[Hpn] [streetwrites] My Jail Time (fwd)

Wes Browning wes@speakeasy.org
Fri, 2 Nov 2001 20:28:06 -0800 (PST)

Forwarded by Wes Browning, with permission from ALF.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 02 Nov 2001 04:33:22 -0000
From: Anitra Lenore Freeman <anitra@speakeasy.org>
Reply-To: "streetwrites@yahoogroups.com" <streetwrites@yahoogroups.com>
To: "streetwrites@yahoogroups.com" <streetwrites@yahoogroups.com>
Subject: [streetwrites] My Jail Time

--- In streetwrites@y..., "oruku yeti" <Shiningstar34@H...> wrote:
> You didn't tell us how your adventure in jail was for
> HOMELESS....  I still would like to hear about that....

I didn't send you that account?!!  Well, here it is then:

Written Sunday October 14:

Here's the short form: Friday it rained. The group tried to get
under cover in the Plaza area. Rather than let us stay there, King
County Admin called the police and made a complaint of
criminal trespass. Six of us faced it out because we considered
it unjust and were arrested: Claude "Cowboy" Nalls, Ted "Tex"
Shirey, and Richard West, all homeless; Scott Morrow and
Michele Marchand, SHARE/WHEEL staff members; and me, a
formerly homeless volunteer.

I have never been arrested, never gone to jail. It was all new to
me, and not a whole lot like books or TV. Michele's done this
before, four or five times. She's an experienced political prisoner.
She said that this time was the easiest on her. I like to think it's
because she had me along.

Two of us, myself and Michele, were given a trial date of October
23rd and released on Personal Recognizance (you give your
word to return for trial.) We got out in 10 hours. She says that's a

The four men were arraigned this morning before a judge, who
gave them trial dates and released three on Personal
Recognizance, one on bail.

I didn't get much sleep Friday night (neither did Wes) but I'm
rested up and fine now. (So is Wes.)

A more detailed account follows, for those interested.

I wasn't feeling well Friday. Thursday I had just freaked, having
too much to do in too little time. I cut back to the things that I had
to do because nobody else could do them, which included my
part in the StreetWrites performance (which went well.) Friday
morning I got up early to work on the StreetWrites 'zine, and
about 2PM I zapped out and went home to bed. At 9PM I was still
zapped and decided to stay home unless I was called in for an

At 10:30 PM, one of the guys called and said that it was raining,
so the group had gone into the Plaza, under cover, and the police
had been called. I went down immediately -- I live just two blocks
away -- went into the plaza, and sat down with the other five folks
who were still there. Everyone who did not want to get arrested
had gone on out of the Plaza by then. Some had gone back to
sleep on the sidewalk, and the rest had scattered.

A reporter asked me later what the point was. Why had I been
willing to be arrested? I said, "Because it was just not fair to
keep homeless people out on the sidewalk in the rain when
there was a place just a few steps away where they could get out
of the rain, without harming anybody or any property." Wes says I
shouldn't have said it was "not fair." I should have said it was

An officer from the King County Sheriff's Department came in to
give us a final warning. "I understand that you are all here
because of a lack of shelter. If you wish, we can help you find
shelter space somewhere tonight, but you can't stay here. If you
stay here, you will be arrested." I told him, "Officer, I know that
this is what you have to say. But you know the realities as well as
we do. All the shelter is full up." (Seattle has 6,000 people
homeless each night, and 2,800 shelter beds.)

If you are ever in a position where you have to enforce something
that isn't right, be honest with yourself about what you're doing.
You are responsible for what you do, even when it's "under
orders." If what you say is a lie, you are the one lying, even if you
were told to say it.

I want to say here that every officer who dealt with me in the
course of the evening was polite and decent, and a couple of
them were friendly and sympathetic. Scott and Tex had both
taken some verbal harassment before I got there. I heard that
Scott's mother was insulted, and Tex was told to "get a job." (Like
over half of the people who are homeless, by the way, Tex does
have a job. It's just not enough to pay rent in this town!) But there
was nothing as exciting as that after I got there.

There had been four police officers, three King County security
officers, and a King County Sheriff's officer there to start with, but
they didn't act until eight backup officers had arrived. In the
meantime, all six of us sat there quietly, or walked over to the
barrier line to chat with supporters serving as witnesses, and
one reporter from the Times. Scott went to sleep!

When the backup officers arrived, they approached each of us
three at a time. Two got me to my feet. The third gave me a final
warning and asked if I would leave the area. I said, "No." "You
are now under arrest."

My hands were manacled behind my back with plastic ties. They
fasten one around your left wrist, then fasten the other around
your right after looping it through the left one. At first it felt too
tight, but I wiggled my right hand a bit and it seemed okay then. I
thought I could live with it. I realized later that I should have said
something right then. Those really were too tight!

