Friday, July 28, 2006

Unfortunate Reality

I was at work the other day when I realized just how much being employed at a jail affects a person. Not only do I see some of the lowest people on the totem pole, so to speak, I also have to talk at length to many moms, dads, sisters, brothers and any number of other family members and friends who just don't get the whole jail process. I come away some days with the question "how do people do this stuff?" Not only do they do it, most of them seem to think its okay since everyone else is doing it. We have the really bad people (murder 1st degree) and drug traffickers down to the lady who forgot to pay her fines and got a warrant slapped on her. Oh and let's not forget the lady who was drunk and ran into someone killing them, but kept on driving. Let's just say I was very upset to learn the Judge gave her an OR bond, which means no money had to be put up, she was just released on her own recognizance. I can't imagine being the family of the victim and knowing that the person who killed my family member is out on the streets waiting for her court date instead of sitting in jail thinking about what she had done. Sometimes the justice system really stinketh.
Just this week we arrested a couple guys. One was found nearly dead in the backseat of a car with a needle sticking out of his arm after just pushing a near lethal dose of herion into his veins. EMTs brought him back around after some work. The other guy was so pumped with heroin he didn't even know what was going on. If his mugshot was any indication, I am glad I wasn't around when he came in. The worst is when they start withdrawing and there is very close to nothing we can do for them besides give them a few meds.
I've been at the jail for over a year now and it has given me a whole new idea of what the term "frequent flyer" means. We have several of them, some we see almost weekly. You would think that being in jail 22 times was enough, but a certain gentleman decided to visit us again this week for the 23rd time since 1999. I am convinced we probably had him even more times but the computers crashed in 1999 and we don't have any information from before that. What's even more sad, I know he must know something about God from somewhere. I wonder if he went to Sunday school as a boy or his grandma read him Bible stories.
To get the full effect you have to understand the methods a jail employs to control its inmates. There are various ways to do it, most are harmless, like cutting off their commissary privileges which just means they can't buy anything like snacks, pop or envelopes for a while. For the more unruly ones, we use a restraint chair, basically a metal chair with straps every few inches, designed to totally restrict the movement of every appendage and part of the body. We put this frequent flyer of now 23 visits into the chair when he came in because he would not control himself. He decided to serenade everyone within hearing distance, and no, he did not have a good voice. But what struck me the hardest was his choice of song, or rather hymn: "The Old Rugged Cross." WOW! I am not sure what else to say but that. The above picture is looking into a direct supervision cell, meaning 1 deputy, 64 inmates are together into the cell. These inmates however are free to leave the cell and go outside at any time as long as they are not on restriction and they have their pass card.

So let's just say after another hard week of dealing with these types of people, it makes me wonder how the deputies can handle their 12 hour shifts and yet they do their jobs very well. Things are even tougher right now as far as security goes because we are adding on to the jail. Right now we have under 300 beds. We are going to have over 700 beds when the building is completed in the next couple years. I admire those folks who have to deal with the inmates on a daily basis. I am convinced most people never even give a second thought to how a jail runs or the kinds of situations deputies have to put up with.
A young female deputy at the jail who is getting married the same day as I am, was placing an inmate in the restraint chair when the inmate became violent, pitching her body around. Deputy Armstrong called for assistance and tried to hold the inmate under control until the others arrived. In the meantime, the inmate furiously scratched the deputy's face leaving long red streaks down the sides of her face, drawing blood. She had to push her engagement pictures out because it left scabs on her face for a while.
My own job is somewhat limited in interaction with the inmates, although it's not unusual for me to be in the cells or booking area. I enjoy the fact that I never know exactly what a day might hold. Just recently a female police officer was bringing in a male inmate. I figure in his mind he was thinking "I can take on this chick." He took off down the street, still in handcuffs. Not sure how far he thought he was going to get. He got about 300 feet before she tackled him. I wonder what goes through their mind. "She has a gun, I have handcuffs, I know I can make it!". You'd think they would realize things are a little out of wack, but then again they were probably arrested because they weren't thinking too clearly anyway.
I really don't think the general public even thinks about what goes on in a jail except for the fact that that's where the law breakers end up. I try to tell my co-workers that they are doing a good job when I see them dealing with these kinds of situations on a daily basis. If you know any law enforcement personnel, I would encourage you to let them know you appreciate what they do for you and the community.


JASON said...

You may not exactly be law enforcement yet but I appreciate you!!! I should know not to mess with you!!!! HA!
Love ya LOTS!

poke said...

I am sure you see lots of interesting things. That is amazing about the guy singing "The Old Rugged Cross" Goes to show that things of the church and teachings of God, no matter what context it is used it is not forgotten.