I got up early, I was supposed to report at noon to the jail to surrender myself. I drank the last beer in the fridge, because I knew it would be my last until after 2 years of probation were completed. I take a colonopin to settle my nerves, I’m on the verge of tears as I pack up some things in a backpack. I’m pacing my apartment, I know I have to leave in next few hours, so I lay wide awake in my bed waiting for the minutes to turn. My cat will be picked up tomorrow by my parents when they fly back in town tomorrow, so I force him to love me before I pick myself up and prepare to surrender. He wiggles for me to release him, I know how he feels, just wanting to be free.
What do you bring? I thought to myself, I assumed they would take everything, so I charged my phone, I brought my prescriptions, because my lawyer had told me they would give me all my medication while I was in jail, and that I would get my belongings back when I was released for work release. I made sure I had my colonopin, I knew they wouldn’t give me that once I was in jail, even though its prescribed for panic attacks and anxiety, I can image they don’t give you any drug that would actually make you feel better in Jail. I mean wasn’t that the point, to make you feel miserable?
I walk to the nearest light rail station with my backpack, and listen to music to try to tune out my thoughts. I’m chewing at the inside of my mouth until it bleeds. I was headed in the direction of the courthouse, I knew from my numerous visits, that the Jail was located directly behind it. I wore the most comfortable leggings, sneakers, and hoodie I could find, knowing this is what I would get to change back into when I left. I just wanted to be comfortable one last time.
I got to the jail entrance and was filled with fear and guilt. I didn’t know what to expect and I knew I didn’t belong in here. This wasn’t who I am, this isn’t what I wanted out of my life, the thoughts were racing circles in my head. This is going to be the hardest thing I have ever done, I take a deep breath, and I walk through the doors.
There’s a man sitting in a high, box like structure, all I know is I’m supposed to check in with him and then from there, they take me into booking.
I approach the box and give the man my name and case number, he points to the waiting area, and said “just take a seat, we will call you up”. I’m right on time, not one minute early, I was surprised they let you wait in the waiting area. I slip my hand into my backpack, and grab a colonopin, I hold it in my hand for awhile as I debate taking it. As every minute goes by I am thinking up so many thoughts, I’m terrified. I’m 25 years old and I’m going to Jail. My parents were out of town this week, which is why my sister had come to stay with me this weekend. I guess to make sure I didn’t do anything stupid. I transfer the pill from my hand in my mouth, I think its only been 15 minutes. I’m holding back tears.
I turn off my phone, disappointed that neither my ex or rebound have texted me, none of my friends for that matter, have reached out either, but I guess I wouldn’t know what to say either. What do you say when you know your friend is going to jail?
It’s been at least an hour and I’m still waiting to go through booking, I have raging thoughts, the kind that are relentless and are so loud inside your head you think they are being called over an intercom. I’m looking around, there is no supervision in this area, which I found odd, but helpful in my certain circumstances. I take another colonopin from my bag and dry swallow it.
I know I shouldn’t have, and I knew it would wear off eventually, but I knew I didn’t want to be here, and that’s the only thing I could think of to my my head stop screaming at me, and to settle my churning stomach. I’m looking around the room at the others waiting. Some are very obviously waiting to be booked by police men because they are handcuffed to a bench. While others seem to be normal people like me, either waiting to get booked or maybe waiting to visit someone. Its all I can do to stop thinking of where I am, I make up stories of why I think they are here and what crime they had to commit to land themselves here.
I was going to jail for my first (and only) DUI. I’m guilty, and I could have killed someone, or myself, a reminder I keep close to me at all times. My head starts to feel fuzzy and while I’m relaxed, I’m also terrified, wiping away tears that build up slowly and trickle down my face. What’s going to happen to me in there? The question just rings and rings through my head.
“What’s going to happen to me once I pass this threshold, what are my rights, do I even have rights? What if my paperwork gets lost and I’m in there for months and no one can get me out. What if I get out, and find my job no longer exists? What if I get raped by a guard like I’ve seen on TV? What if I get stabbed as some sort of initiation? Oh god, what else could they do to me as initiation, to put me in my place? What if I get framed with drugs? What if I cant stand the anxiety? Am I going to hurt myself, or go stir crazy? It’s only a few days, and they will release me for work release. It’s only a few days, its only a few days. But what’s going to happen to me?? I want my mom here with me. I shouldn’t BE HERE” tears build up and roll down my cheek and I take another colonopin. “That’s 4, I think, maybe 5, they are only 1 mg. That’s not enough to kill me” my heart feels like its pounding even though I know its not.
