Sunday, September 12, 2010

A visit to jail

No, no no! I have managed to keep myself on the right side of the law.

On Saturday, I went to visit someone in jail. It was a very interesting experience for me.

The jail is a very dismal and depressing place, but oh my, the people watching is PRIME!

We made the appointment to visit our prisoner at 5:30 pm. We were expected to be to the jail and checked in by 4:45. To check in, I had to show picture ID, and they took down my address and phone number. I guess they also do a mini background check on you, and later on, if they find a warrant, they'll arrest you. Our check in guard was nice. She kind of rolled her eyes at a couple kids doing a shrieking banshee act.

Next to the check in desk, there's a cashier's station. That's where you go to post bail, or deposit money into your prisoner's account for commissary. Almost nothing comes free in jail, but you can put in orders for things like top ramen, stamps, soap, shampoo, conditioner, colored pencils, etc. If you don't know anyone on the outside to put money into that account, I think you're out of luck. Maybe you could manage to have an attorney do that for you?

After you check in, you sit down in the main waiting area and people watch for about 30 minutes. I was highly entertained by this, so the time flew by. They then call everyone up, and you exchange your photo ID for a key to a locker. You put all belongings in the locker. No keys (other than the locker key), papers, coins, phones, gang attire, or anything else is allowed back in the visiting area.

After putting our stuff in the lockers, we were herded to waiting room #2. We had to go through a metal detector that was super, super sensitive. The locker key and the button on my jeans set it off, so I had to have the wand swiped. They were extremely suspicious that I'd taken off my watch and set it on a table. The metal detector guards were the same ones who did the keys. A new guard came in, who initially came off as very, very dry, but she redeemed herself totally in my eyes. She spoke to us like we were three (and as I soon learned, this was necessary, given some of the people in the room). She insisted that we all be silent while she gave instructions, and that kids (yep, there were quite a few there to see mommy or daddy) not play with the noisy toys while they talked. Screaming banshee children ran around yelling and playing with toys while grandma looked on obliviously. Guard was really irritated (as was I), but surprisingly enough, screaming banshees weren't escorted out.

We were given rules, which included such gems as "no talking to any prisoner but your own", "No gang signs", and "no flashing". A couple people looked baffled at that last one. She asked if everyone understood, and a couple people expressed confusion on the last one. So, she pantomimed lifting up her shirt and actually said, "Wheeeeeee!!!". I had a great laugh and decided I really liked that guard.

She then read off the name of each prisoner. The visitors were supposed to raise their hands and say "here" when they heard their prisoner, and she would announce the visitation room. One guy obviously had a HUGE chip on his shoulder, and gave her this weird look and said, "Present". Whatever. However, he did capture Screaming Banshee Child #1, so I can't totally hate him.

We were then let go to walk down to the visiting areas. The hallway was painted very drab, no windows, all concrete. It was very depressing and somewhat claustrophobic. As we were walking down, my companions were muttering, "Please don't let us be in the same room as the kids, please please please please..." Well, the gods have a sense of humor, because guess who was in our room?

The visiting rooms are small, concrete rooms. There's a stool in the middle of each cubicle, and glass in the concrete so you can see your prisoner. There's metal mesh on the sides so you can theoretically hear them. Sound quality isn't that great under the best of circumstances, and you have to be within about 8" of the grates to hear anything. Add in banshees #1 and #2, and it was tough to hear much of anything. I tried to be patient, since they were there to see Mommy, but ARGH!!!!!

We actually got to the room right about 5:30 on the nose, and we got to visit til 6. At 6, a voice on the loudspeaker announced that visitation was over. On the prisoner side of the room, a metal door slid open, and they were expected to get up and leave.

It was very interesting, but I can imagine how horrific it is to be on the other side. It reaffirmed my decision to obey the laws, or at least make sure that if I ever do decide to do anything to put me in jail, to never get caught.

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