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Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200

November 24, 2010

So, last week, as part of the Grand Jury duty I’m serving, I was dragged off to had the privilege of touring the local County Jail.  To correct the “Monopoly” metaphor, in truth, I was “Just Visiting”.

The Jury members gathered at the Courthouse, and from there (after waiting for some of the stragglers to arrive) we were ushered down to the basement level.  There, we passed by a sign that indicated we were near the office where we could obtain “Marriage and Pistol Licenses”.  The lot of us were struck by this bizarre pairing.  One Jury member commented, “You’re going to need both, so may as well get them at the same place!”¹  From there, on to the armored Cheese Wagon (which was white, and not cheese-colored at all, being as it was a Prison bus and not a School bus), which was not a terribly comfortable ride. 

We arrived at the Jail and entered through the normal prisoner-intake – the males and females were separated and the men taken to the male-prisoner intake for an explanation of the intake process, and the women to the female side.  It was at this moment that I was struck by the high gender imbalance on this particular Grand Jury: the women outnumber the men by more than 2-to-1.

Then we were served a breakfast, and toured the various jail facilities, including a typical cell block (called, here, “pods” – an accurate descriptor, I believe), the infirmary, kitchen, laundry, and law library.  We encountered numerous prisoners² “in-transit”, being lead by guards from one location to another.  Some leered, but most were obedient to the  policies of the Jail, which required that they avert their eyes and turn their bodies fully away while in the presence of “guests”.  On the one hand, this policy seemed demeaning to me.  On the other, given the nature of th situation, I recognized the need for such a policy for the protection of the visitors.  Even if presumed Innocent until proven Guilty, the practical fact remains that a large percentage of the Jail’s population are in fact guilty of some crime, frequently of a violent nature.  Whenever one of the tenants of Jail toed the line and leered, it grew unnervingly creepy.  And considering we were the group that were signing off on the indictments for many of these prisoners, the extra precaution made sense.

I must admit, prior to my Jail tour, to having had some curiosity about this large and imposing building that I have sometimes seen on my way from somewhere to somewhere else.   Consider my curiosity fulfilled.  I was struck by just how maze-like it was in there.  At every turn, I couldn’t help but think what a terrific setting this jail would be for a survival horror story of some sort – a video game, a movie, or something else equally atmospheric.  Just let the lights go all flickery, and you’ve got instant terror.  Just add ravening mutants or zombie hordes to taste.

_______________________

¹I do not, personally, feel the need for the latter, nor do I own such a device as may be described as a “pistol”. 

²A “Prisoner” is perhaps an inaccurate label for those incarcerated in the Jail.  One of the things we learned was about the distinction between a Jail and a Prison.  The Jail is where people suspected of crimes and unable to post bail (or denied posting bail) are kept while awaiting the resolution of the legal process.  Theoretically, once convicted, they are transported to Prison, which is a separate institution, but in practice they may remain in Jail for up to two years before being transferred to the Prison because of prison overcrowding.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. November 24, 2010 4:20 pm

    That sounds like great fodder for a story or at the very least, an interesting setting. I’ve only been called up for jury duty once as an alternate, and did not have to stay for the trial. The selection process was interesting. It might be different there. Here, both the prosecution and the defense have to agree on each jury member. I kept wondering what criteria each side was using to select. It wasn’t random, but I could not pick out a pattern after witnessing the selection process for several trials.

    • November 26, 2010 8:34 pm

      I believe it’s generally the same here; but I’m not on a normal jury, but a Grand Jury. We’re the one’s who decide whether to indict and send a case to trial. After that, a trial jury takes over. The Grand Jury selection process didn’t involve attorneys, so much… it was really more randomized, I think.

    • November 26, 2010 8:35 pm

      But yes. I think this sort of place would make great material for story setting.

  2. November 24, 2010 4:23 pm

    It sounds like you’re learning a lot and getting exposed to some unusual circumstances as part of this. Hope it provides grist for the mill.

    • November 26, 2010 8:36 pm

      I suspect it will provide some grist. 🙂 It’s all very unusual. I don’t feel appropriate talking about the cases we’ve heard, but there have been some doozies! I will say so far we’ve agreed to send every one of them to trial…

  3. November 24, 2010 4:34 pm

    Wow, I echo Tessa here. This would make a great setting for a story. What an interesting experience!!! Must have broadened your horizons.

    Now you can say you’ve been to jail. 🙂 And your descriptions will make your story all the more convincing. 😀

    Nice to see you aren’t in “For Real.”

    • November 26, 2010 8:38 pm

      Indeed. Horizons: broadened. I’ve made it my life goal never to go “for real”. 🙂

  4. November 25, 2010 3:51 am

    That sounds like great jury service! My experience of jury service was a week of wasted mornings, listening to the initial hearings and then not getting selected. Did get to listen to neds and barristers arguing about who had a better understanding of the law though which was entertaining to say the least.

    • November 26, 2010 8:40 pm

      Isn’t Jury Service great? 😉 I guess, I look at is as the price I pay to live in a free society.

  5. Adam permalink
    December 1, 2010 5:47 pm

    I like your writings…….always have…and always will

    Way to Go Steven Q Foster

    • December 1, 2010 6:51 pm

      Thanks, Adam. I still have that swamp monster story bouncing around in the back of my head; I just couldn’t quite figure out what the main plot conflict in that story is… But I expect I’ll get it written eventually.

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