My name is called, I could barely hear it through all the other chatter in my head. But I stand up, and walk towards the guard.
The guard asks me to surrender myself and I am placed in handcuffs immediately. My thoughts “Like ok guy, I have been sitting here for an hour, if I was going to try anything, I would have just waked out the door an hour ago”. But at this point, I don’t feel anything but fear, and do whatever they tell me to do. The handcuffs are cold. And tight, and I’m not drunk and sociable this time. They hurt.
I’m taken through a maze of concrete walls without any windows, my minds drifts, I wonder how long it takes new employees to learn all the ways to get around. It’s not like there are huge exit signs, or any signage for that matter. I can imagine getting lost wandering the halls of this place. It’s like a terrible nightmare, but its happing to me. The colonopin is a allowing my head to go to another place for awhile, a place that’s not here.
I get my photo taken and shoved in a little box room. “WAIT HERE” the guard says with a firm voice. The door locks behind me… as if I had a choice to wait here.. Maybe that’s a joke I think to myself. A person appears in a window and asks me for all my belongings. She catalogs the contents inside my backpack, and asks me if I want to place any money for commissary. I only leave $50.00 and at that time I’m also charged a booking fee. Another door on the opposite side opens and I’m being escorted into what I assume is “booking”. They clamp a thick plastic band on my arm, it’s the picture I just took, and a number which I assume to be my booking number, or inmate number. I think of futuristic movies and old films where the inmate number is tattooed on your arm as some sort of permanent shame you have to live with the rest of your life. I’m out of hand cuffs at this point. I reach down and the bracelet nearly falls off my arm.
The first person I have an interaction with is the women who makes me strip and change into the bright orange scrubs that you see on TV. My mind takes me to Orange is the New Black, and I think, well maybe i’ll just get starved and lose a bunch of weight, that wont be that bad… “mam’, please take off your clothes” she repeats herself. I’m in a serious fog from all the colonopin I took. I shake my quickly to remind myself to snap out of it. I take off all my clothes, she helped me fold them nicely and placed them in a bag, with a catalogue of what I had given her. “You’ll get this when you get out, now I need you to hold up your arms, good, now spread your legs, ok, now squat, and cough, cough again.” I imagined this part of being booked as being the worst part. I thought they would send some tough big women guard to scare you, or purposefully humiliate you, but instead this woman was in her 50’s and was kind. She was gentle with me, and I could see the sympathy in her eyes. “It will only be a few days, you’ll be ok” she says to me. It’s just us two this room, separated by curtain to the main booking room. She hands me a pair of well used, but clean under ware, a worn out sports bra, and bright orange scrubs with the abbreviation of the Jail on the back. I get a pair of socks that are men’s size and rubber shoes. She guides me back into the main part of the booking room, and places me in a holding cell.
The booking area is all concrete, the cell is a triangle room, painted red, there’s a bench, a metal toilet, and a door with bars that we aren’t really supposed to move, I assume by watching the guard who is watching my every move. There was another girl in the room when I entered, she was frantic about getting out of there, I think still high off whatever got her put in there. I ignore her, sit down, and put my head against the wall with my knees up to my chest, and fall asleep for one minute.
“VIVIANE MARIE”I hear being yelled by one of the many windows in the booking area. It was the medical examiner, the next step of booking process I assume. I was a little relieved, because I knew he was supposed to make sure I had what I needed. I told him everything I was on, “Colonopin 1MG as needed for panic attacks and anxiety, Wellbutrin 350MG daily in the AM for Depression, Adderal 10 MG daily for concentration, Mirtazapine 7 MG Nightly for insomnia, Amitryptalin nightly for migraines, and birth control” he writes everything down. He asks me his standard questions
“have you had anything to drink today?” No… (does one beer even count)
“Have you taken your medication today?” Yes (quite a bit, I think to myself)
“Are you in pain right now?” No, not unless you count mental anguish, (he didn’t think that was funny) “ok…a nurse will bring you your medications daily in the AM and the PM” I signed something and was guided back to the triangle holding room.
“MARIE” my name is screamed across the room again, already I had lost my first name they were only using my last name now. I had to talk to another person, I cant remember what that person’s purpose was, nor do I remember anything about our interaction, maybe it was fingerprints, but I don’t know. I am shooed away to the triangle holding cell, there’s another person in there now. It’s freezing. I let my head drift to anywhere but here. There were no clocks, but I knew this was taking FOREVER. I curl in a ball as tightly as I can and put my head down, I fall asleep.
