**Disclaimer! This post is one in a series reflecting on my 36 hour stint in jail two years ago. I am not currently under arrest or needing bail money!** And… this one is twice as long as my usual posts, so buckle up! 🙂
Mid-afternoon saw minimal activity in the holding cell. I still hadn’t discussed my case with anyone. As of 4:30, the line-up consisted of me, Elle, Angel, and some woman who was following The Commandments to the letter. She hadn’t said a word to any of us, except to answer me when I asked if she knew what time it was. Her jumpsuit was orange, which I learned from my “teachers” meant that she had been charged with a felony. Now, every jail has the prerogative of choosing their own colors, but in Arapahoe County, blue=misdemeanor; orange=felony; tan=work release or trustee (they generally have more freedom), and red=flight risk. Now, I was in no position to judge, but I was terribly curious as to why The Silent One was wearing orange. I could only speculate, so I made up the worst possible story my mind could drum up to keep myself occupied.
Elle and Angel snoozed off and on while The Silent One stared straight ahead. She was three times my size (Hey! I wondered what her “Jail Size” would equate to?) She looked as if she could crack me open like a walnut and I assumed that this was not her first time at the rodeo. Seeing how she wasn’t opening up on her own I felt it was in my best interest to leave her to her own thoughts. I continued making up my story of what she did to earn that orange jumpsuit. Within an hour, the guard called her out. I asked the guard what time it was. She answered 5:30. I never saw The Silent One again.
A few moments after that, six women were brought into the cell. They had all been transported from the Aurora Jail to the Arapahoe County Jail. Actually, I want to note here that I was “stationed” at the Patrick J. Sullivan Detention Center. Sullivan was the former Sheriff of Arapahoe County, and shortly after my release, Mr. Sullivan himself was arrested for trading meth for sex with boys and ended up in HIS OWN FACILITY! Now, that right there is a big ball of crazy! Anyway, two of the six girls seemed to know each other quite well. I’ll call them Shona and Mel. They were laughing and joking with each other and I wanted to get in on that. One of them said that she probably wouldn’t be offered a “PR bond.” I saw that as my chance to jump in.
“What’s a PR bond?” I asked, eyes as wide as a doe.
“What? Ain’t you never been in jail before?” Crap. Here we go again. I cleared my throat and said, “No, I’ve never been in jail before.” This got everyone’s attention and suddenly all eyes were on me. This opened the floodgate of questions, with the inevitable “Why are you here?” This piqued the interest of Angel and Elle, because I had dodged their questions earlier. I was going to fail at keeping The Commandments. I mentally crossed myself like a good Catholic, even though I’m not one, and let it rip. It was eight against one, after all. Telling my story would be better than facing that giant.
I explained about my situation: getting divorced, living in the same house, very sick son (which garnered a sympathetic “AWWWW”) and the husband who called the cops because I removed him from laying on top of my daughter.
Shona said, “Excuse me? You’re in here because you moved him off of your daughter?” I confirmed. “He called the cops on you for that? You didn’t hurt him?” The murmuring amongst the ladies was strongly in my favor. I think they took pity on me and decided that I could be their pet. Yay! I’ve been accepted!
Shona said, “I bet you wish you would have clocked that f*cker with a frying pan, right? I mean, make it worth your while to be pent up in here.” For a moment, I could feel the heavy cast iron skillet in my hand and the resounding thud of making contact with his thick skull as the reverberation moved from my fingers… to my hand… to my arm… to my shoulder. For a brief moment it felt good. I shook it off quickly, understanding that revenge – which was his M.O. – was not a game I would be playing.
I said, “Well, at least I got to meet all you lovely ladies.” And that’s all it took. They took pride in educating me. They explained the process of what I would go through in the morning, and that I would most likely be released on a Personal Recognizance Bond (or a P.R. bond.) They also explained that the blankets here were some of the worst in Colorado. Jefferson County had the best selection of blankets. And if I wanted to pluck my eyebrows, the toothbrushes that were issued here could be scraped against the wall to create tweezers since there was a hole in the handle. The toothbrushes in Boulder County? You couldn’t do that with their standard issue. I learned all the ins and outs of ACJ versus any number of facilities across Denver’s Front Range. I also learned that ACJ’s food was nearly inedible. Now, I don’t plan to start a food critique of local jails (what a great idea, though, right?) but I had to agree with them on the food. What they brought for dinner was repugnant.
Yet, Skinny Angel asked, “You gonna eat that?” I picked up the piece of dry cornbread before shoving my tray down to her. Angel sat to the right of me on the bench, Elle sat on the other side, and everyone else sat in a semicircle around my feet. I’d been storytelling for hours and they were loving it, even going as far as to make up my own fake swear words. They had been swearing like sailors all day and even though I love dropping a juicy f-bomb from time to time, it wasn’t a part of my every day vernacular. So, I improvised. Shona said, “Girl, just think of this like a Jail-Themed sleepover. You’re gonna be okay.”
