Intake

county jail

He was brought in for criminal mischief, he was a short, slim Hispanic… bald and not an inch over 5’5. He came from Honduras, we knew because he was a repeated offender and was usually coming in for nuisance things… criminal trespassing, shoplifting, unlawful carry of a weapon. He wasn’t your typical intimidating offender, he was just annoying, constantly playing a big hard criminal, the majority of the officers didn’t want to deal with him simply because he was annoying and not as much of a thug as he thought he was. You could picture this guy getting drunk and sizing up someone bigger than he whom he couldn’t fight but fighting him anyway just to prove he’s not a pussy.

Each time he came in to the jail it was the same thing, he refused to answer medical questions, he’d try to struggle out of a regular pat search, he’d spit at someone or try to swing, he’d get pepper sprayed, assisted to the ground and placed in a violent cell in a green smock… completely naked under that. Then the fun came, a good 6-8 hours of him kicking, banging and screaming at the top of his lungs every threat imaginable to any officer within eyesight or hearing range. Eventually he’d get tired and would allow us to book him in, then somewhere in the process he’d get frustrated again and would spit or curse at someone else, he’d get placed in an isolation cell for a good 15 days and then sent into general population to do his time. He never received visits, he never got money deposited to his commissary account, never purchased a calling card… there was pity looking at this guy. Some of the older offenders would sometimes humiliate him and he’d fight them… or at least try, not once did he win a fight and not once did anyone pay his bond to release him early.

His name was Harrison De los Santos… from the saints, and he didn’t speak a single English word other than “fuck you bitch” but his accent was so thick that it didn’t even sound offensive… too much emphasis on the “i” and the “u” in fuck he pronounced like “fo” it sounded more like
fo’ kee yu beetch
-…ha

This time there was only three of us in booking, when they saw the deputy dragging him in, the sergeant on staff hesitated to override the front sally port so one of us could go assist the deputy in dragging him in.
-here comes this son of a bitch again
-I got it ‘sarge’ .. as I put on my gloves

He wasn’t wearing a shirt and one of his shoes was missing, the deputy had him cuffed behind his back, I placed my hand under his arm and assisted in dragging him inside. He was kicking, hissing and spitting. It wasn’t until the deputy threw him on the pat search room that I noticed his pupils as big as olives. He wasn’t foaming at the mouth but he might as well had been. The hospital had released him because there was no risk of death … he had just been high for days on synthetic marihuana. He was caught running around the streets downtown assaulting random strangers and vandalizing cars. There had been three calls within a 10 minute span of civilians driving down the main road leading downtown that had bricks or rocks thrown at their cars as they were driving down the road. One guy got one of his fingers almost bitten off when De los Santos attempted to take his cigarette away. There were more calls about choked cats and stolen bicycles that were later found a block or two away. The first one came from his mother because he punched a hole through their front window and then ran out of the house without a shirt or shoes. When police showed up at her house she handed them a t-shirt and pair of sneakers, the deputy took it out of pity for the woman. Her son wasn’t right in the head, not because he was born with a deficiency , he simply wasn’t alright. They had attempted to put his shoes on at the time of arrest but he was struggling so much that he ended up kicking one off and hitting one of the officers who ended up pepper spraying him only to find that pepper spray does nothing to an individual that has been high out of his mind for the past 72 hours.

I couldn’t get him to settle down, we initiated ICS (incident command system) which called all rovers available to the section to assist in restraining De los Santos.. goddam the saints. We stripped him and attempted to place the smock on him but it was almost useless. He slithered out of it within seconds of rolling on the ground… those damn things are held on with Velcro. The shift had just started… we had at least 7 more hours of this. We left him inside with the leg restraints on because it was too dangerous to remove them as much as he was kicking, “sarge” made the call to leave him like that.
The policy is that after 45 minutes he has to exercise the limbs, but after 45 minutes he wasn’t calm yet. He was still banging and screaming. The guy had no idea where he was. Eventually the extra staff cleared from the section because they got bored of the screaming and banging. I liked it when we had someone screaming like that, it kept the new book ins on edge and hardly anyone else gave trouble.
De los Santos was not his usual annoying self this time… this time it was different, I thought it was a matter of time before he chewed his tongue off or pulled his penis off… I say it because I saw it once at the state prison. Well he didn’t but after 4 hours his feet were as big as the size of footballs… this is a 5’5 slim Hispanic… that’s pretty big feet. Of course, I’m the new guy who came from working at the big, bad state prison so I’m tasked to go in there and remove the feet restraints. There was shit and urine everywhere on the floor of the cell. There’s a hole in the middle of the floor where they can conduct this business but I doubt this guy realized what was flowing out of him. He was staring outside the cell window into nothingness. “Sarge” started talking to him

-De los Santos we’re about to go in there and remove the feet restraints alright, don’t try nothing or you will get sprayed!