No one ever thinks of what it would be like to go to jail. No one day dreams, like maybe ill get arrested and see what all the fuss is about.. Or at least I never thought what it would be like to go to Jail. I wasn’t a great kid in high school and I did plenty of illegal things in college and after college too for that matter but I NEVER thought I would go to Jail. I wasn’t mentally prepared for everything that was going on or how it would affect me.
A week before I was sitting in mandatory therapy when my my counselor mentioned she was worried about me, she shared her concerns with me after I told her the results of my sentencing. I told the front desk and my counselor that I would be in Jail for 10 days with work release, because I knew I would miss at least one therapy classes while I was in jail. If I got work release, therapy would expect me, as the jail had to allow me to attend my sessions, a provision thanks to it being court mandated as terms of my probation. She walked me through part of the process, and expressed her concern for me “why would they do this to you, you don’t belong in Jail” This was Wednesday before I surrendered on Monday, the class was pretty quiet as I cried and told them all about my sentencing hearing, and how unfair I thought the judge had been with my case.
Once I had gone through all the processing in booking, they took me and one other girl to our “POD”. The POD was made up of several rooms with bunks for 8 people in each, and held about 56-80 people depending on how over booked they were. It had a garage like room that was exposed to outside air, it contained a basketball court, a pull up bar, and a window over 10 feet up with a metal grate covering it. The POD had a main common eating area, and a small room with a TV. It was two stories, the top floor over looked the eating tables and the guard desk, it had a set of bathrooms and showers, as well as the bottom floor. The other girl from booking and I were escorted into the room and passed off the the officer in the POD. She sent us over to a closet and gave us 3 sets of light blue scrubs, socks, and under ware, a set of sheets and 2 blankets. I was also given a bin, a toothbrush and toothpaste (cheaper than a free hotel toothbrush) a cup and a spoon for meals. There was an emphasis on not losing your cup or spoon or you’d have to pay for a replacement. I was warned immediately that the girls would steal it from you if they had lost their own.
I was given my assigned bed, which was what they called a boat, on the floor, it held a crappy mattress and was essentially a plastic cot resembling a canoe. Each bunk room was called a cage, I think. Although, unlike prison, it wasn’t locked up individually at night, each cage housed 8, but with over crowding, there was 10 of us in the tiny room. 3 boats on the floor and 4 sets of bunk beds. There were curtains at the entrance of the cave that look like curtains from a hospital separating injured people in the ER.
I was given a restriction of bottom bunk because the colonopin I was on (apparently it can cause seizures when the mediation is stopped). By the time I got through booking and into the POD, I had missed dinner and they were starting a walk through where everyone stands up as role call, they go around the room and you say your assigned bunk number, I was 17, and that was my new name.
I set up my bed and fell asleep. A few minutes later my number was yelled loudly across the room and I woke up frantic, my bunk mates telling me I needed to go to the medical cart. It was a metal cart that held all the medications and a small computer. The med nurse took your vitals, then gave you your medication, or at least they were supposed to. They didn’t interact with the “inmates” if they didn’t have to. They asked to see your wrist band, looked up your medications and took your vitals. They were concerned about my heart rate, and gave me a drug “here take this” I asked what it was…”Librium” no other explanation. Later I learned it was a high dose of Librium. A drug used for detoxing, its about 5X stronger than the colonopin I was already on, so I shuffled off to bed and passed out hard. I didn’t know what Librium was untilI I was out of Jail and googled it.
I made it through the first night easily, due to all the medications I had taken, plus after what they had given me, I was highly sedated. I blocked out all the noise, and pulled the blanket over my head, the fluorescent lights never really turned off, I could hear them buzzing. I pulled my knees up to my chest, and fell asleep.
It’s the next few days that wont be as easy as tonight.
It’s not an easy thing to write about these experiences, but each entry I write, helps me to let go of these little parts of my story I hold so close to myself, of which I let define me for so long. These parts of the story you cant just tell your friends about, and that don’t come up naturally in any conversation. But writing them on here allows me to release some of the pain, helps me to eat go of feeling so guilty. I hope they can help others who relate or maybe help prepare someone who may be going through something similar.
Thanks for listening
– Vivian Marie