Recently a friend of mine posted a video of a newly arrested person being brought into booking in a jail in Georgia. In the video, he seems to be either severely intoxicated and/or mentally ill and begins to resist. The video shows in short order the deputies bringing him to the ground and eventually kicking him in the back of the head which is when his resistance stopped. They then hogtied him and left him alone in restraints for an hour-and-a-half after the violence, at which point he was found dead.
Of course it is, but sadly there is something much more shocking to me than a prisoner dying in police custody, or being abused, or denied medical treatment, or any number of things that happen to an inmate on any given day in the land of the free. Do you wanna know what I find truly shocking about this video?
The fact that people are shocked.
What do you expect? The 20-year-old kid being paid 10 bucks an hour who flunked out of the police academy and was bullied in high school (with the help of a couple of his buddies) went WWF with impunity? It happens EVERY SINGLE DAY. But, whatevs.
It’s not like inmates are people, am I right?
We are a country that prides ourselves on “FREEDOM” and yet at the same time we not only lock up the most people, but allow the dimmest bulbs unlimited authority and complete control over people, and make no mistake, I am only calling them people because I have spent roughly 5 years of my life inside and was not a person for one single second of it. Inside men are stripped of their pride and treated to daily dehumanizing doses of reality and exposed to what it meant to be behind the blue curtain and under the thumb of people who NEED that control. My guess was always that most of them lack control of other aspects of their lives and someone’s son or father or uncle or whatever suffered as a result. A lot of them take that job and the paycheck is just a bonus, you know? I promise it’s true.
I remember one time during my first prison stint when I was on first shift kitchen. I was late to my shift and as a result the kitchen “boss” made me strip naked in the middle of January and stand in front of the door with my hands behind my back as the entirety of the unit walked by me and laughed. Dick hanging. Balls shriveled. Pride nowhere to be found. Changed forever. FOREVER.
When I was finally allowed to dress I went into the freezer where no one could see me and I CRIED. I cried for so long, you guys. Then I went back to my “job” that I had to do or I would NEVER make parole. 7 days a week. Appalling, right?
You don’t know the fucking half of it.
I remember another time I was locked up in Kleberg County Jail. It’s a small jail that holds maybe 200 people and is in South Texas. It is and was the most dangerous jail (Not prison. I’ve been to a private prison that was MUCH worse) I have ever been in. Just as an aside for those of you who don’t know: There’s city jail (for tickets and the like or when you initially get arrested), county jail (where you can be sentenced to up to a year and where they send you if you’re looking at an extended stay for trial or whatever), state jail (which is up to two years), and then finally prison (where the french fried terror REALLY begins).
Kleberg was run by the biggest Keystone Cop jailers I have ever seen. Some of them were known gang members which didn’t really affect me as I am not nor have I ever been affiliated. These poorly trained individuals who’d never left their hometown almost exclusively thought they were G.I. freaking Joe. They had ALL the gear. Armored personnel vehicle. Riot gear. Tear gas guns (Did I mention this was a TINY jail?). Combat boots. Army fatigues. The whole nine. Absurd and yet not uncommon in its absurdity.
The place was run by the inmates, and honestly THANK GOD. The jailers there epitomized why you don’t give power to people who can’t find Waldo, let alone understand that not being on your bunk at count time is not grounds for a body slam or a shot of pepper spray. No one should have that kind of unchecked and unsupervised access to live out and work through their childhood issues on prisoners, let alone have complete control over anything that didn’t involve a large fry.
One morning I was sleeping in my top bunk. I was new and the new people, especially the new WHITE people always got the top bunks. Honestly, that’s just a guess as I was the only white person in that jail, and let me tell you I might as well have had “TARGET” printed on my jumper, but I digress.
So, I’m sleeping, I hear this constant thumping coming from the bunk below, and I pay it no mind as you learn to tune out all of that stuff pretty quickly. After about an hour the thumping stopped and I got up to use the restroom. That’s when I caught a glimpse of the source of the thumping. My cellmate below had been having a seizure for VERY long time. Apparently (I found out later) they hadn’t brought him his meds, and as I stood there, mouth agape trying to figure wtf to do I noticed that foam was coming out of his mouth and he wasn’t moving nor did he appear to be breathing. For a minute I thought he was dead.
I finally snapped back to reality and RAN to the emergency call button and pressed it a MILLION times. No one answered. They never do. EVER. It’s one of the many things you learn quickly in an incarcerated setting. It’s you against the world, and you better hold the fuck on as it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
After another minute of pressing the button I ran to the bars (yes, they actually had BARS in that jail) and started SCREAMING which was met with no reply as jail is just one long scream with only beating on the walls, kicking the doors, and one TERRIBLE freestyle after another to break up the monotony. Eventually, a guard came by, I convinced him that one of the inmates was DYING, and (this seriously happened) he said, “Huh. Oh, ok. I’ll let the nurse know.”
Five minutes went by.
Finally another guard opened the cell door really casually, walked over to his bunk, saw him, and said “Awwww, SHIT.” Then they were off to the races, the nurse came, then the paramedics, and they wheeled him out of the cell and I never saw him again (but I heard they dismissed his case so he wouldn’t sue them).
Every single day, people. Nobody cares.
You know, it’s really kind of impossible to fully explain what it’s like to be under the thumb of people who are one traffic stop and car search away from being in the jail WITH YOU. How can one describe the helplessness and fear of knowing that you can end up in a padded room with only a hole in the floor as your toilet, or in one of those videos in the blink of an eye for next to NOTHING, while also knowing that no one will believe a criminal like you? It changes a person. Constant terror and the way we treat prisoners in this country along with what goes on behind the blue curtain gives birth to sides of people and capabilities that most didn’t know they possessed (including me) and some never recover from. It robs normal people of their humanity and then unleashes them back on the streets to rob you, or me, or my mom, or your mom, and etc. I promise you that’s true.
And NOBODY seems to care.
Thankfully, I’m done with that life now. I’m a boy scout these days, but I’ll never forget the moment they wheeled that guy out of the room and within MAYBE 5 seconds I heard 4 words that epitomized what the sheer savagery that incarceration and living behind the blue curtain in this country can do to a person, especially while surviving in what might as well be its OWN country.
“Dibs on his breakfast.”
Featured image via atlantablackstar.com