to get out. They had to speak loudly to be heard over the shrieking crack head. She told Vada that she had called Jimmy and told him she would do whatever he wanted if he bailed her out. She emphasized that would be willing for him to “**** her throat” if he bailed her out.

Poor Sophia’s jaw dropped and she flushed bright red. I chuckled and maintained my poker face. My ability to not show emotion was serving me well right now.

Vada walked over to use the toilet, which was right next to me because the cell was so small. Shana followed her, serving look out while Vada squatted and pulled a small baggie of drugs out of her. I tried to act like I didn’t notice and attempted to tune out the sounds that went with this act. Sophia stared at the wall because she didn’t know where else to look.

We sat for a bit longer, mostly listening to Shana and Vada’s vulgar talk. Then the cell door opened and the sheriff steered us out. She cuffed each of us to another person. I was cuffed to the black girl dressed like a boy.

We were then herded into a van where we were to be transported to the woman’s jail.  The van was jam packed, were almost sitting on each other’s laps. One of the women who was stumbling and looked almost unconscious, starting throwing up in the back, which caused a couple of the others to gag. The smell of vomit now permeated the van.

I was sitting next to three women. One of whom was in the hotel room with Shana, and was apparently the alleged owner of the bag of meth. The other two women were already in the orange jail attire and rattled on to each other. They seemed very upbeat considering their circumstances.

The caucasian one with her two front teeth rotted out and track marks on her arms, told me she like my dress. She said I looked like “beverly hills”. I smiled and thanked her. This seemed to open her up to telling me about how when she was busted a couple days ago she had a full rig of meth in her pants and she had ‘popped it’ in the cell. She pulled her pants leg up to show me the needle mark and bruise. I wasn’t sure why she was telling this, but I again sympathetically nodded, indicating that I might have done the same.

The other woman was an older, rough looking hispanic woman with tattoos all over her neck and arms.  She asked me why I was in here, and I repeated my bad check story. The owner of the bag of meth started to doze off at this point and her head bobbed forward.

The hispanic woman proceeded to tell me about her bust for heroin and how she was clean for a while, but started doing it again after her daughter was murdered. I had a feeling that I might regret asking the question, but I asked how long ago her daughter died.

Apparently, her 21 year old daughter was working as a nanny for a man who was unbeknownst to her a gang leader. He wanted to have sex with her and she denied him, so he took her and her four year old son to a hotel while he plied her with meth in hopes of getting her to comply. When she didn’t, he beat her senseless then choked her to death with the hair dryer cord. The four year old was witness to the whole thing.

The man then claimed that she committed suicide and hung herself with the hair dryer cord. Despite the bruises all over her body, he was never charged with the murder. The four year old son couldn’t testify because he was so traumatized he hadn’t spoken a word since. She recounted this story with a numb look on her face.

I was right, I was sorry that I asked. There is no appropriate response to this. I met her eyes and whispered that I was so sorry. In that moment, it didn’t matter what her circumstances were. Nobody should have to bury their child, and especially not under those gruesome conditions. My heart hurt for her.

We then arrived at the jail and were herded once more out of the van into the building. We were uncuffed and took a seat while we were called into the next room in groups of four. Shana and the older hispanic woman started talking about the bail bonds men that would bail you out if you would have sex with them. The hispanic woman claimed they were all ‘tricks’, including a lot of police as well. Shana was talking loudly about how she should give one of the bail bonds men a call.

I couldn’t help but ask her. “Why do that to yourself? Why give your body away like that?”

She turned to me with a hardened expression. “You close your eyes for a minute and it’s done, you know? This country was built on the barter system. They have something I want, and I have something they want.”

There was clearly no reason to argue with her. It wouldn’t change her mind. Then I was called into the next room. We were lined against a wall and asked to strip down. The sheriff had us open our mouths while she inspected us. We were then handed the jail attire, which consisted of underwear and a bra (which looked used), black and white striped pants and a top with the county stamped on them and tan slippers.

As disgusting as the clothing was, I was grateful not to be freezing any more. A few of the women were outfitted in the same striped attire that I was, but the rest were outfitted in orange. Apparently, the striped attire indicated that you had already been sentenced. We were separated out by our uniform and ushered in two different directions.  Shana gave me a wave and a lopsided grin, “Good luck doll!” I waved back and off we went.

