On this day I would have to spend 14 days in jail, everything about me being a person, a good student, and having this life that I have completely changed from that dark time in which I got this DUI was now out the window, because now on this day I was just a number and my thoughts and ideas would have no meaning.
After rushing to get all of my senior projects finished on time and making sure that most of my homework is done to make sure that I can be on time for this date that I have been pushing back for so long, I had to jump into a car and be rushed to my untimely fate, or so I thought.
I knew was this day was coming for months but I just tried to drown myself in school work and work outside of school. This became easier and easier with every six pack finished at the end of the day just to calm my nerves.
But this day was now here, and I had to make sure that I was on time.
I had to make sure that I made it on time to the Los Angeles County Jail to turn myself in.
When people think driving-under-the-influence charges are for older people, or alcoholics, or people that have some serious problems; in my case yeah, that was me.
But this was three years in the past. Since that time, I have been to a therapist and worked seriously on who I am and where I am in life. But this didn’t change the outcome of what the judge had charged me with.
After making sure that all of my projects were turned in, I had to rush home to shower and get into my aunt’s car to leave for the LA County Jail and turn myself in.
So that is what I did; I went home, showered, and we left, and it would be the longest drive of my life.
Everything we passed almost seemed like it was going in slow motion, all of these places and things that I have seen before driving to LA would seem so new and so full of ambiguity, like I was in a foreign country or something.
I tried to make jokes with my aunt and my cousin in the car; “I hope that I can find a prison daddy to protect me, I wonder if I drop that soap, what will happen?” Although we laughed and they tried to give me advice despite having no experience themselves with the situation, the jokes were empty, because behind these jokes was the reality in which I thought, “I might have to do these things.”
Although these ideas might have been funny and we laughed about them, it only made my sense of reality more distant from where I was really going.
But when I saw the exit we needed to take, my sense of reality smacked me in the face. I would have to face my judgement; this day that I have forced myself to forget for the longest time was now here, and if I decided to run I would be facing more than just jail time, and probably longer than just 14 days.
But I knew I couldn’t run, I wasn’t going to run. I was going to face my punishment.
Before driving closer to the jail I saw a Denny’s right off the freeway and asked to pull in there since we arrived earlier than expected. This is where I would have my last smoke before walking into the slammer.
After finishing that cigarette I used the Denny’s bathroom although there was a sign outside clearly marked, “Bathroom for CUSTOMERS ONLY!”
After pissing off the Denny’s employees, we got back in the car and parked in the public parking at the county jail.
I have a serious problem with throwing up when I’m nervous; on my first day of college before I left to drive eight hours up north I threw up the awesome breakfast my mom made me because I was so nervous. This case would be no different, except I knew I shouldn’t eat anything because if I did my aunt would not be happy when I threw up in her car.
After parking, we walked into the lobby of the county jail; I walked up to the window and an African-American woman at the window called me up after I stood behind this red line with a sign hanging above stating, “Wait BEHIND the RED line until you are called.”
She looked at me and said nothing, but I started with a cracking voice, “Hi, I’m here to surrender?”
And that’s when she told me to wait in front of Window A and they would help me.
So I waited for an officer to come up and when he did he asked, “so you’re here to surrender?” and I replied timidly, “yes,” then he asked, “well do you have documentation and an ID?”
I handed him my paper work and ID. He took a quick look and said, “have a seat, we will be with you in a minute.”
My aunt and cousin were waiting on a nearby bench and when they asked what he said I told them.
But when he said “a minute,” what really ended up happening was that I waited five hours for someone to come and arrest me.
After the first three hours I told my aunt and cousin that they should go home because they looked so tired and I didn’t want them to see me in handcuffs. So they made sure that I was going to be okay, gave me hugs, said their I love you’s, and left.
I waited another two hours before two cops walked in and asked who was surrendering. Being the polite person under authority that I am, I quickly raised my hand. They looked at me and laughed, as if I was excited to lose my rights.
One officer was a younger guy with a strict face who couldn’t have been much older than myself. The other was an older officer, salt and pepper hair and a kind face. Both of them were wearing khaki-colored shirts coated in badges and patches, and the shirts were paired with green pants.
The younger officer told me to take everything out of my pockets and place them on the counter all three of us were standing at. My phone, my wallet, and my hat; I didn’t want to take anything else with me because I was sure they would say that I would have to throw them away so I just brought the things that I needed most.
The younger officer asked me if I felt suicidal at all, to which I answered no, and then followed with a quick sarcastic comment, “well at least not today,” and he replied, “don’t fucking joke about that, it’s fucking serious.”
I was thrown back by this and replied quickly, “okay, I’m sorry.” The older officer laughed when I made that comment and turned to me and said, “it’s really not funny.”
After this small conversation the younger officer proceed to search me. When this happened I felt this chill run down my spine, maybe from his hands, but I could feel all of my dignity leave my body at that point.
I no longer felt like I was a person, but this empty vessel that had no thoughts, no emotions. Everything that I had worked to change from the past up until then had shattered. I was no longer a person, I was a number and that’s how I would be identified.
After the search the officers hand-cuffed me and drove me to processing where I would become a part of the facility.