..it’s policy that we must warn them before we deploy the chemical agents
I was thinking the entire time, I’m going to get my ass kicked and my face chewed off in a pool of piss and shit. I’m not the most religious person, simply because I’ve seen the back of God more than I have seen his merciful hand but I do pray, I pray to come home to my son and I pray to be able to make a decent man out of him. I started praying, against the humiliation of being rolled around in offender piss and shit, I prayed against the pain of picturing a chunk of my cheek being bitten off by this Honduran junkie. He didn’t move, sarge overrode the opening of the cell through the radio…

-central override violent cell 1
-…mother fuck it smells like shit

As I kneeled to remove the hand restraints. He didn’t flinch, his breathing was hard and he was sort of rocking from side to side. I removed the restraints slowly trying not to wake him from whatever trance he was on.
The slider closed and as soon as it shut he was on the window like a monkey screaming, hissing and banging. My eyes met his, I could feel the insanity looking right at me and it was though the devil himself was playing games with me, daring me to come closer.
It took 12 days for De los Santos to detox completely. He was never the same after that, he spilled food out of his mouth when he ate and he became a seizure precaution, we had him on 30 minute visuals and he was assigned a bottom bunk every time he came in.
Until someone killed him, he was coming out of the shower and another “96er” ( as we call the mentally unstable), punched him on the side of the head, he slipped and cracked his skull on the shower floor.

His mother never showed up to the prison to claim property.

 

 

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Behind bars

I almost thought she was possessed, I knocked on her window and called her by her first name “Mandy”… not Amanda or Miranda… “Mandy”, even her first name was adorable.

She wasn’t combative at all, not a single time that she needed to be moved did she lash out violently. You could tell she had come from a loving home, she was a pretty girl that somewhere in her stage of growing up she was introduced to drugs and then that was the end for her. Perhaps her life had been way too easy and she didn’t have it in her to say no that first time. So she became addicted. Her face poured pure innocence, a 27 year old mother to a two year old, married and the middle child to two parents whom were teachers at an elementary school. The first month she spent it in an isolation cell, she was naked most of the time, she couldn’t understand to put her clothes on. She rarely showered, we often had to go in and put her under the shower and put a bar of soap in her hand. She wouldn’t flinch and would just stand there staring towards the cell window into nothingness. We had her under 15 minute visuals due to suicide attempts, I doubt she wanted to take her life… she was simply an addict. I believe she didn’t know how to be violent, she would simply scream and cry asking for her meds.. anything to help soothe the fire boiling inside her from the feeling of withdrawal. One time as I conducted a visual on her cell I saw her on her knees, bent backwards, her face towards the door and her mouth wide open. I almost thought she was possessed, I knocked on her window and called her by her first name “Mandy”… not Amanda or Miranda… “Mandy”, even her first name was adorable. I always called them by their first name when they were aggressive or… like this, stoned out of their mind. I knocked about three times and thought about leaving. In the prison this means nothing, not a damn thing… she’s not hurt nor threatening to hurt herself… but Goddammit if she were my sister or girlfriend I’d be going insane. She finally sat up and turned to look at me, her petite pale body twisted and her face so calm and lost at the same time …
-yes ma’am
-Are you ok?
-Yes ma’am, thank you for asking
-….ok then
I walked over to the next cell, this one was here for head lice, it was 3 in the morning and she was snoring like a pig. With that weird rhythm to their snorts like when they eat and they grunt as they pick up food.
I came back about 10 minutes later, this time she was standing with her face right on the window to the cell… she scared the shit out of me

-Mandy are you ok?
-Yes ma’am… I’m just looking ma’am
She had an innocent looking smile. I walked away again over to the next cell, she hadn’t been snoring… she was masturbating.

I had a college degree, I used to be a school counselor. Not in a high school, at an elementary school. It sounds easy but it wasn’t… specially when the children opened up about an older sibling or parent that molested them or they witnessed their other siblings get abused. I didn’t leave for that reason, I left after my husband cheated on me and left me while pregnant to re-marry a woman 12 years older than he. I was 27 and my self-esteem was at it’s lowest. So I gave birth to my daughter, moved back in with my parents and dropped the counselor job to go work at a state prison 3 hours away from home. I’d stay over there the 4 days out of the week that I was scheduled to work and then come back for the other 4. It changed me, I lost my sympathy and all my feminine habits. Now I cursed more and didn’t wear perfume.

The prison was hard work… if you’re not resilient. I wasn’t resilient … there were just other things that bothered me more than lesbians masturbating to me and prison fights over who was going to clean the section that day.

I did my job the best I could, I was hard but a bit considerate, specially to the addicts that came in. There was an inch of pity to see them suffer as they detoxed from the drugs they were used to taking on the outside. They reminded me of me in a way but allowed me to feel less pity for myself. I too would have given anything to numb the pain of enormous failure I felt. Elena was the only good thing about me. Mi Elena de Troya, my Helen of Troy, my baby girl. Elena was my Xanax bar, my spice and my cocaine when the 12 hour shifts were beginning to wear me down. The 3 hour drive home seemed eternal until I could hold her in my arms again.