- Politics and Social Issues
17. Inside County Jail
Inside County Jail
Inside County Jail is the continuation in a series of hubs in which I discuss my life of rebellion, dabbling in the Occult, drugs, crime and prison to life-changing conversion through Jesus Christ. Click here to read it from the beginning. In this hub, I will discuss experiences I had in county jail, at the beginning of my 9 year federal prison sentence.
It was November of 2003 when I was taken into custody by the DEA for drug trafficking. I was held-over in the Emeryville, CA jail. They fingerprinted me, and the feds offered me a deal of one year monitored home confinement if I were to give up everybody I new in the drug game. It was either that or face up to 15 years in federal prison. I chose not to cooperate. They said they needed my signature on some documents. I said, “Get it from my lawyer.” Afterwards, I was transferred to Santa Rita County Jail in Dublin, CA.
Modern Day Dungeon
The processing at Santa Rita County Jail seemed like it took forever. You have no recollection of time there because you spend the entire time in holding pens with no clock and no view of the outside. In one pen, you are asked several personal questions. In another pen, you receive your issue of clothing. Then, you wait for eons in another pen until being escorted to your cell.
Santa Rita County jail is like a modern day dungeon, with horrible conditions. I was in Pod 23 East (if I remember correctly). There were two tiers of 48 cells. Most of the cells were two man cells. They were larger than a 6 x 9; although, not by much. Everything was concrete and metal (so as not to burn), even our beds. We slept on mats akin to those mats that people use to do abdominal crunches on. They were no more than between two to three inches thick.
Santa Rita County Jail
We wore yellow pants and tops which read “Alameda County Jail”. Inmates called them “the Big Bird outfit”. They smelled like sweaty gym shoes. The first time they fed us a meal, I had to ask someone across from me at the chow how table what it was we were eating. It was that indiscernible! There was a lot of instant and processed food. It took some getting used to. They fed us one to two hot meals a day: breakfast and dinner (sometimes, we got cold cereal for breakfast). For lunch, we always got a sack lunch which consisted of a bologna sandwich, a piece of fruit and some kind of sugary juice.
They bologna came in a small plastic bag. The bread was the same (it was always white bread). Some condiments were included as well, like mayonnaise and mustard. The bologna was typically coated in some sort of layer of green, greasy jelly-like substance. Rinsing it off with warm water made a big difference.
The food wasn’t always filling. We had the option of purchasing additional items of food from the canteen once a week. However, most it was junk food: chips, candy bars, etc. There were some somewhat nutritious options, like tuna fish, chili beans, dehydrated refried beans and oatmeal. However, prices were incredibly inflated. One Ramen soup was 85 cents. On the streets, you were able to buy Ramen soups for around 10 cents a piece. I was beginning to see that prison was big business.
Showering was disappointing; but at least you didn’t have to share the stall with anyone. The shower heads were very inefficient. They would mist water out at you (sometimes cold water). Prisoners would wrap labels from shampoo bottles around the shower heads in order to increase the concentration of the water flow. It helped, and it seemed warmer to.
Pod time (free time out of our cells) was limited to three hours a day or less. At times, we would actually be locked in our cells for days at a time. Usually, as the result of some kind of disciplinary action (like refusing to go back into our cells when pod time was over, and having the riot police called on us to contain us). The only time we got to come out of our cell then was to eat chow. We would not even be allowed to shower or make phone calls. People took “bird baths” in their cells to clean-up.
A bird bath consisted of filling up a couple of cups or bottles with warm water from the cell sink and using them to bathe. Towels were laid down on the floor to contain the mess; and they were wrung out in the toilet afterwards. The toilet was also used for doing laundry. For instance, if you got a new set of clothes from laundry exchange and you didn’t want to trade it in for another set the following laundry exchange (because you never knew what you were going to get), you would just keep it and wash it in the toilet every few days. Washing powder was sold in the canteen.
Free Time Activities
There was not much to do during pod time. We would play chess, cards, dominos, watch TV or exercise. There are no weights in Santa Rita County Jail, so we would do things like burpees (a combination of push-ups and cardio exercises) push-ups, pull-ups and dips. There was a pull-up and dip bar on the recreation yard, which we were allowed to go out to once or twice a week for an hour. However, the recreation yard was very small (probably no bigger than an average apartment living room), and it was surrounded by high concrete walls (of maybe 20 feet).
I spent close to a year in Santa Rita County jail. The conditions there were horrible. Free time outside of the cell was very limited. The food was terrible, and the jail system seemed like a racket. Furthermore, the conditions there led to an atmosphere of boredom, frustration and anger. This led to clashes between inmates, which I will discuss in my next hub. Click on the link below to read it.