I spent this past weekend in jail.
Do I have your attention? I figured that any of you who know me personally would find that shocking. Imagine my surprise when I was handcuffed on Saturday to be taken to jail as a “body bond” because I missed a court date of which I wasn’t made aware in the first place.
Saturday morning was a depressing blur. I remember being handcuffed to a bench in the part of the station where I was checked in. While sitting there, the guards made crude jokes about the deer sausage that one of them brought in to share. Even the lone female guard jumped in the crass humor. I was given an orange jumpsuit and forced to strip for the guard who brought in the food. He made me lift my tongue and “junk”, as he put it, before I was allowed to put on the orange clothing. Perhaps I should have been flattered that he thought that I was large enough to hide a weapon. But, having never undressed like that in front of a man, I simply found it humiliating. Before they booked me, I spoke with a nurse, who gave me a shot. I don’t have tuberculosis. I guess that’s a positive.
Our free phone call? It has to be collect and, if you don’t know anybody who can accept collect calls, you get one whole minute to talk to them. You get more than one, however. You can call as many people as you like. But you can’t talk to any who don’t have collect call capability for more than a minute, or more than one time. And it memorizes the number and literally won’t LET you call it more than once.
The room that I was in was where everyone stayed at first. If I remember correctly, there were about thirty bunks, arranged in sets of three. As I had mentioned that I was acrophobic, I was assigned a bottom bunk. The room was large, with several round tables like the kind you might find in a high school cafeteria. The food was comparable, as well. I didn’t eat much, though. I didn’t really have much of an appetite.
Right outside of the bathroom, somebody had drawn a life-size rendition of Marge Simpson. The artwork was really good, with the notable exception of the fact that she was naked. I guess, if you’re in there long enough . . ..
And the fact that I’m also OCD fell on deaf ears. We didn’t have soap the entire time that I was in there. In desperation, I even washed my hands with toothpaste at one point.
The guards who stayed in the room with us were much more pleasant than those who checked us in. They’d sit and talk with us. One of them even said that he was there to do a job and, if we were all at a bar with him, he wouldn’t have cared what we’d done.
I got into a conversation with a friendly jokester the first night who told me that, no matter what I was going through, it could be worse. It came out that I was ordained and I was thereafter referred to as “Preach.” I lamented that I didn’t have a Bible, so the jokester gave me the closest thing that was in there . . . a women’s daily devotional. The irony of the fact that this book and several Harlequin Romances were the primary reading material in a lockdown that was made for thirty men didn’t escape me. However, I did read the devotional. I got through ten months of it while I was in there.
And while I wanted more than anything to get out, God softened my heart toward the others that were sharing that space with me. I began to listen to their stories.
There was the guy who had lost his parental rights in his first marriage nearly twenty years ago, was remarried for over seventeen years with three more boys that he’s raised, and was pulled over in Georgia for a broken taillight only to be shocked to find out that he was seventy thousand dollars past due on child support that he didn’t even know that he was supposed to be paying.
There was the guy who was arrested for getting into an argument with his girlfriend and punching his own television instead of her.
There was the guy who was intoxicated and his sister-in-law just called the police to take him in long enough to sober up, but the county filed charges against him instead.
There was one guy who never got out of his bed the whole time that I was there because he was detoxing.
There was the guy who was a victim of abuse from his fiancé and finally snapped at her constantly hitting him, hitting her back and landing in jail. I’m not justifying a man hitting a woman, but why didn’t she get arrested, too?
And there was “J”. J is a heroin addict. And he is a good person. He has a fiancé who he loves and a four-year-old son for whom he desperately wants to get clean. J was the first person to call me Preach. He sat down at the table with me while I was reading that women’s devotional and told me his life story. And I listened. I think that’s all he needed . . . someone to listen. When he realized that I couldn’t talk to anyone outside, he had his fiancé call home for me. He was a really good person and . . . I truly believe . . . someone who is dear to Jesus’s heart.
Finally, I had my day in court and was released with nothing on my record. When I went back to the lockdown to pack up my bedding, J asked me to call his fiancé and give her a message . . . to bring his ab-roller to him on visitation day. I kept that promise. I also told him that, if he wants to talk to someone, just put me down as someone who can visit him and have his fiancé call me. I told him that, with Christ’s help, he can beat the odds.