Some people live in a world that the rest of us can't even begin to recognize.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Week One: My new Roommate

It became apparent that there is never an empty cell in the county jail where I have been locked up.  There are 40 women on each tier, and each is quickly replaced when one leaves.  Women are locked up two to a room, and all the segregation rooms are filled, whether with actually segregated women, or with the overflow. Many women stay only a few days because their family pays their bond and they are let out.   I'm not sure how bond amounts are set, but I do know that the armed robbers, aggravated batterers, and drug dealers have much higher bonds than "lesser" crimes.

My roommate in F32, Miss Jones, is actually five years older than me.  Probably the oldest woman in the jail. She is always called Miss Jones out of respect for her mature status.  She is never referred to by her first name.  In some ways this was comforting to me, to know that there was some degree of social courtesy even in  a jail setting. Miss Jones told me that she had been arrested for stealing  clothes for her five grandchildren who she is responsible for caring for.  She described a level of poverty in her family that I have been fortunate to never have had to experience.  I don't condone any criminal activity whatsoever, but in a hierarchy of crimes, stealing clothing for your grandchildren because they've outgrown last year's clothes comes nowhere near armed robbery, child abuse, and selling drugs to kids.

I got to know Miss Jones well from being locked up with her for over 20 hours on most days. She told me  that she had been in the county jail for 45 days before I got there. And here I thought a week so far seemed like an eternity.  Miss Jones was still months away from her trial, and could have gone home on bond/bail anytime.  Her bail was set at $2000 dollars.  Coming from a professional, middle class background myself, it was so hard for me to imagine that someone could not somehow come up with $2000 to bond out of jail.  She had remained locked up in a tiny room, away from her family, because she is poor. Drug dealers and attempted murderers were out on the streets because their families happen to have money. The system clearly favors individuals who are more privileged economically.  I'm all for locking up the "bad guys," but something about the fact that alleged murderers can bond out and be out on the streets again within days, while poor people who commit a crime because of their financial situation are forced to stay locked up because of socioeconomic status, just seems so sad to me.

Miss Jones and her family and friends had been gradually saving money for her bond.  On the day I became her roommate she only needed $300 more dollars to get out and care for her grandchildren again.  I seriously considered having my husband give her that money, as well as gathering my own children's old clothing to help her out in that way.

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