How time stands still in jail

By Steve Talley



Everybody says they’re innocent in jail while time stands still — the murderer who was caught with the smoking gun says he’s innocent; the man accused of domestic assault whose wife is afraid to file charges says he’s innocent; even the gang-bangers who shot-up the wrong house in a drive-by, and need some target practice before they are allowed to look at a gun says they’re innocent.

Even for me, after being arrested on a simple traffic infraction like driving with tented windows, I professed my innocents.  I think we all want to be innocent because the time spent in jails is so disgusting, and conditions are so horrible that most inmates will do anything to get out. Even pretending they’re innocent.

The first time your name is called is for you to go before the magistrate to have a bond set.  The next time your name is called is for the booking that included front and side pictures being taken, finger prints taken, and something new — DNA swabs taken from your mouth to create a data base for those who have been arrested.

Being arrested and put in handcuffs in the back of a patrol car is horrible enough, but when you’re place in a jail cell, the back of the patrol car is a suite in a five-star hotel.  Inside the jail reminded me of a pin that housed domestic animals like hogs, chickens and cows, but it was a cell of humans that was far too small for the twenty or thirty men inside.

They take way all your belongings before you go in, and give you flip-flops for shoes. Some prisoners are given orange jump suits to wear while others are left in their street clothing.  I could never figure out why the difference.

When your name is called, you think somehow you will be getting out on bond.  But, how could that be when no bond has been made for your release? At this point, the calling of your name is simply the beginning of the processing of booking you through the criminal justice system.

In this miserable place there were no amenities for me, yet, for some when the call for lunch was made most inmates jumped to attention to get the food.  With this behavior from the inmates, I thought the food would be worth eating, but when I got my rations, it wasn’t fit for a dog. There were mashed potatoes that looked like lumpy grits, molded bread, and some kind of meat I couldn’t identify.  They called it mystery meat!

I was getting ready to throw this crap in the trash, when several inmates begged for my food.  One Hispanic looking inmate insisted, “Don’t throw this good food away, give to me!” I gave that mess to him and turned my head. They give a phone call, and most people used their one call to either call home or a bondsman.  I called a bondsman I knew and asked how long with it take to get me out.

“About a couple of hours” he replied.

“A couple of hours!” I exclaimed.

“I’ll be down to the jail when I finish dinner.”

It took him three hours to get me out jail, and those hours seemed like an eternity. When I had to use the toilet, it was fill with urine and leftover defecations.  So disgusting, I would have rather defecated on myself than to use that nasty toilet in front of that lowlife bunch of losers.

My name was called for a final time, but it took over an hour for the bondsman to get me freed of that wretched place.  Some say, going to jail is a part of being a black man in America — I say, a part I just don’t care to experience again.


Steve Talley is a junior majoring in accounting at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga (UTC)



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