But then Ted wriggled clear out of his, while in the van, just to
scratch his nose.  He said he'd done the same thing back when
he was arrested at the 1998 Tent City.

We were all in good spirits, and laughing more than most
people on their way to jail probably do unless they're high!
We were taken several miles away, to the West Precinct, to be
booked. Rather, I should say, for the first stage of being booked.
There they took our personal information, took "mug shot"
photos with our faces above a form with name, charge, etc. on it,
had us empty our pockets and logged in our possessions. We
went into a holding room to wait for transfer to jail, while they ran
our names through the computer for any current warrants, etc.
(Ted got metal handcuffs at this point.)

Now came my first puzzle of the evening. We were alone in this
concrete room, our hands still fastened behind our backs. Mine
were starting to hurt, and tingle with loss of circulation, and my
right arm (my bad one) was starting to ache. But I found graffiti
scratched into the paint beside the door, and other marks
around the room, including penciled above my head level on the
far wall. Nobody did that with their hands tied behind their back!

And of course my nose itched. Michele stuck her knee out and let
me rub my nose against her jeans. I told her that is the gesture
of a true friend. I let her rub her nose against the knee of my
sweatpants, too.

We were arrested about 10:45 PM. We went into the holding cell
at about 12:15 AM. We were in there about an hour. I had been
very meditative about the whole experience so far, but as my
hands began to bother me more and more I found that I could no
longer stay grounded and centered and flowing with the Tao. I
have always had a very high tolerance for pain, but I realized that
was because I could distract myself easily with books, or writing,
or computers. Without any of those distractions, I hurt. So I
began regaling poor Michele with the theories I had been
mulling over recently, about the sociological origins of war, my
latest theological speculations, what religious tolerance is
based on, etc. etc. At one point she stopped her pacing (Michele
is a pacer) and said, "I never realized this before -- you are a very
thinky person. You deal with things by thinking them out. I deal
with them by feeling them out." As an example, she described
the movie "Fearless" and what it meant to her.

Later we found out that the guys, in their own holding cell, heard
everything we said! Or at least everything that I said.  They teased
me about it, too.

At ten after one I gave in and decided, as a scientific experiment,
to see if I could get an officer's attention and find out if they would
do something to relieve the pain of the plastic handcuffs. I'd
gladly trade for metal ones! I was told that we were about to be
moved to the jail. I already knew that the cuffs would be taken off
once we were in jail.

Michele thought at first that the officer had answered my question
with, "Well, you're in jail!" But no, he wasn't rude at all.

Out of the holding cell, back down the halls, back into the van.
Driving for miles again, to King County Jail, two blocks from
where we started.  Women in one direction, men in another.
Standing at a desk where we were asked more questions. An
officer finally came up to cut the ties. As soon as she cut the right
one and I could move my hands, I groaned, moving them around
stiffly but with relief. "Yeah, these things aren't made for comfort
are they?" she said, in a sardonic "What would you expect?"
tone, as she moved to cut the tie off my left wrist. Then we both
saw my left wrist. The flesh had swollen up around the tie, which
had rubbed a wide band of angry red across my skin. She was
very quiet as she worked to wriggle the cutter under the band
and cut it off without cutting me.

We surrendered all the rest of our possessions here, even our
shoes, everything down to one shirt and one pair of pants. This
included my meds, which I had made sure to bring along in the
original prescription bottles because I have to take them
regularly. A nurse was called to take charge of them and check
them out. I was told I would talk to a nurse later, who could
dispense them to me.

A female officer patted each of us down. This is thorough, and
involves a lot more rolling seams between the fingers than
"patting." Then we walked through a metal detector, and after all
that the metal detector still went off! We took off our glasses. It
still went off. I was wearing a bra with underwires, and Michele
had metal fasteners on her jeans. The officers decided that was
enough to explain the detector going off, and let us on through.

As we walked down the hall, I heard one of them explaining to
another that this was a new model detector, about a thousand
times more sensitive than the old kind. I did wonder how useful it
was if they shrugged off its alerts. Not that I wanted to be
strip-searched, but it rather worried me that I wasn't.

Now we were put into a detention cell with other women, waiting
for further "processing." This was a room a little larger than the
first, with the same concrete walls and floor, with the addition of
two metal ledges just about long and wide enough for one small
woman to lie down on, two metal stools, two pay phones and
one free phone, a TV high in the far left corner, and a metal
toilet-sink combination (no lid) in one corner behind a low wall
that only shielded it from someone in the far left corner of the
room who was sitting down. I promptly resolved I would not use
it no matter how long I had to stay there.

During the course of the evening the number of women in the
room varied from a low of five to a high of fourteen. There were
six other women there when we arrived. There were no
murderers or drunks picking fights, and although we did get a
couple of women who kept hollering that they shouldn't have
been arrested, this was b***s***, they didn't keep it up for long.
The one who stayed angry the longest was a redhead from
Pierce County who said that Pierce County jail was lots better
than this one, and they booked you faster too.

