Monday, February 22, 2010


The first time I went to jail, I do not really count it. I was in Charlotte, NC and the issue with the particular charges was so muddled that they really did not have anything on me. I was bonded out in several hours, and later all the charges were absolved. But, the second time I went to jail was in New Orleans...
Going to jail at Orleans Parish Prison is always a long process. It does not matter how small your charge may be, you will be there for a WHILE. In New Orleans, the police will arrest you for anything they feel like, whether you did it or not sometimes. I once heard someone tell me that under Napoleonic Code, the police can arrest you for anything and they have 30 days to decide if the charges are even something you can be arrested for.
I am not sure of the validity of this Napoleonic Code statement. That particular statement was followed with a New Orleans arrest story that I do not really believe. But, then, anything you hear about New Orleans could happen. This particular person, we will call him "Space", told me he was arrested in the Quarter for impersonating a sidewalk while his friend was arrested for molesting a hot dog.
The story goes something like this...These two guys from Virginia were down in New Orleans with a girl. This girl was wasted drunk and making an ass of herself on Bourbon Street. The two guys were fed up with it and tired of wrangling her into some sort of control. They had given up, and in frustration Space sat down, defeated, on the sidewalk. His friend went and got a Lucky Dog. The cops approached the drunk girl and she took off. So, the cops unwilling to chase her arrested the boys for the aforementioned charges. The cops told the boys they could arrest them for anything and had 30 days to decide if these charges were real. The boys ended up spending almost 24 hours in OPP.
Now, that last part I do believe. Anyone arrested in New Orleans will be lucky to get out of jail in twelve hours, usually it is more like 24. The rumored reason for this is that the parish gets money for each prisoner each shift, and OPP gets paid for every prisoner from at least two shifts. A head count is taken after each twelve hour shift, and the parish's pay is determined. After the count, bonded prisoners can be released. If you are lucky enough to get there just before the end of a shift and be included in that head count, you may get out in twelve hours. Each arrested person will be there at least twelve hours...once you factor in all the paperwork shuffle of an overcrowded and ancient system it could be much longer.
The first time I was arrested in New Orleans, I did not know any of this. I was arrested for driving without a licence in a car with invalid plates. The situation could have been much worse, as I was selling to support my habit at the time. I was on my way to fill out some job applications. I had put the dope in my sock in my boot, then at the last minute decided that was a bad omen. I left the dope at home. I thought I would not be gone for more than an hour. Thankfully, I made that decision or else I would have been charged with felony possession of heroin.
I was stopped in a roadblock set up to check inspection stickers. With a Louisiana inspection sticker and a North Carolina tag, the cop was immediately tipped off. When she discovered my NC licence was revoked, I was immediately in handcuffs in the back of the cop car.
When I first arrived at Orleans Parish Prison dressed nice for a job inquiry, I noticed all the people. There were holding cells on one side, two full of men and one full of women. When I say full, I mean standing room only...and squished together. The medical area is on one side with chairs facing a television in the middle. One the end opposite the entrance, is the place where they finger print you. I later learned the fingerprinting is the last phase before they take your possessions and dress you out. Just beyond the door by the fingerprinting station is a counter where you must relinquish your clothes and other possessions.
When I first arrived, I did not call someone right away. Had I known the long process, calling someone to get the bond ball rolling would have been my first move. I just sat there. Liam was working a double, and my parents were in North Carolina. My bond was only six hundred dollars, which we could have afforded to pay out right. Sixty bucks to a big deal. I was only here for driving without a licence so I did not think there was any way I would be there for more that a few hours. I would be out before the withdrawal had set in for sure.
Oh, how wrong I was. They eventually put me in the holding cell crowded with women. Everyone was talking about their criminal activities, either that landed them there or otherwise. Drug talk was being thrown all around this cell. It seemed crazy to me. I wasn't about to say anything. I was here for driving without a licence, the last thing I wanted any guards to overhear was that I was a heroin addict. I just played it innocent. These hard women kept telling me I looked to sweet and innocent to be here. They were not surprised I was driving without a licence, but they would have never believed I was a heroin addict.
I sat there for hours and hours, and I still had not made any phone calls. If I knew what I know about jail now, I would have called a bail bondsmen as soon as I could. He could have contacted Liam at work, and then gone from there.Having no idea how jail situations work, I didn't do anything at first. As the hours passed, the uncomfortableness of withdrawal began to creep up on me. I started to panic a little and feel a little desperation.
