*If you’re a loyal reader, you know this is one in a series of posts on my jail experience in 2011. If you’re new, well, go grab a snack and enjoy the last four posts on this blog.
A female guard stood by the cell door and screamed “BREWER!” Dammit. I was getting really tired of guards yelling out the surname that tied me to the person who had me thrown in this hell hole. I scooted off my bunk and shuffled out to the common area where the guard was screaming out a list of names of those heading to court. I sat down next to an inmate in orange (remember, orange=felony) as she leaned over to roll down her socks. She looked up at me and said, “You should do this, too, because the shackles f*cking hurt.” I can’t even begin to imagine the look that was on my face because it was a mixture of being grateful and of pure terror. I was appreciating all the inmates rallying together to make sure I had the information I needed but terrified to learn that I had to be shackled before heading to court. I rolled down my socks to make as many layers between my delicate skin and the cold, unforgiving metal as I could.
The screaming guard separated us into colors (misdemeanor blues were last and I was at the very end of that line) and led us out into the hall while giving us a list of no’s: NO talking. NO touching. NO extra movement. If you had a wedgie? Too bad. DON’T pick it. Line up and put your nose and hands against the wall. I closed my eyes tight as I gingerly touched the very tip of my nose to the frigid cinderblock, hands high above my head, and waited my turn for what had to be the ultimate humiliation.
All I could do was listen as the other inmates were bound, the chains clanging against the floor and the systematic zips and clicks as the shackles were placed. I thought about starting to cry but decided against it. When it was my turn, the guard leaned down to affix the cuffs to my legs. Boy, they were tight. I was appreciative of my orange jump-suited colleague for her socks suggestion. The guard wasn’t exactly gentle in her handling of my princess-y self, each time she tightened anything my nose banged against the wall. I tried to move away only to have her yell at me. Then she instructed me to turn around so she could attach the handcuffs. Now, I’ve played Chinese jump rope and I’ve even won a three-legged race before but NEVER have I had such limited range of motion. I nearly tripped on turning around, and as the guard caught me from taking a header, she asked “New at this?” I shook my head yes as she righted me back to standing erect. She gave me a semi-sympathetic look as she affixed the handcuffs, which were tighter than the ankle cuffs – if that’s possible. I could feel my nose running as the threat of tears loomed closer. She wiped my nose with a tissue, and as she pulled it away, I was horrified by the sight of my own blood.
The guards yelled at us to stay in a single file line as we were led to another hallway. I immediately panicked because I had no idea how to walk in these shackle-thingies. At first, I thought it was best to shuffle. Keep my feet on the ground and go just as far as the chains would let me. But each stride, no matter how minuscule, left me groaning in pain over the intense pressure on my ankles. Fortunately, we stopped to pick up some more inmates. I remained at the back of the line, standing as still as possible to prevent any rubbing on my ankles. As soon as the new inmates were placed in our line we were off again. I decided to experiment with my gait. I did a sideways slide. I tried a tippy-toe approach. I even tried hopping, which was by far the hardest. Each jump sent my chains a-clangin’ and the pain in my ankles, while different, was still excruciating. But I fell further and further behind, which prompted the guard who gave me a bloody nose to scream “Keep up, BREWER!” Never have I been so sick of that name. So, I did a combination of hopping, sliding, tiptoeing, and, inevitably, tripping, until we got to the courtroom.
And if I had thought that my shackled journey down the hallway was humiliating, I had no idea what was coming. I entered into the brightly lit courtroom to see many people waiting their turn to be heard. The guards led us up to the jury box so we could sit down, but getting up the steps was a challenge I wasn’t ready for, especially since I caught sight of my ex in the courtroom with his attorney. I think I navigated those steps and endured the pain of the shackles simply on the power of sheer hate. I tried my hardest not to look at him, but when I did catch a glimpse, he seemed to be enjoying seeing me in my criminal state. Even if I did have a frying pan and the opportunity to clock him one upside the head, my shackles would have been too great of a hinderance. It wasn’t a very fulfilling fantasy.
I wiped my nose against the shoulder of my blue jumpsuit, happy to see that the bleeding was minimal. Harry B, my attorney, came over and said hello. He told me to not worry, that the DA had looked at my case already and asked “Are you joking? Is this for real?” So, it was highly likely that I’d be getting out today. I breathed a sigh of relief as he asked if my nose was okay. I shook it off, feeling the hardened criminal in me solidify a bit more. “I’m fine.” Then Harry said, “I’ll be right back. And by the way, do not look at that piece of shit.” I giggled a little (because, with his accent, the way he said “shit” was just too cute) and turned to chat with my neighbor. She had been in the holding cell with me the night before. Her story was that she was in jail solely because she was busted for riding the light rail without a ticket. I thought that sounded unreasonable, but didn’t question her. A few minutes later, her attorney came over with what looked like Santa’s scroll of naughty kids, which unraveled a gazillion other infractions that she was being held for. The light rail incident was just the icing on the cake. She turned to me and said, “I don’t think I’ll be getting out of here today.” I retreated into my warped mind to think about how she would get home if she were ever released and if she’d be taking the light rail.
After what seemed to be an eternity, it was finally verbalized. I heard the bailiff say, “The State of Colorado versus Sarah Brewer,” which made me sound notorious. It was sexy for about 1/2 a second, then the whole shackle thing reminded me that I was in a real mess. Harry B helped me down from the box, but it is super hard to jump down from anything while not being able to lift your arms nor have enough distance to firmly plant your feet for the dismount. Before I even got to the podium, I heard Matt’s attorney telling the judge that I needed a harsher penalty because I was clearly crazy. I guess the DA and Harry B had decided that I should be released and attend an anger management class, but Matt’s attorney didn’t agree. The Judge didn’t even give her time to finish her sentence. I was to be released. Wahoooo! I’m sure other things were said, but I was too thrilled to care.
Harry B reminded me that being released was a LONG process and I wouldn’t be getting out until the afternoon. As I was being led out of the courtroom, Harry B told me to call when I was released and we’d figure out the next steps. I tried to wave goodbye, which, with my limited range of motion reminded me that I only had the capabilities of a T-Rex. I was put in a tiny holding cell with the naughty light rail rider. All we had was a toilet/water fountain/sink thingy and each others’ company.
As we were held there for two more hours, she told me her woes. She explained that she had a young son at home and she didn’t know how he would get home from school. My heart broke for that little boy as she pounded on the door and yelled things about her civil rights. Her pleas fell on the deaf ears of the guard sitting outside our cell, and eventually, she gave up her tirade. And then, she apologized as she dropped her blue trousers and fouled our way-too-close-for-comfort surroundings.
All the mental humming of the “Don’t You Dare Freak Out” song was not making this day go any faster, but at least there was some light peering through that little sliver of window, reminding me that soon I would be free.
It couldn’t come soon enough.