Monthly Archives: April 2015

In the Clink: Day Three

If you are just now joining the story, this is part three.  Check out part one first: 

I’m not going to bore you with how boring it was in jail. It can be summed up as: people were brought in. people were taken out. It was cold. The food was horrible and sparse.

My primary source of entertainment was my imagination, which was racing with all the horror stories the kindly old jail-birds had so freely shared.  The horror stories fell into two categories: Prison and Navy Jail (the brig).

I’m not sure which type of story was worse.  The prison stories were undeniably horrific.  Come to think of it, the brig stories were far worse, because they were deniably horrific.  Nobody in that cell had actually been to the brig, but everyone had a solid opinion about it.

I had no idea which destination awaited me–prison or the brig.  When the officers arrived to take me to court, I had already been well-wished and assured that I would return to the cell later that day, with tales of adventure.

Handcuffed, shackled, and with my handcuffs linked to a heavy chain around my waist, I waited in yet another very crowded, very small, block cell with many other women.  A long line of male prisoners were marched down the hall, past our window, and the women crowded the window to shout encouragement and various compliments at the men.  Their enthusiasm was returned in kind, which was quite heart-warming, really.  You can’t stop love.

At last, everyone had been removed from the cell except me and one young woman from Los Angeles.  We were there for hours, so we talked about everything under the sun.  I learned she was terrified of hippies, describing them as “really old, crazy people who will fight anybody for no reason.  But they do love their music.”  I agreed with her.

“My dad was a hippie.” I told her.

“Man, that’s scary.” She said. “Which prison is he in?”  He was free, as far as I knew, but he did love fights and music, so I recognized the wisdom of her opinion.

She, like everyone else in jail, was completely innocent.  Yes, she HAD been caught smuggling drugs into a federal prison.  But she was convinced that she had been arrested because of racism.  Hence, innocence.  I agreed with her.

She expected to be released that day, as soon as she had a chance to tell the judge that she did not deserve to be there.  I agreed with her.

“I don’t want to go to prison.” She said, in a miserable tone that belied the jocularity we had managed to keep up all day. “I’m really a nice person.”  I agreed with her, and actually meant it.

“If you get out,” she added, “And I don’t, you have to drink a cup of coffee for me, okay?”  We would have shook on it, but we were kind of tied up at the moment.

Eventually, I made it into the courtroom.  I felt like nobody could possibly look at me–in a jail uniform with shackles and my hair tied back with a sandwich bag–and not assume the worst.  I looked like a criminal.

I scanned the audience for a familiar face.  There were none, but there was a familiar form of dress that set my heart pounding.  Starched khakis, rows of ribbons, and shiny gold anchors on the collar.  Somebody was there for me.

The judge informed me that I was being charged with felony assault.  He informed me that I would be kept in jail until my trial in a few weeks.  Horror completely overwhelmed me, and I have no idea exactly how Chief got from his seat to the podium–whether he was invited or just invited himself.  Yet, there he stood, facing the judge.

His speech filtered through the chaos in my brain, and I’m sure he said some fine things.  But the gist of it was: Ours. Give back now.

The next thing I remember is sitting in the chief’s nice car in the parking lot, in the ratty civilian clothes I had been arrested in a few days before.

Two overpowering emotions surged through me.  They were: Shower. Coffee.

More kinds of emotions, thoughts, and realizations were later to follow, but, at the time, those two were as much as I could handle.

“Am I going to the brig?” I asked.

Chief let me know that we would return to the base, where I would take a room in the barracks until everything was settled. Nobody would post me.  I would return to work the following day, quietly, without talking to anybody about anything or being asked any questions.  My restrictions were that I was confined to the base until further notice (which turned out to be a long time), that I must not hit people (which seemed reasonable), and that I was not to touch alcohol for any reason.  He had promised the judge that he would be personally responsible for my actions.

“If you do end up getting sent to prison on a felony charge,” he said, “At that point, our hands are tied.  But, until then, your command is behind you.  Now let’s get something to eat and get you home.”

Home.  The word had just changed forever.

I’m glad to wrap up this three-part blog.  Now, I can get back to my usual style of writing–sarcastic, fun, and a little messed up.  However, I needed to write this, so I did.  Last night was the one-year anniversary of my arrest.  I’m glad now that it happened.  I learned so many valuable lessons and became a better person.  Also, I’m lying.  It was a stupid, useless experience that put me through months of nonsense.  But life went on.  And it’s turning out great.  I’m telling the truth about that one.


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In the Clink: Night Two.