I was let out to make a call after about six hours. At this point, I thought I was going mad and I just wanted to get the fuck out. Again, now six hours in jail seems like nothing, but it was an eternity then. I called Liam's job, but they would not accept a call from jail. Calls to a cell phone will not go through, so I could not call half the people I knew. I did not know many numbers by heart, either. I called The Abbey over and over but the phone was busy. I did not know I could call a bondsman and have him call Liam. In desperation, I called my parents in NC.
My step dad answered the phone, and he sounded really freaked out. He was concerned for me and assured me that they would take care of it right away. They wired the whole six hundred right to the jail with no concern about getting it back. They just wanted me out of that place. Of course, they had no idea about my addiction or all the bad things I surrounded myself with on a daily basis. This was at a time when my habit was new, and my life had yet to fall apart. My parents were far enough away, they thought I was prospering down in New Orleans. If they had known the path I had begun to follow, I feel sure they would have just left me there. And now that I am sober, I cannot say I would have blamed them.
From the point my bond was wired directly to the jail, I thought it would be any minute. I was able to hold my composure even though my insides were crumbling from the impeding doom of a definite withdrawal. I am back in the holding cell, and I am just waiting. And waiting. And waiting.
I am called out of the holding cell, which is a relief because it gets stifling in there with all those people. There was one girl in there who was off her rocker and would not shut up. She had apparently been running naked down Claiborne because the voices in her head told her to. When the cops approached, the voices told her not to tell the cops about them like she had all the other times this happened before. The voices were telling her her destiny was jail this time, not the mental ward at Charity Hospital. Her name was Mary, and she also claimed to be the mother of Jesus. I guess the voices were telling her that too.
The guards led me over to the chairs in the middle of the room. Ironically, a news special detailing the rise of heroin use in the city is on. I chuckle to myself. I am lighthearted thinking I have been let out of the holding cell because I am on my way home. It has been almost seven hours since by bond was paid, surely I am almost home. Then, I am called over to give my fingerprints.
That was the first time I have ever been fingerprinted. It was so long ago, and New Orleans has such an arcane system that fingerprinting is done with the old school ink rollers. It is quite a messy process. They also take your picture with an old school portrait camera. I learn years later how arcane this system is, as most of this is done digitally now.
Next, I am escorted through the doors by the fingerprinting station. I think I am getting released, or that I am about to be released. Now that I am more schooled in the ways of the jailhouse, I know I had a lot more paperwork to fill oat before being set free. After being lead through the doors into another area of OPP, I am in disbelief when they give me a bag of sweats.
Go put these on, and meet me at that desk. Above the desk the officer is pointing to, is a sign reading "Property." But, my bond has been paid I argue. My bond was paid hours ago. Why am I dressing out and where do I go next? The officer tells me that she is merely following orders. I am dressing out and going to another building. This is when I learn there is even a bus ride involved. Oh shit...I am not getting home for quite some time.
I am led with three other girls to a room, almost like a large storage closet. There is a table, like an old lunchroom table, at the end with two women behind it. They inspect the bag I was given, checking off that all items are in there. They say to strip down, and they are watching. Then, we must turn around so they can make sure we are not hiding anything. We are instructed to put on the sweatsuit we are given. They take our clothes and put them in a paper bag. We then sign paperwork approving that all this is kosher. We return to the property desk and give them our valuables, such as jewelry. We sign more paperwork and are sent to a much smaller holding cell.
Again, I wait and wait. Crazy Mary is brought into this smaller cell as well. We are all dressed in sweats colored pink, purple, green, and blue. Different shades and hues from wash and wear. OPP does not have jumpsuits, instead sweats. Which if you ask me, is way better than your standard orange jumpsuit. It would be years to come before I swore of that horrible jailhouse orange color for any item of clothing.
All the waiting and the dope sickness is creeping in worse than ever. I am trying to this out of my mind, trying to resist the urge to puke. I do not want anyone here to recognize my illness as withdrawal. I am only here for driving without a licence, and my bond was paid almost ten hours earlier. Again, if I had known what I know now, I would know they could not do anything to me if I was showing signs of dope sickness when I was arrested for a traffic violation. Finally, after there are eight girls in this tiny holding cell, they round us up to transport us.