Sophia and I walked across the courtyard with a couple other women and approached a large brick building with barbed wire around the fences.  The sheriff led us into the building towards a room where we were instructed to grab a blanket, sheets, a cup with toothpaste and a toothbrush and a plastic mattress. She told us that this was the only cup we were going to get,
so don’t lose it. We then followed her to room with a desk that was in the center of glass walls that housed two levels of beds. The beds were divvied into groups of eight, with a letter designating which ‘pod’ they were.

The women inside the glass walls crowded together, straining to catch a glimpse of us and nudging one another. A heavy set woman with purple hair caught my eye, menacingly grinned at me and gave me a little wink. I tried to focus my eyes anywhere but on hers. Sophia looked like she was ready to bolt.

“You two are in pod F. You’re bed 4 and you’re bed 2” the sheriff indicated the pod on the second level and opened the door for us so we could drag our plastic mattresses in. Sophia followed me up the stairs as we tried to ignore all of the prying eyes following us.

I threw my mattress on what was meant to be a bed, but was really just a metal rack. I tossed the threadbare blanket on it and crawled onto it. As soon as Sophia and I put our things down, a couple of women walked in who were inhabitants of pod F. An older blonde woman with a strange amount of facial hair introduced herself as Julie; her extremely heavy set brunette friend was Deb.

Julie and Deb flopped down on their beds and proceeded to chat about a fight that had happened earlier that day.

 “They keep telling us that we’re too wild. We’re always getting our privileges taken away because they keep busting us for fighting and drugs.” Deb explained to me.

More nodding on my part. “Welcome to our little home! How long you in for?” Julie asked.

I debated telling her the truth. I sensed that they might not be very welcoming to somebody that was lucky enough to be departing in a day. I wasn’t sure if I would be staying the night here. “Umm, you know. Just a day...” I answered hesitantly.

“Lucky dog!” crowed Deb. “I would hate you, except I’m finally out of here the day after tomorrow. Whatcha’ here for?”

“Writing bad checks” I answered. I wished in that moment that my conviction had been for something a bit more menacing.

At that time a loud horn blared through the room. All of the women scrambled to get on to their beds and the clatter and noise subsided. I looked curiously at Deb. “What is that?”

“Shift change. You can’t get off your bunk, don’t talk either. When they call your last name, answer with your first name.” she instructed.

The women seemed to take this so seriously, that I couldn’t help but wonder why. “What happens if you’re not on your bed?” I inquired.

“They take a privilege away from all of us!” she glowered at me, clearly unhappy by my inquiry.

I nodded in compliance and followed the other women’s lead by answering the male guard with my first name. He seemed inordinately happy with his position, strolling through the room with a swagger and a sneer.

“Asshole.” Julie grumbled after he passed. After he left the room, she turned to Deb. “Can you believe that shit with him and Cora?”

“Fucking, sick pig.” They continued to gossip about how the guard apparently enjoyed regular oral sex with an inmate named Cora in exchange for privileges. When I asked how he didn’t get caught, they laughed heartily and ribbed each other at my hilarious joke. Sophia caught my eye, and then rolled over on her cot.

I folded up the sheet to try to create a semblance of a pillow. I stretched out and tried to get comfortable while I closed my eyes for a moment. This place was truly another world. Whatever all of these women were convicted of, did they really deserve to be treated like this?  It was shocking to think that the justice system and those that helped uphold it seemed more deviant than the convicts. Some of these women were so accustomed to being used and discarded; they seemed to feel that was their role in the world. The only difference between me and them was that I hadn’t been subjected to the circumstances they had. If I had been, would I be just like them?

At that point, the piggish male guard came back. “Number 4, you’re out of here! Get your stuff, let’s go.”

I tried not to appear too happy, but I inwardly breathed the largest sigh of relief ever. I was told earlier that I may be released early due to overcrowding. I gathered my plastic mattress and accessories, gave Sophia a small hug and wished the other women good luck as they glared at me.

I followed him downstairs, placed my mattress and bedding on the shelf, and changed back into my clothes. My belongings were returned to me and my red bracelet with mug shot was cut off of my wrist. The large metal door clanked, this time with me on the other side.

I walked outside of the building and turned around one last time to look at the drab brick building with barbed wire. I turned my face towards the sunshine and let it warm me while I thankfully said a prayer for the women I left behind.


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