16 Things I Learned During 16 Hours in Jail


16 Things I Learned During 16 Hours in Jail

Go To Jail / Monopoly

1. It's not fun, but can yield valuable lessons in empathy.

2. You can sign any name you want during intake and when they scan your fingerprints it is really cool, like way cooler than any sort of "BS" version I have seen on CSI or whatever. I always wonder how accurate the crap on computer screens is and how realistic the crime-fighting technology presented in movies and scripted television is. *I signed my name as dunno.

3. Phone calls are hard to make. It's a very convoluted phone tree process of pushing numbers to advance even to make a collect call. I never successfully made a single call during repeated attempts and I am a college-educated 40 year old. Also, the operator that I spoke to was not helpful at all in assisting me to make any calls using the pay phone; in fact, she hung up on me after about three minutes. I say pay phone because apparently money has to exist in some sort of inmate account in order to make calls.

3A. It's easier to make bail after your fifth DUI than your first time in jail simply because you know the protocol with the phone. I was talking with a gentleman arrested for his fifth DUI in the "drunk tank" and he had blood on his ear and a nasty wound on his forehead. He claimed this wound was from the arresting officers and not from falling off his scooter during an accident that night prior to arrest. 

3B. There is a large screen television visible from one of the "drunk tanks" that features ads/phone numbers for bail bondsmen. Try to figure out how to call one of them and get out of jail. I later realized through endless attempts to call my parents that you can only attempt to call a number once in 24 hours. In this day and age, it is very difficult to have any phone numbers memorized. 

5. Being loud or showing mild disrespect will get you your own private cell.

6. If you remove all your clothes and stuff them into the toilet and continue to flush it you can completely flood your seclusion cell. However, the metal sink-and-toilet combo unit seems to run on a closed circuit that will run out of water eventually.  

7. The padded cell only has a shoebox-sized grate in the floor for taking care of business, #1 or #2.

8. They will not give you water. I mean really, why should they? Common decency doesn't seem to apply. 

8A. I think that maybe they need to look at their hiring practices for the jail. Bouncers rarely have to resort to using force. People in hospitals also rarely have to restrain people.

9. Some guards can be aggro assholes with a hair trigger to rough you up even though you are already in jail and pose no threat. One guard repeatedly came to my little window, and would silently and slowly mouth the words "Fuck You" at me. He also enjoyed covering my window with some sort of black cloth or something. I figure this is so I can't see when someone walks by. *During intake I was very polite and courteous to all officers, including my arresting officer, PARKER. In no time they did not show me kindness. Using force seems unnecessary. I think most people already in jail will comply if simple requests or instructions are asked respectfully. 

10. Guards will not explain or help you make any phone calls—at least no one did in my case


11. It's best to start screaming bloody murder (or I might suggest that you yell "STOP," "PLEASE," NO," and/or "WHY") as they approach you ready to strike and before they try to restrain you physically—preememptive warning. Screaming does not reduce the threat of bodily harm by guards, at least not in my case. 

11A. Examples of harm I received: physically restrained with handcuffs with my arms painfully hyperextended and twisted behind my back, then forced face down onto the concrete floor with knees and boots applied into my neck and back. I screamed to not have my glasses broken and for the remainder of my time in jail (approximately another 15 hours, I did not have my glasses.) Shoved into and forced up against a plexiglass window in a tight choke hold by a guard nearly twice my size. I sustained multiple minor abrasions and cuts to my wrists from handcuffs. 

11B. Being voluntarily naked is a great defense against further physical harm by guards. 

12. Being voluntarily naked with a wet floor slick with water creates a nice barrier between you and the authority figures, similar to a moat around a castle. See #5.

13. Sound and echo are your best friends for pissing off the guards. One nice way to scare the shit out of the guards is to take off your pants and soak them in the toilet and whip/slam them onto the raised cement in the rear of your private cell. It is so loud that it could be confused with a bomb going off. Clapping repeatedly is also extremely loud. Vary your tempo and volume to increase an effect. 

14. They have to feed you and the food is nutritious. *[(note - In 1999 during my time in film school I went on a police ride along for research. I was told by an officer that sometimes arrestees will order pizzas to the jail - this is more of a fuck you to the cops than an earnest gesture. Also during this ride along the officer I was on patrol with told me that he and most other cops thought drugs should be legalized because the majority of crime revolves around drugs, i.e. theft, shootings, turf war, et cetera.) Police and fire department ride alongs are very informative and it is a free public service.

15. Guards do not have a sense of humor nor much compassion for the people in the holding cells. Consider yourself guilty until proven innocent.

16. The starting wage for Buncombe County police is $16/hour

16A. According to a death row case public defender in Oakland that I spoke to in 2008 it costs $35,000 to keep a person incarcerated in the United States for one year. The cost to keep an inmate on death row annually is approximately $100,000. These figures may now be higher considering it has been nine years since that conversation occurred.