Names have been changed. If you are just joining the story, I recommend you read part one first. Read it here:

After a dismal night and day in the county lock-up, I was shackled and taken out of my cell, along with a couple of other women, and moved into a smaller cell down the hall. This one felt more like a phone booth than a cell. I wondered briefly if we had been placed in a time travel machine, and I might wake up in Victorian England, the Catacombs, or (at best) the day before my arrest. We might have done some time travel in there, but without clocks or windows, there was no way to be sure. I hoped that wherever we landed, I would be alone, since the idea of being trapped in the Catacombs with a bunch of criminals was not my preferred method of travel.

I still suffered under the delusion that I might soon be taken to court or released, but that was not to be. After an indeterminate length of time, we were removed from that cell and taken on a walk to somewhere.

It was a van with cage-like dividers inside.

“They’re moving us to the main jail,” a woman whispered to me. It turned out the cell where I had spent the night was a kind of holding pen, and the real thing was yet to come.

We waited in the van until it was full. I noticed that different prisoners wore different colors of jumpsuits, when they put a couple of men in black-and-white stripes into the cage in the back of the van. The stripes marked them as particularly dangerous, violent people, and I felt somewhat grateful for the cages and all the chains.

When we drove into the main jail, through the fences topped with loops of barbed wire, I began to wonder if and when I would ever get home. Was I still in the Navy? Did they know where I was? Was anybody trying to get me out, or had I been dismissed as a worthless piece of trash? Was my husband trying to get me out or trying to keep me in? For a member of our modern, plugged-in society, the total absence of information was maddening.

Inside, we went through more processing, more waiting, more standing by to stand by.

At last, we were divided into cell blocks. I was escorted, with two other women, into a cell that seemed like a very sparse dormitory. There were no windows, and the concrete walls were lined with metal bunk beds. In the middle of the room were a couple of built-in table/bench sets, and I saw, to my great relief, that there was an actual bathroom instead of a toilet in the middle of the room, like in the last cell. There was glass in the bathroom door, to prohibit total privacy, but it was better than an open toilet.

The guards removed our shackles and left. The cell was completely full, and all of the women stared silently at us newcomers. We stood–all awkward and nervous–for their wordless scrutiny. Nobody moved.

At last, one of the women cracked her knuckles and demanded, “Which one of you is the Navy girl that beat the devil out of her abusive husband?”

What were the odds? There were TWO of us? I glanced at the other two newcomers, but they just looked uncomfortable.

Making the snap decision that timidity was not my best friend here, I raised my hand and said, “That would be me.”

A raucous cheer rang throughout the concrete box, and the next thing I knew, I was enveloped with warm applause, claps on the back, and orders from the apparent ringleader for somebody to move and give me a seat at the table. They surrounded me–all smiles and introductions.

“Tell us the whole story, and I mean EVERYTHING,” ordered the Main Woman. “Don’t leave anything out. We’ve heard all about you, girl.”

I was stunned that somehow the lockup underground had already carried my story from the holding pen to the cell blocks. As is standard with gossip, by the time the story reached these prisoners, it had been dramatically enhanced. They seemed to be impressed with a delusion that I was a serious, hard-time, big-deal, Ninja-type female with mad fighting skills. I saw no reason to burst that particular bubble, especially since I still had no idea how long I would be one of their company. Besides, I foresaw that I might benefit in the way of snacks or some writing paper, if I didn’t go out of my way to explain that I would have a hard time punching my way through a paper bag, let alone an attacker.

I was not wrong.

The one thing that disheartened everyone, including myself, was the certainty reached by the group that I would not be released, but would only be taken to “Navy Jail.” Someone had a sister, who had a friend, who had a boyfriend, whose brother’s cousin’s roommate’s lover had been locked in Navy Jail, and that woman impressed us with her knowledge of the horrors which awaited me.

“You better hope they leave you in here with us,” she said. “They starve people in Navy Jail. And they beat them. And the jail is in the bottom of some boat somewhere…”

It sounded worse by the minute. Except the boat part. I like boats.

The old jail-birds advised me to roll my socks around my ankles before being taken to court. “The shackles really hurt,” said one, “And they’re going to hurt no matter what you do, but the socks help a little.”

There was a cardboard box of paperback books in the cell, and I took one to bed and tried to read. I wished I could shower and make myself presentable for my upcoming court day, but the women informed me I wouldn’t get any soap until after court, when I would be returned to them. That I could send a letter to my family, asking for some commissary money for toiletries and Ramen noodles, but, until then, a shower must remain an unfulfilled desire. Also, there was some kind of shower schedule, of which I was not yet a part.

I tried to feel upbeat, remembering something my grandpa Charles often said, to encourage optimism: Two men looked out through prison bars. One saw the mud. The other saw the stars.

No windows = no stars, but still.

To be continued.

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