Friday, August 1, 2008

Bake Me a Cake with a File in it...

For those who don’t already know, I have an acute talent for getting myself into absurd situations and trouble in general, most of the time panning out with me on the losing side. I personally like to think of it as finishing in second place, or runner up, but it usually involves me paying fines, getting slapped, or in this case, incarceration. I recently spent almost 20 hours in the crackhead motel better known as Dade County Jail. Apparently, if you fail to pay a traffic citation they will happily suspend your driver's license. If a cop on his or her period catches you behind the wheel with said suspended license, and you so much as look at them sideways, they will promptly cuff you, place you under arrest, somewhere along the line demean you, then throw you in the back of their patrol car and haul you off to jail. I had the immense pleasure of riding with an officer who felt the need to make conversation. He proceeded with idle small talk as I slid back and forth in the plastic backseat (prisoner's do not deserve seat belts...or the use of their hands) and tried to ignore the searing pain in my wrists.

Please note that these:

Are not as fun or nearly as comfortable as these:

But by far the best part of getting booked and fingerprinted is when they confiscate your possessions. Not only do they do this in a room chock full of people, but if you are female or a post-op transvestite, this can include taking off your bra or extracting your underwire, removing any and all piercings (yes, ALL piercings: nose, nipple, navel and anything below), taking out any hair accessories ranging from scrunchies to headbands to fake ponytails and weaves, losing your heels for a high class pair of prison sandals, and taking a makeup smeared mugshot that makes you look like a drunken raccoon. If you are unlucky enough to be forced to trade in your clothes for that gorgeous bright orange jumpsuit, I hope you weren’t too attached to the outfit, because most of the time they either lose your things or ship them off to “the warehouse,” in which case you have to fill out paperwork and wait 3-6 months for your garments to be returned.

I know it seems very sleek and sexy, but here's a tip: NO ONE looks good in orange, and only garbagemen, mechanics and infants should wear jumpsuits. Fortunately, I was allowed to keep my clothes, which may seem like a blessing, except that being bra-less and wearing a skirt in an 8x5 cell for 18 hours in front of 12-15 other women is basically like taking the pre-dawn walk of shame over and over again. So I was locked in this beautifully decorated cell, accented with concrete walls that were re-painted so many times, that because of the cheap peeling paint and graffiti, you couldn’t tell if they were supposed to be blue, white or yellow. There were two inside-facing windows that were so tightly covered with wire mesh, that you couldn’t see anything outside of the cell. The only way to know a guard was approaching was because of the jingle of keys, which of course sent every inmate racing to the door in hopes of release. There was a stainless steel toilet for midgets (only 6 inches off the ground), harsh fluorescent lighting, splintering hardwood benches that were just narrow enough not to lie down on, and a disgusting floor that was a disheveled compilation of broken tile, cement and years of built-up grime.

Overall, it was a slight cross between this:

And this:

During my luxurious weekend getaway, I met a stripper/prostitute who called herself a ‘striptitute,’ a crack addict who laid on the floor and twitched for 12 hours, a homeless woman who repeatedly soiled herself, a girl with turrets who kept yelling obscenities at random, a schizo who tried to escape through the vents and lighting fixtures (at one point she called the wall a bitch), a gold-toothed woman who spoke incessantly and only in shout, a fat Puerto Rican (reincarnated as Li'l Kim) who kept saying she wasn't a snitch, a diabetic who spent the entire time on the toilet, a crystal meth addict who kept screaming for sandwiches, and 3 roaches that I nicknamed the stooges. Every time one of them came crawling out everyone sang ‘la cucaracha,’ clapped their hands and danced. And then there was the multiple felon. They organize us criminals by felonies, misdemeanors, or psych cases (crazy people). But somehow, this little Latina with tattoos on her neck ended up in the misdemeanor cell. The thing about jail is that people really do turn to you and ask, "So what did you do?" And EVERYBODY wants to tell their story. Except of course for an idiot like me who was there for a traffic infraction. The felon eagerly explained that she was a fugitive wanted in 3 states and they had bussed her all the way back to Miami from Maryland; she had been in the system for almost 3 weeks in about 6 or 7 different jails along the way. Her last charge was that she had escaped a women’s prison in Florida and stolen a corrections bus. She spent all of 25 minutes hitting on the striptitute (“you’re pretty cute for a prostitute”), and fidgeting as she impatiently stood by the window, until they finally figured out the mistake and moved her to the felon cell. There she got in a fight and they moved her to solitary confinement down the hall.

The corrections officers, by the way, are all bitches. Those girls in high school that got teased and didn't have any friends, they end up as guards in Dade County Jail. And they are bitter. They told us to shut the hell up, ignored us, yelled at us, refused to answer questions, and when a fight broke out and we were screaming for help, they sat behind the desk and laughed at the cameras. In 18 hours I got one cup of water, in a dixie cup. After 15 hours, we finally got food: rice, overcooked peas, and a spoonful of some slop of white sauce with what could have been chicken or clams. Oh yes, and a single slice of white bread. The gold-toothed lady screamed "What is this bullsh*t-ass half sandwich!" Then the meth head happily took her tray.

The steel door opened about every hour or so, upon which they either threw in yet another inmate or dragged one out. When we went to court, they shackled about 9 of us together and put us in a freezing cold room with about 50-60 male inmates on church pews. Here, we waited our turn to talk to a judge on a TV screen while we stood with a public defender in charge of representing 50-100 inmates in a 2 hour time span. The ridiculous court 'officials' lounged in metal folding chairs and talked about nothing more than how they couldn’t wait for happy hour. The kicker was that even after the judge released me (after assessing $358 in court costs), I was returned to the holding cell.

There had been a shift change, and the previous shift of bitches didn’t turn in our release forms, so as a result we waited another 6 hours before an officer came to get us. Bond or no bond, you wait until they feel like letting you out, and you are given no indication as to when that will be. Finally, again we were shackled together, marched though a cell block of male prisoners yelling, whistling, and banging at the cell bars, then released into God-knows-what neighborhood without so much as a phone call. My blackberry was still in my car, and you can’t collect-call cell phones. So the cherry on top was that I walked 4 miles home from jail. I was dehydrated, starving, and I hadn’t slept in over 36 hours. And when I went to possessions to pick up my things, they had lost my nose ring, claimed they never took it, and even after arresting me the cop had left me a speeding ticket for going 40 in a 30mph zone. Hhhhhwwwhhhhaaaaaat?

But seriously, this was by far the worst day of my life. At times I couldn’t breathe because this tiny cell at the end of a corridor was so full of people, stench and stale air. I closed my eyes, and all I heard was voices yelling, talking over each other, screaming for hour after hour. There wasn’t enough room to sit, and so I stood and paced for at least 15 hours, refused to pee in front of a audience and couldn’t sleep. This was hell. At some point I became delirious, began rocking back and forth, developed homicidal tendencies. I memorized my arresting officers’ patrol car number and hammered it into my brain. As he sat me on the curb, tightly cuffed and crying, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, I could think of nothing but violence, and I am not a violent person. Six days later, anger has only intensified. If I never see a jail, hear about a jail, or speak about a jail ever again, it will be way too soon.


Radley said...

Oh my god smith., I'm so sorry! I don't even know what to say about all that. Its probably innappropriate to hit on you now. I'm gonna apoligize again. Wow.

Mama said...

That is indeed the shittiest day ever .