Apparently the housing for women is just across the street, but we are transported in a van. What a waste of money, I think. First of all, my bond has already been paid...I do not need to be moved. Plus, they will have to throw out this toothbrush they issued me and wash all these clothes I have worn for a short time. We are all herded down a hallway with double exit doors on the end.
A male guard appears with what looks to me like handcuffs and chains. I know know these are shackles. We are put in groups of two. I am paired up with a large and scary looking woman. She is quite manly, has her hair in small braids, and wears a menacing look. We are handcuffed together at our wrists. Then our ankles are shackled together. The cuffs hurt my bony ankles. We now have to walk in unison with this other criminal to and from the van. I am struggling with this three legged walk, and this menacing girl I am shackled too drags me along. "Ain't you never been shackled before?" she asks me. No, I have not. And from the looks of it, I could be shackled to a murderer. I have no idea why she is here, and I better fall in line with this three legged pace.
We are in the transport van for only a matter of minutes until we are shuffled back off and into a new building. Getting inside and out of a van when shackled to a menacing potential murderer is not easy. My ankles were killing me, and I was relieved when the shackles came off. I now know there is an art to walking in shackles, and it does take practice...and it is much easier if you are not shackled to another person.
I am put into a large room that had a gymnasium type feel. It was relatively dark in there, with only a few lights very dim in the ceiling. The walls were lined with metal bunk beds, three levels high. I noticed a crazy girl rocking in the corner by the door. There were two picnic tables in the center. I really just want to lie down at this point, and I climb over two girls to a very top bed. It is not comfortable, but at least I can stretch out.
The girls around me happen to all be addicts, most of them there for dope and related charges. And like it is when any addict is locked up, the talk drifts quickly to drugs. One girl was dealing out of her house with her boyfriend, and the cops shot their dogs in the bust. Another girl was prostituting for her dope money, and another stealing to get her fix. I am thankful my addiction has not brought me to these places yet.
My dope dealer at the time was infamous throughout the city and served customers all over. I hear the girls giggling about the possibility of calling him to make a run out to the tier. I am thinking to myself....I will be calling him just as soon as I get outta here...and hopefully that will be soon. I share a cigarette with one of the girls here.
I am surprised that they are allowed cigarettes in this closed up room, and I am not sure how allowed they really are. I do not care. I do not even smoke, but it staves of the withdrawal and helps me hold it together a little longer. I hear from the girls around me that someone who came in with me has managed to get some crack in. Probably the murderer. I smell the distinct and menacing odor of crack floating up towards my bed. I want to go home.
Shortly, they call my name. I am taken out with all the stuff they issued me. I was probably on the tier for about two hours, maybe less. Next, was the whole process in reverse...just not as long. Shackled to myself this time, and I was the only prisoner in the van. Wait, wait, and wait until there is a line of about twenty prisoners all back in their street clothes. Waiting for that door to open.
When the door finally opens, I do not see Liam waiting for me. We are all released on a dark alley, and I know the jail is not a good part of town. I just keep walking with the crowd. I am not sticking around in withdrawal to wait for Liam. He is probably wasted and passed out somewhere. I just start walking.
I walk past the methadone clinic. I walk past the seedy motels, and cars are honking at me assuming I am a prostitute. I walk past Charity Hospital. I walk past city hall, and across Canal into the Quarter. I walk down Decatur through the Quarter. Liam is nowhere in sight. I do not care; I know we have dope at home. And I NEED it.
I walk the two hours home, and finally arrive there sick as a fucking dog. Then, I realize I do not have my house key. It is with the car, in the impound. I climb over our fence, hoping the back door is open...ripping my pantyhose and cutting my thigh in the process. Back door locked. Back over the fence. I contemplate on breaking a window. I use my better judgement.
My landlord lives next door. Although it is 3am, I bang on his door until he wakes up. I explain the situation, and he lets me in the house. I am still appreciative of Steven for always being such a cool landlord. Finally, I am in the house.
I go straight for the dope. My hands are shaking, and my breath is quick. I set out the biggest, fattest line I have ever seen. (I only snorted it at this point.) In one final swoop, I sucked up the entire line. Ahhhhhh, relief and all my troubles fade away. Moments later, I hear Liam's key in the door.
He just missed me at the jail, and did not think I would walk. He did not even look for me while he was in the cab. It doesn't matter. We are both home. Safe and sound. And high.

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