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What not to feed a prisoner!
Fish Sticks and French Fries
Long before I became an Officer, I paid my proverbial dues in law enforcement by virtue of my 3 straight years working part-time as a dispatcher on Friday and Saturday nights. I would show up at the department without fail Friday at 3P.M, after working a 50 plus hour week installing floor coverings. Later that night at 11 P.M I would end my long work day and go home. Saturdays, I worked the same shift. We all got along at that time in the department and we all enjoyed a good laugh no matter how tired or grumpy one may have been. These laughs were usually at the expense of the intoxicated people who were dragged in kicking and screaming, belligerent as*holes were always an easy target as well as women who were going to "sue the sh*t out of the city for this bullsh*t". Not my words, those are the mighty words of babbling drunks and mean, bit**y women.
One of the duties of a dispatcher/jailer was feeding the few, if any, inmates that were housed in the jail. There were a total of 5 jail cells. The jail was entered through one of two doors. The outside back door of the police department where the "rowdy ones" are brought in, this door is located at the end of a hallway that measures 30 feet in length. Along the length on the left side are the cells, each 6 feet wide. On the right side of the hall are two doors. The farthest door is to the shower room. The nearest door is the door to the dispatch office. All of the cells were of the same design. Cinderblock walls painted beige. The metal ceilings were covered with drywall and painted beige. The cells were equipped with classic style porcelain toilets and sinks. The beds were flat sheets of steel elevated three feet off of the floor and bolted securely to the wall. Inmates were issued a green vinyl covered mattress measuring 2 ½ feet wide, 6 feet long and 2 inches thick. These were also issued with a musty odor only available with jail sentencing. The bars were classic jail cell bars resembling Andy Griffith's "Mayberry cells." The bars were crafted from concrete re-bar welded together, painted gray. The locks were standard store-bought master locks.
One day an officer brought a guy in who had warrants. The warrants were issued by a judge for failing to appear in court on multiple traffic citations. Bonds on failure to appear warrants are cash-only bonds. I don't remember what the cost of his bond was exactly, but $2000.00 would not be out of the ordinary. Needless to say, Jason would be in jail until his court date rolled around. Court dates are on the first and third Thursday of each month. Jason was apparently the "high-strung" type of guy, and being in a cage was not his idea of a "happy place."
Friday afternoon arrives, it's time for work. When I arrive at work I speak to Judy, who I would be relieving. She informs me of our newest resident Jason. Judy leaves and I settle in for my 8 hours of NCAA football on the PS2. The wall between the dispatch office and the jail cells is thin and doesn't deflect sound. This allows inmates to eavesdrop on police business and realize the dispatcher is playing a video game. Our Chief of Police at the time had a solution to the problem. When we had someone listening in, we would turn on a small stereo that was sitting in the hall floor. The choice of radio stations was simple, the channel with the black, southern minister preaching to his congregation in the classic "Can I get a hallelujah" style. Jason made a smart remark about how good of a job I was doing. The minister was on before Jason finished his statement. This was the beginning of a nice relationship.
6 P.M is feeding time in the jail. The menu is simple; you get what the on duty dispatcher puts in the microwave. The meals are various Banquet frozen T.V dinners. The meal I happened to grab that day was the Fish Stick and Fries meal. The hearty meal consisted of 5 fish sticks, 8 french fries, and one brownie that may or may not work out. I put the meal into the microwave and waited for the beep. When the meal was done I took it to Jason hot and fresh. Again Jason had some snide comments for me. I explained that I can only serve what I have in the freezer. I don't think Jason cared for those fish sticks or the minister who continued to ask him if he could say, amen! The rest of the shift went by with no further incidents.
Saturday upon my return, I am not surprised to find Jason is still in jail, Jason is becoming more agitated and getting a look in his eye that can only mean trouble. As I settle into my chair and begin to play NCAA on the PS2, Jason chimes in with yet another comment. The minister is on within seconds, can you say hallelujah. ^ P.M arrives on schedule and it is feeding time. Once again I make my way to the freezer. The choices today are the same as yesterday, fish sticks. I prepare the meal and deliver it to Jason hot and fresh. His eyes widened with anger as I slid the meal through the slot in the door. He sat on his green mattress covered bunk and ate his meal. He promptly stood on his bed and announced to me, I want some more food. I began to explain with my own snide attitude that one meal per prisoner was the rule, if he had any questions about this rule he would have to talk to the man who made the rule; he would be in Monday morning. Jason began to tell me his father was a minister; he also explained that he would begin his own sermon if another meal was not brought to him. This aroused my curiosity, "Go ahead Brother Jason" I said. Jason had talent; I was impressed with his oratory and an authentic sounding preaching inflection.
