Losing My Humanity

17 Oct

Rock bottom is a hard place to find yourself in. I have wondered if I had been there from time to time in the past, and possibly this was not the lowest I will go, life is full of tragedy. However, up until this point, I have never felt my humanity stripped away and been utterly and entirely defeated. Not until my night in jail.

Remember that DUI I got back in May…or was it April? I don’t even remember because I am JUST NOW DEALING WITH IT.

In reality it could have been worse. I could have actually been in jail or tent city (google it, Arizona is sadistic), but instead I spent my time in holding cells just on the outskirts of genuine imprisonment. I shall start at the beginning.

As part of my DUI plea I was sentenced to two days in jail and seven on home detention. I had the opportunity to schedule when I wanted this time to occur but ended up choosing to get it done as soon as possible. Therefore, on the first weekend of regular football season, I went to self-surrender to serve my time.

Needless to say the experience was absolutely nothing like what I thought it would be. I arrived at 9am as prepared as I thought I needed to be with the will power of a Greek goddess…ok maybe that is an exaggeration, but I felt ready! I sat with some other miscreants under this pavilion waiting for something to happen…for two hours. Finally shortly after 11am, an officer came out and called us to get in line by call time. Turns out there had been people waiting there since 6am. Hooray efficiency (oh but it gets worse).

Waiting in line a female officer comes up to me and asks me if I have another shirt I could wear. I had arrived in a tank top as I figured I was going to the tents and it was still pretty warm out, plus, tan lines. Apparently tank tops were not allowed and my heart started palpitating (so much for nerves of steel). As luck would have it, she said that as long as I was back by 3pm I should be ok. My panic eased a tad and I rushed off without asking any more questions like why? Or will my time be extended? Or should I rush back or take my time?

I later (much later) found out that there is a six hour window in which you can self surrender so even if they tell you that you absolutely MUST be punctual, really, you don’t have to be because you have all fucking day. Not knowing this, I ran to the dollar store, bought a t-shirt, stopped at a gas station to buy a Gatorade and some trail mix then returned before noon to that retched pavilion. More waiting, more getting nervous, more unknown questions bouncing in my head. Turns out when the officer said be back before 3, she meant no one is even going to come looking for you before 3.

Finally I began my intake process and my first impression was that this wouldn’t be so bad. The two gentlemen I started my processing with were pleasant enough and we even had some amiable chats while doing paperwork and the like. It wasn’t until I found out the people I had been waiting with originally that morning were STILL being processed, that I began to figure out how absolutely inadequate the whole system is.

Spoiler here, I never saw the outside of the holding cells (although I think now I may have already said that). The rest of my day was spent going from one holding cell to another. For those of you who have never been in a holding cell (bless your hearts), they are square rooms of varying sizes encircled by cement outcroppings where you can sit, but never comfortably. In these particular cells, the metal toilets were in the middle of the room shielded solely by a single half wall, which is only there so anyone looking through the window in the door cannot see your vagina. The only source of water is a sink directly above said toilet. Needless to say, I did not use the toilet or drink much water for the duration of my stay.

The one I spent most of my time in was large enough that there was room for the six inhabitants to lie down if desired and not be directly on top of one another. This arrangement was uncomfortable, but the ladies were pleasant enough and at least there was space. I was able to gather information from the girls who had been there before and on the occasional trips I took back out to the main room for paperwork or fingerprints from the officers. At some point before processing was completed (which took hours) I got my only glimmer of positivity I received while in that retched stink hole. It turns out that if your court order says “two days” as opposed to “48 hours” they do not actually have to keep you for an entire two days as long as while you are there you have some time logged on two separate days. When I found out my order said two days I was exuberant since that meant I would not have to stay until Monday morning as I originally thought.

That joy was short lived in the absolute desolation that followed. The first breaking point came around 10pm when having not been able to sleep on the hard cold surfaces, I had accepted I would more than likely be awake most of the night. At this point I had figured out I would not be leaving the holding areas and was beginning to feel weak from lack of proper nutrition and hydration. My body was aching and I was having trouble sitting or lying in one position for very long. My original rise to fame for being the only person with a watch was beginning to become a burden as time began to move more and more slowly. Around 10, an officer came in and announced the other ladies and I would be moving to another cell.

The cell they put us in was a third of the size of our original room and for the majority of the day had housed a group of male inmates who had been nothing less than a ruckus throughout the building. The room was strewn with leftover trash and bits of food from lunch no one had cleared out, smelled like a mixture of vomit and feces, and may very well have had human excrement on more than one surface. Step one of dehumanizing – make you feel like you are worth little more than the trash discarded on the floor.

Another hour passed before they finally took us out of the cramped space. They moved us to another hallway all together and began processing us out. In my head I was hopeful that with a little luck we would be out by 1am and I would be in bed slightly later than I would normally have been anyway and ready for a full day of football. I should have known better. We were done before midnight, but then put in another cell to wait. Step two in dehumanizing – give no information and let the unknown eat away at any willpower.

Hours went by and each hour I told myself that they had to let us out before the next one came. At one point they brought in inmates from the jail who had served their varying amounts of time. Again we were in cramped quarters as our numbers swelled from six to at least a dozen. These women were not shy about using the commode since they were used to it by this point, but there was no toilet paper when they arrived. After asking politely, then less politely, then causing a scene, and finally asking politely again, they finally got toilet paper…three hours after arriving.

The officers had to do checks while we were waiting in this room and they would do this by knocking on the door and looking in the window. One of the officers was the biggest dick you could imagine. Every time he did his check he would slam his key ring against the door jolting every person in the room. Sleep wasn’t just unlikely, it was impossible. Step three in dehumanizing – misuse power, treat people like animals.

By the time 4am arrived, I was holding back the few tears my dehydrated and aching body was yearning to shed. My spirit was broken and I was praying to God that I would simply survive. Finally, finally they started letting us out in small groups. When my name was called I wanted to dance for joy. The night air tasted sweet and my car was the most luxurious place I had ever been. I sped home as safely as I could. I remember the song “Dirt” coming on and I turned my radio up and sobbed tearlessly since there was no extra water in my body to be spared.

I got home and realized that I was unexpected when the deadbolt was locked. My apartment has two locks; one that can be opened with a key from the outside and one that can only be locked and unlocked from the inside. LP, not expecting me, had locked the latter. Banging on the door, calling her phone over and over, I was done; I broke down and crumpled into a ball in our welcome mat. I cannot explain how traumatizing the whole experience was for me. I never in my life would have thought I could feel like I did in that moment. I have always been told I am worthy of love, at the very least entitled to basic human decency, and in less than 24 hours all those expectation had been stripped away.

LP did eventually come to my rescue and after thoroughly washing off the layer of grime and shame I had collected I climbed into bed and slept like the dead. It took two days for my body to recover. It felt worse than the worst hangover I have ever had. My muscles screamed, my head ached, I was very dehydrated and all I wanted to do was sleep. I did watch the first Patriots game like the devoted fan I am, but the rest of the day and most of the next I stayed in bed and tried to find ways to cope with my encounter.

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