Later one of the other women in the cell asked Michele and I
what we were in for. When we told her, she was also disgusted
with King County.

I called Wes right away but couldn't get through, so I called the
front desk where we lived to take a message to him that yes, I'd
been arrested, I was just fine, and it was very important to
answer the phone the next time it rang because someone
whould be calling soon to ask him to vouch for me, if they
decided to release me on Personal Recognizance.

I was called out of the room five times. The first time was to
meet with a nurse, who took my mental health history and then
informed me that they couldn't let me have any meds until they
checked with the pharmacy in the morning to make sure this
was my prescription! I did get upset at that point. I felt like crying. I
explained that I stay stable because I've learned what to do when
I'm under stress: eating well, drinking lots of water, taking my
vitamins, resting, talking with friends, reading or writing, and
taking my meds. I was under stress now and I couldn't do any of
those things. I had depended on at least being able to take my
meds! From what the nurse said, if I really started to freak out or
fall apart on them, they'd get me emergency treatment, but only
then. I did ask for a drink of water. The nurse said I could have all
I wanted, but I said I only wanted a few swallows because I didn't
want to have to pee in that cell.

When I got back Michele suggested I call Wes. I was able to get
through this time. He said that from the computer logs, just as
the previous call was trying to get through, the computer had
initiated an attempt to dial out! He'd turned the modem off for the
night. We had a long talk and it calmed me down. Then I
stretched out on the floor and managed to nap a bit, and I was
calm the rest of the night.

Hours later, about 4:45, I was called out by a Release Officer, to
take information about where I lived and worked and who could
vouch for me. On the basis of this they would decide whether to
keep me until trial, set bail, or release me on my word to return
for trial.

Michele had been interviewed long before. We were both starting
to worry that they might be slower in my case because of my
mental health history, which would be ironic. Because of my
mental health, I had to get out of there and take my meds!

Michele had told the Release Officer when she was interviewed
that she wasn't going to leave without me.

About an hour later, the Release Officer came back with a form
that said I could be released on my own recognizance. But, she
told me, I couldn't be released until they finished booking me,
which still wasn't completed yet.

She came back one more time to have me vouch for Ted Shirey,
whom I've known since 1998. I verified his personal information.
Then she asked, "If released on his personal recognizance,
would he return for trial?" I said, "Sure. He did it before. We went
through this in 1998."

"I thought I remembered you," she said. "Oh, I wasn't here," I told
her. "I'd gone down to the courthouse to try to get an injunction to
stop the police from arresting the others (at Tent City). The city
sent down two attorneys, two staff members from the Mayor's
office, and two or three clerks to argue the case against me. I
was never so flattered!"

"Well that's a great use of the city's resources isn't it?" she said
sarcastically. "You'd think they could have used all that money to
start another homeless shelter!"

Still more hours later, a little before 7 AM, they called me out to
take my fingerprints and another photo (this time both front and
profile) and they finally asked me my social security number.
Now, according to Michele, the "booking" really began. Of course,
I thought, they couldn't do a real check on my record or
outstanding warrants until they had my fingerprints and social
security number. Another puzzle: Why is this the last thing they

At 7 AM they brought us a meal: a brown paper sack lunch of
baloney and cheese on white bread, potato chips, a cookie, milk,
and an orange. I told Michele that this is not the first time I've
eaten potato chips or a cookie for breakfast, but it's the first time
I've been fed them for breakfast!

Finally both our names were called at once. Along with one other
woman waiting, we went down more halls and were told to sit on
a bench. One by one, we went to a window to get our personal
effects given back to us, and into a changing room to put our
shoes and shorts and jewelry back on. My wallet and rings were
in a sealed pack, though, and I was so tickled by the official look
if it that I decided to leave the bag sealed until I could get into the
office and scan a picture of it.

I thought that was it, but we still had to wait! "The Sergeant" was
now reviewing our paperwork and had to sign off on it. But at a
quarter to nine an officer walked us out of the building and we
were free! Michele headed straight to the nearest store for a pack
of cigarettes. Not only can't you smoke while in detention, but
they don't give back cigarettes with your personal effects!

"I've been thinking," I told Michele. "Everyone goes through the
same things, whether they are innocent or guilty. Everyone has to
suffer the cuffs, the cold cell, trying to lie down on a metal shelf
you keep slipping off of, not being allowed to take meds, not
being allowed to read, only allowed watching all the inane TV
shows you usually avoid by reading, having your cigarettes taken
away. Once you get to court, you are innocent until proven guilty.
Until you get to court, you are guilty until proven innocent."

"There you go thinking again," said Michele.