"'Cause I love your little motions,
You do with your pigtails.
What a nice creation,
Worth another night in jail."
I spent four years studying Criminal justice, for no better reason than my Father telling me that I had to. He wanted me to be a Lawyer. There was no other option involved. No choice, no leeway of any kind. I was always expected to become a Lawyer. Whenever anyone asked me what I was going to be, I had to answer "a Lawyer," or it was my ass. Literally. Once, one of my Father's friends came up to me and said, "so I hear you want to grow up to be an Attorney." To which I replied, "No, I'm going to be a Lawyer." I didn't know the difference. Nor did it matter.
Anyway, I went to school with the completely half-hearted plan of becoming a Lawyer. It involved taking a lot of Criminal Law classes. One of the classes required a field trip to an actual Jail. The Nassau County Correctional Facility.
We had to meet at the jail, so of course, I was late. I flew the whole way there, ignoring lights, stop signs, and anything else that might slow me down and cause me to be even later that I was already going to be.
At one intersection (who's light I cruised through after it had obviously turned red), I got pulled over.
When the Cop asked me where I was going, I replied, "to jail." He thought I was being a smart-ass, but when I explained the situation, he finally did let me go with just a warning.
When I finally got to the jail, I had to sign in with the guard outside. I pulled up to the little booth, explained where I was going, and he politely asked to see some ID. I handed him my wallet, he opened it, and jumped.
I was an Auxiliary Police Officer at the time, and he saw my badge. I didn't know why it would be so shocking to him at the time, but found out soon enough (we'll get to the reason a little later).
He closely examined the badge and ID card that was in my wallet, let out a huge sigh of relief, handed me back my wallet and waved me through.
After I parked, I went into the building and had to show my ID to the guard in there. I handed him my wallet, he opened it, and jumped. He then examined the badge and ID card even more thoroughly than the first CO (Corrections Officer) did, let out a sigh of relief and handed me back my wallet.
I asked him why he jumped, and he said not to worry about it.
Once inside, I met up with the rest of my class, my teacher and about two of her other classes, all of whom were already sitting in this small meeting room area. Once I sat down, the Warden and two other CO's came in, and the Warden gave his speech about what to expect inside. He also went down a list of do's and don'ts. Don't talk back to the inmates, don't touch the inmates, don't give or take anything from the inmates, etc., etc..
Come to think of it, I don't recall him actually telling us about any "do's," it was pretty much exclusively a list of "don'ts."
After his speech, we were all taken to a locker area to put all our personal belongings away. You're forbidden from bringing any metal objects, or other strangeness into the jail. This includes belts, and high heel shoes, among other things. Our teacher had warned us about this in advance, so I made a point to wear a pair of jeans that were tight enough so they wouldn't fall down after I took my belt off.
As we were lining up to get access to the lockers, one of the CO's went up to the Warden, whispered something in his ear, then pointed to me. They both walked over to me, and the Warden asked to see my wallet. I handed it to him, he opened it, and jumped. Then he examined the badge and ID card a little closer and let out a sigh of relief. I asked him what the hell was up with everyone jumping when they see my wallet, and he finally explained it to me.
In Nassau County, the Sheriff's Department is in charge of the Jails. It turns out that my NYC Auxiliary badge is the EXACT same shape as a Nassau County Sheriff's Department Deputy badge. They thought I was a Deputy making a surprise inspection.
From then on, I had a CO next to me at all times, telling all the nitty gritty about the jail that really wasn't on the tour. The Warden loved me, and I kind of became his "pet" for the first few minutes of the tour. You'll see why I fell out of grace with him in a moment.
Our first stop was the Women's Detention Area.
I guess they have these types of tours pretty often, because they had set up an inmate in each section as a spokesperson for their particular group.
So we're in the women's section, and there's a female inmate telling us all about life on the "inside."
She starts telling us how when she first got there, she was "strictly dickly," but now, her girlfriend is sitting over there. Then she explains how they can't have hairspray in jail, so they use toothpaste to style their hair.
