Saturday, January 30, 2010

Jailhouse shock

   I haven't posted anything since Thursday, the day I went to jail.  I was on assignment for the newspaper, working on a story about a men's poetry class.  I sat for an hour with medium and low security inmates, including the man who trained his kids to beat their mother over the head with a baseball bat in her sleep.  He sat right next to me which, strangely enough, is creepier in hindsight than it was at the time.
  I'll post a link to the story when it's finished next week.  You'll see how talented some of these guys are.  A couple are especially gifted.  I was amazed at their work.
  After the class, I received an extensive private tour of the jail.  It's a modern facility, separated into "pods" based on security level.  (The women's pod includes all levels since there are far fewer incarcerated women.)  Different colored jumpsuits indicate the security level of each inmate.
  The men all have private cells.  Women share a double room.  Research shows male inmates behave better when they bunk alone; women are happier when they have someone to talk to.  They all sleep on concrete beds topped with a thin futon-style pad.  Small sinks and toilets without lids are in each cell which measures about 8 x 9 feet. Communal time is highly restricted.  Pat-downs happen several times a day.  There's no laughter on the pod.  On the women's pod, there's lots of crying.
  We've all seen jail and prison depicted in movies, often in a dark and grim manner.  But there's something about seeing it in person - even a shiny, new facility like ours - that drives the concept of punishment home. 
  I came away wishing that all American teenagers could get a tour of their county jail.  It is truly a life-altering experience.
   I should add that I got these photos from Google images.  No photography is allowed in jail. But this is pretty much what it looks like. Doors with windows, not bars; tables and chairs bolted to floor, etc.


Flowers said...

Looking forward to this piece. I can imagine that reflecting on the visit is a bit creepier than when you are first experiencing it.

BoomerGirl said...

Yes, 'funny how that happened. 'Still a bit haunted by it.

Carol Starr Schneider said...

Great stuff here. What an experience! Yikes! You grave Boomer girl.

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