After an hour of his boisterous, non stop, interruption of the game I was playing, I made a suggestion I thought would be funny and add a little flair to the sermon. I said, "Jason add some Ric Flair into your sermon". Without missing a beat, "Wooooooooooo"! was interjected at each pause. This gave Jason and I some common ground and we laughed the rest of my shift. There were no more incidents that weekend.
The next Friday came and I went to work at 3 P.M as usual. Jason was still in jail when I arrived. The minister had been turned off; Jason knew I was in the building. He began pleading to Judy who was on her way home; please tell him not to give me fish sticks. I told him it was too late she had already gone home. I assured him I would not give him fish sticks, then turned on the minister and played NCAA until 6 P.M. Feeding time had arrived; I went to the freezer to grab the day's meal for Jason. The only meals in the freezer were fish stick meals; he had eaten all the others during the week. Trying to be nice, I explained to Jason that there were only fish stick meals and I would give him two of the meals because we were friends and I felt badly about the situation. Jason looked at me with agitation in his eyes and said, "If you give me fish sticks I will tear this cell apart". I shrugged my shoulders and went to prepare his fish stick meal.
When the meal was prepared I took it to the cell and slid it through the slot. Jason took his meal without saying a word to me. He sat on his bed and ate his fish stick meal. I went to my chair and began to play NCAA as usual. After Jason finished his meal he began to preach another sermon to nobody in particular. Then I hear a loud thumping sound. When I opened the dispatch door to the jail I see Jason with his mattress folded in half, swinging it like a baseball bat at the toilet. After a few solid hits the base of the toilet broke and water began spraying everywhere. Jason stopped, turned his head and looked at me with a disturbing calmness and said, "I told you not to give me fish sticks". I giggled a little and told him he would be paying for anything he damaged, and it would be best if he stopped. He ignored me and went back to work. He dropped the mattress and with a Herculean effort, heaved the toilet over his head. Toilet water began to run down his arms and into his hair. He took a deep breath and grunted as he tossed the toilet at the bars. The impact shook the whole building as the toilet exploded into a million pieces.
Jason grinned at me while he picked the mattress up and folded it in half. This time his target was the sink, he pounded on the sink until it too hit the floor. At this point I went into the dispatch office to call the on duty officer in to try and stop Jason from further damaging the cell.
While I waited for the Officer to arrive I watched Jason on the jail monitor. Jason climbed on his bed amidst the spraying water and surveyed the ceiling for a moment. He reached up to the ceiling and began to tear the drywall down. White dust filled the air as large misshapen chunks of chalky drywall fell to the floor. The damage was done and with nothing left to destroy, Jason began to pile all of the debris in the corner. When he was finished with that chore he became still, with his back to the camera. I could see smoke beginning to drift over his head. I went into the hall to see what he was doing. When I called his name, he looked over his left shoulder at me. One eye closed to keep the smoke of the lit cigarette he had in his mouth. I asked him what he was doing, he held out his hands to show me an empty cigarette pack in his left hand and a Bic lighter in the other. He said," I'm burning all this sh*t, I found a cigarette and a lighter in the ceiling". I told him to go ahead wet drywall and porcelain are not good fuel for fire. Jason continued with his failed attempts at burning the debris. The Officer arrived and we secured Jason with handcuffs. The mess was swept up and Jason was returned to his cell. This time he was shackled to the bars with a sturdy set of leg irons which he tried mightily to remove. (The very same set is still there to this day, bent and difficult to operate)
Later after everything was settled down and all was quiet, Jason called for me. He assured me he just wanted to tell me a few things he had been thinking about. I approached and listened. He reached into the corner of his bed and produced a piece of the drywall that would serve as a piece of chalk. He began to scribble and draw a map on the metal part of his bed. He explained to me, this is my map of my escape, I'm not telling you how I am getting out of this cell but I will tell you what I am doing when I leave here. I was listening and smiling, but Jason was serious. First, he began; I will head for the river, denoting places with his new chalk. When I get to the river I will move upstream, I will go this way because your dumb a*s cop friends will be looking here, downstream, marking intently with the chalk. He continued, I will swim to the first bridge, and then I will head for the woods heading in the direction of this place, marking the police department on his map. When I get here, and I will because the dumb a*s cops are all downstream, I am going to knock on the door, when you open it, I will kick your a*s for giving me fish sticks and then I will leave and never come back. I told Jason that was a good plan and a heck of a map; I would surely open the door upon his return.
That happened in my first year of employment there, I worked there for 5 more years, 3 as a dispatcher and 2 as an Officer. I never happened across Jason again, but I am ever aware and ready when that day arrives.
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