We were called out in groups of three to do fingerprinting, mug shots and make our phone call. The first thing I did once out of the cell was look for a clock. I hated not knowing what time it was. Fingerprinting came first, then the mug shot (which I cannot find online… I assume it’s because I wasn’t convicted?) then the phone call. By that time, it was 6:30 pm. And, I discovered as I picked up the phone, that I didn’t know a single phone number by heart any longer. Damn smart phones! I had no one to call. I tried calling my dad and boyfriend anyway, because I did know their numbers even if they weren’t local. But most cell phones are not set up to accept collect calls from inmates. I replaced the handset into the cradle, completely defeated. As far as I knew, nobody knew where I was and I had no way to let anyone know. I returned to the cell with a very heavy heart.
Around that time, a very young girl was brought in to the holding cell. Her hair was cropped extremely close, she had tattoos on her neck, and even though she was tiny, I knew she was not to be tangled with. She sat with her back against the wall, her legs pulled up to her chest. She wrapped her hands around her legs as if she was warding off the cold. That’s when I noticed the tattoos on each finger of her left hand spelling: K. U. N. T. Now, I hate this word, but I wasn’t sure if I was disturbed that she had this horrible word permanently inked on her fingers or if I was more bothered that it was spelled incorrectly. And being a former H.R. manager, I would never consider hiring her. No wonder she had turned to a life of crime! That tattoo was a deep hinderance on her employable future.
For a long time, she didn’t say a word. Shona, Mel and I kept talking and eventually, I tried to incorporate K-girl. She looked up, teary eyed, and confessed that this was her first time in jail. Now, I wouldn’t have believed that, but I exclaimed, “Hey! Me, too!” I motioned for her to move into our circle. She did. And she let it all out. If I ever worried about losing my skills as a social worker, it is clear that I have not. I am an excellent listener, even if I am guilty of judging others for poor grammar and incorrectly spelled tattoos.
I had lost myself for most of the evening. But the sneaking realization of the fact that nobody would ever suspect that I was in jail had me scared. How long would I be here? And if I was released tomorrow, how would I get home? I had no coat. No bra. No shoes. No money. And I was at least 10 miles from my neighborhood. I was terrified.
And, worse, I had to go to the bathroom. People were starting to drift off to sleep but I wanted to wait until there were no witnesses. I’d been humiliated enough.
The guard opened the door and yelled “BREWER, you have a professional visitor.” I shakily stood up, wondering who on earth it could be, and went with the guard. We walked down to a small cell where a man introduced himself in a heavy, Indian accent as “Harry B.”
“I’m your criminal attorney.” Jeez. My very own criminal attorney. He opened a manila file folder, looked at a piece of paper and then looked at me. “Well, Sarah (which sounded like Sadah with his thick accent) your husband? He is a piece of shit.” I started crying and shaking uncontrollably. I had so many questions. How did he know I was here? What was going to happen in the morning? And what time was it, for crying out loud? He explained that my initial text message to my boyfriend was what set the wheels in motion. I had texted him around 7 am saying that Matt had called the cops. When he didn’t hear from me for a couple of hours after that, he grew concerned and called my dad. My dad called around to find that I had, indeed, been arrested. My boyfriend got in touch with my family lawyer who was handling the divorce and they found Harry B, who was miraculously making a 10:30 pm visit to see me.
“I’ll be here first thing in the morning. Do not be afraid. We will get you out of here tomorrow and this will likely be dismissed. You didn’t hurt him, he admits to that, and it’s clear the only reason he called the police was for leverage in your divorce case. ”
I shouldn’t have been surprised. This is how the Brewer’s roll. After all, as they gathered to mourn the passing of their father, there was a verbal throw down between two of the siblings which resulted in one of them going to jail. Classy. And to think of the two times that I should have sent Matt to jail for very serious and scary reasons, but refrained. Live and learn.
I am not perfect. I contributed to the downfall of our marriage. I had an affair. But just because I had moved on from our relationship wasn’t a reason to have me thrown in jail. Especially to have me arrested in front of Ben and Madeline.
Anyway, I begged Harry to stay for a while longer as I didn’t want to go back to the holding cell. It was nearing midnight. He assured me that I’d be out by tomorrow and left. The guard escorted me back to a different cell – I guess it was a “post-holding cell” before going to the actual jail cell – and I was separated from “my girls.” I was in with three orange jumpsuits who were waiting to be transported to another jail. I figured it was time to go potty. I didn’t know these ladies, so it didn’t seem as weird to go in front of them. I call this phenomenon “Jail Logic,” and I was grateful I’d had the foresight to hoard some toilet paper in my bra.
I didn’t make the effort to get to know these ladies. They still talked to me and questioned my jail history (I came to accept that I looked like a total newbie.) I asked if they ever dimmed the lights so we could sleep and one of the ladies said, “Girl, they ain’t gonna do that. Didn’t you know they call this jail “A-RAPE-A-HOE?”
My relief from Harry’s visit was completely overshadowed by the fact that Arapahoe County Jail was known as A-Rape-A-Hoe. I was horribly unsettled for a completely different reason.
And realized that I was never going to go to sleep as long as I was “inside.”