Recently, I had the 'opportunity' to spend the night in jail. And no, this isn't just my optimistic way of looking at an unfortunate incarceration in which I had no choice. I did in fact have a choice. And I CHOOSE to stay the night in jail.
The look on your face has 'Why' (or 'huh?' - not exactly sure because I'm not that good at reading cyber faces) written all over it. That is, at least, the reaction I have gotten from anyone else when I've shared this with them. Either that or I'm accused of flat out lying. I'm not sure why anyone would lie about going to jail and say that they did when they didn't, but believe me, had it not been my choice, I certainly wouldn't be proud of it and I likely would not be telling you about it!
Ok, then again, maybe 'I' would.
The reason for my lock up was volunteer work. Again, no- not court ordered community service. Not that kind of 'volunteer' work. You see, my local community has built a brand spanking new jail facility. And across the country it has become quite the common practice to invite members of the community to stay in the jail so as to provide the staff with a dry run of sorts to make sure all systems work and to fix any bugs or kinks before the baddies get in. For instance, one of the electronic door locks did not work and could only be opened and locked with an actual key. Doesn't sound so terrible does it? But if a policeman were trying to admit a criminal through these doors he'd be very distracted having to fiddle with keys when coming and going and this could create an unsafe situation for him. Little things like that which help things flow smoothly were the reason we were there.
My personal reason for agreeing to do this and thus filling out my application? ( Oh yes, they didn't let just any body attend, they were picky! You even had to PAY. I think if you had any kind of criminal background they would not have invited you to this jail testing event. Makes sense to me!I would prefer to not be even pretend locked up with a real criminal!) I was asked by my best friend to join her in this volunteer program. We've been trying to have 'adventures' and this sure seemed like it would be one. I agreed right away with one condition. I let her know right off the bat I was NOT peeing in front of her. Sorry. Just wasn't going to do it. She offered to hold a blanket for me but- ehhh... no. That's one adventure I can die with out having had.
The two of us in a 6X9 cell with two bunks and a toilet in the middle of the room took residence in my head. Going pee in 'public' was the only thing I wasn't looking forward to. I actually welcomed the idea of near solitude, nothing to do, hours upon hours of card games all interlaced with meaningful discussions. Deep, long, uninterrupted philosophizing in the silent halls of shame. Broken only by the click clack of the guards hourly rounds. The bleak darkness cold with loneliness that only the distant wail of an inmate can attempt to pierce. Everything grey, dim, and drab. Everyone surly and contemplative. The world outside just a fading figment of unattainable reality.
I was so excited I could hardly wait! It was going to be unlike anything I've ever experienced!
Alas... neither my hopes nor fears were to come to fruition at all. It was nothing as I imagined. In most people's eyes, they considered it having way exceeded their expectations which was a good thing to them. And though many STILL complained of boredom, bad food and un-princess like accommodations, I was disappointed in my 'luck'.
Although, speaking of luck - the toilet situation was quite favorable! A generous sized private room with 3 walls and a curtain. I can handle that. I pee'd.
But as for the rest of it... eh. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything and I will be forever grateful to my bestie for taking me along. It just wasn't what I expected. What I hadn't considered was that every jail has sections that they categorize criminals into according to their crime and risk of bad behavior. We... and by 'we' I mean us and 13 other women of the community- were placed together in what they called a 'Dorm'. We were to be their 'low-risk' prisoners in this experiment. It was just the luck of the draw. The next 'Pod' over (as they called them, as though it entertained them to imagine us as captive aliens) was a large room like ours but with individual cells. The recreation and gathering/eating areas was their own but were available to them only during certain hours and with good behavior. Where as we were allowed to roam free in this two story open loft room with 4 bunks downstairs, 4 bunks upstairs, 2 private bath rooms and 2 private shower rooms, 3 rectangular eating tables, sink and counter area and somewhat wide open space included, the entire time. The cell door was just that... a door. Just like any other school room door. Heavy and solid with a rectangular viewing area. The wall adjacent to the door was only a wall half way up. The rest glass. Though all you could see was the hallway and beyond that down the middle was the control center with the guards sitting back, kicking their feet up watching the cameras and barking over the intercom; it was still a view. It wasn't hardly the claustrophobic glance you could only steal if you got on your tippy toes to peer out. Nor was it an endless sea of bars. The only bars I recall in the entire place were the ones that made up the cell door from the old jail which was on display on the wall just inside the buildings entrance. Oh yes, and the individual cells in the next pod, that we could see during the initial tour, had bar doors on their fronts.
As I may have mentioned about myself before, I tend to keep lots of notebooks available for writing. And whenever I plan on being anywhere for any extended amount of time I bring one along. So in true me fashion I brought a mini notepad to jail with me. Take my cell phone, take my wanna-be-Ipod, take my gum... but please don't take my notepad. And that they did not. So the next time I write I'll share what I wrote from with in the jail walls about the experience as it was happening. There were moments of frustration with loud and annoyingly giggly cell mates; moments that took me by surprise, darkened my perspective, and even into my childhood and momentarily out of my reality; and fear of falling off the top bunk. For now, I will sum it up by saying, the entire experience was like a slumber party that you wanted to leave but couldn't. Doesn't sound very much like jail does it?