She was rambling on for a few minutes when my mind started wandering, and I began thinking about how I would break out of a place like this if I were an inmate. All sorts of Prison escape movies flashed through my head, until I heard the spokeswoman saying, "Hey! You! You, standing over there looking bored."
I thought she might be talking to me, so I looked towards her direction.
"Yeah, you. You with that big bulge in your pants." Not to brag or anything (because I really don't have anything to brag about), but with how tight my jeans were, a Lifesaver would look like an inner tube.
"They'll get you in the shower in the Men's section and bend you over like a bitch. Would you like that?"
"Well, if you must know…" I started to reply.
Then the CO dragged me out into the hallway.
I was reminded, quite vehemently, that I'm not to talk back to the inmates. Oops.
The Warden wasn't too happy about that.
About a minute or two later, the rest of my class came out and joined me in the hallway.
We started walking towards our next stop, when a girl I'd never met before came over to talk to me.
I just realized now for the first time, that there may have been a correlation between the female inmate saying that I had a big bulge, and this stranger just coming over to talk to me. Odd how you miss some things.
She asked me if I'd protect her if anything that happened while we were in jail, and I told her it wouldn't be a problem.
"If you get nervous," I told her, "I'll give you a code word, just say it three times, and I'll know you need help."
"What's the code word?" she asked.
She laughed. And for the rest of the tour, she hung out with me. While we were walking through the tiers of the men's section, she stayed pretty close to me.
At one point, I asked her what she was in for, and she replied, "Murder. What about you?"
To which I replied, "Smoking a cigarette in a gas station."
One of the inmates heard me, and yelled, "Hey!"
So the CO standing behind me pushed me past the other tour people, and through the doors, and warned me again not to talk to the inmates. I told him I wasn't talking to the inmates, but then he told me not to talk to the CO's either.
Our next stop was a classroom where we were going to hear a speech from the male inmate's spokesperson.
A large, scary looking black man in an orange jumpsuit came in, and began to explain how he was in charge of orienting new inmates when they first show up to the jail. He explains the rules to them, and gives them advice that will hopefully get them through their time here.
His speech went on for about twenty minutes, and when he was done, he asked if anyone had any questions.
No one did.
So I, like a moron, raised my hand.
He called on me, and I asked him if he wouldn't mind telling us what he was in for.
He yelled out that he was wrongly accused by the white man of a crime he didn't commit because he happened to be the only black man in the area.
I said, "So, you're saying you're innocent?"
He replied, "Damned right, I'm innocent."
"Doesn't everyone in here claim they're innocent?"
Then he flew into a funky, orange jumpsuited rage.
My personal CO grabbed me by the arm, and dragged me out of the room, while the other CO calmly escorted the rest of the tour group out.
There were a few other stops on the tour, and I got into trouble at almost all of them. I won't go into all the details, I think you get the drift of my naughtiness.
Our last stop was the fingerprinting and photo room.
They picked someone to be fingerprinted, and then when it was time to pick someone to be photographed, they picked me. Because they figured that out of everyone else in the group, my mouth was most likely to get me arrested, so they might as well have my picture on file. Might save them time. Or so my CO told me.
They sat me in the chair, and I tried really hard to look mean and nasty, but the CO behind the camera just wouldn't stop making the stupidest faces at me. So the picture came out kind of silly since they caught me about to laugh. But it's still a pretty cool conversation-type picture (in my opinion anyway).
Afterwards, the Warden asked me to never come back, unless it was in cuffs.
Needless to say, I never went back, nor did I ever become a Lawyer. And any interest I may have ever had in becoming a Corrections Officer washed away pretty damned quick.
Though it would have been pretty funny to become a CO and then go to work there for the Warden. But I really don't think he would have gotten the joke.
He probably would have been happier if I had been there for an inspection…
If you have any questions, E-Mail me. Spat@spat-nospam-cave.com