I sat in a processing room for six hours; I had no idea what time it was, no idea if it was the middle of the night or if the sun was still out. All I knew was that I wasn’t going to talk to anyone, I wasn’t going to look at anyone, and I sure as hell would keep all of my quick-witted comments to myself for fear of being beaten-up, or shanked.
I was sitting on a bench by myself where the officer told me to sit until I got my wristband and then I would go to cell block B.
4272396 was printed on my wristband, no first or last name. This would be my name, just this number that you were expected to memorize by the time it was stamped on your wristband, although it felt like it was branded on my forehead.
After I lost my name and gained this number I was sent to a window where I talked to another officer who restated the information on my ID and then sent me for finger prints and a medical exam.
I sat on another bench just five feet from the first bench that I sat on and waited for someone to call me, although they didn’t use my new name they just said, “next.”
I walked to the window where a Filipino male nurse asked me questions about my health in an accent so heavy that I had to ask him what he said for almost every question he asked. But one question was if I was ever depressed and if I had taken medication for it, to which I told him about the time that I spent with my therapist and how I used some medication for the anxiety that I had in the past. I wouldn’t know at the time, but it was a mistake.
I was sent from the window to cell block C where I waited to get finger-printed by another officer. This would take another three hours, although when I was being finger printed the officer was nice and talked to me about why I was there and what I did before I came to jail.
He was a tall man, dressed the same as the younger officer that arrested me. I had a chance to read his name tag that said his last name, but I have decided to conceal his identity. But he was kind and said, “you don’t belong here, I hope you never drink and drive again. This isn’t a place for you.”
In that moment I wanted so badly to cry and scream and tell him that this wasn’t what I planned for myself or my future. But because I was surrounded by people that were in gangs and had made a life within this institution I held back all of my emotions and kept everything inside and said to him, “yeah you’re right.”
After I was sent back to the cell, we again had to wait for officers behind a window to call us to answer questions. When my new identity was called I was asked a series of questions again. They were questions like, “are you in the military?,” “are you a part of a gang?,” “are you homosexual?”
When that last question was asked, if I was gay or not, I stopped. I would either tell them the truth or I would say no. I decided to say yes in hope that I would be separated from the general public of inmates and wouldn’t have to deal with the gang members and the politics that came with jail life.
But when I said yes, the woman behind the window stopped, looked up at me and asked, “you’re gay? Are you sure?,” like I wasn’t sure of what I just answered. So I reassured her that I was and she told me to sit outside of the cell that I was suppose to sit in originally.
When an officer walking by asked me why I was sitting outside of the cell, I told him that I was told to sit there. He replied, “who told you that?” I replied, “the woman from window 28.”
Then he looked at me and walked away. I was unsure about anything at the time, what time it was, what was going on, what I was doing outside the cell on this bench, exhaustion was taking over my body, and it was hard to keep my grip on reality.
But as I was falling asleep, I was called to another window and asked the same questions. When I answered the same way, I was told to stand over by where I was finger-printed. When I did that the officer asked me what I was doing in which I told him the same thing that I was telling all of the other officers that asked me that question, “I was told to be here.”
He went to his computer, called my number, and I raised my hand. He called me over to his desk, took my wristband and cut if off. I was shocked by this, I thought that I would have to wear this the whole time that I was in the institution, but this emotion was short-lived when he went for my left arm again and placed another wristband on it. But this time instead of the white wristband I was wearing previously, a yellow one with the same number was placed on my wrist.
After he placed the wristband on my arm he told me to sit on the bench a few feet from his desk and wait. That moment of relief and unknowing reality would be one of many moments that I would have within this institution.
As I sat on the bench, other inmates would come and sit beside me, although the majority were standing in a line that ran along the windows where we had to answer the questions they asked us.
I kept my head down, trying not to fall asleep, and not to look or talk to anyone, but I couldn’t stop the exhaustion that was coming over me. Right when I was about to fall asleep one of the officers yelled out instructions to the people that were standing in line.
“Okay, everyone in line follow the yellow line, grab a bag and go to cell 114.” The other inmates did as they were told and as the last one made it into the cell, the officer looked at us and said, “you guys get some blues and start to undress, and I mean butt-naked.”
The feeling of shame had already filled most of my body, but this would bring a new level of shame that dehumanized me. I already felt like my existence meant nothing being inside this institution, but now I would have to be even less of a human, my body was only a vessel that was branded with this number, using the resources that tax payers were paying for.
After taking off my clothes and placing them in a bag, I was naked and had to wait for the blue jumpsuit that would cover my shame. The piece of clothing had “LA county jail” imprinted on it. The shoes, the shirts, the jumpsuit, everything was labeled with this inscription, a reminder of where I was.
After we put on our clothes, we were told to follow the blue line into the medical bay where we would have X-rays taken and see a nurse that would ask us the questions previously asked by the nurse when we were first booked.
After this, two other inmates and I went into a cell labeled “K-6 G.”
Although this was a cell that would separate us from the rest of the general public, I couldn’t help but feel that I was being discriminated against again. As if I didn’t already know that I was different from the rest of the people in here from the reminders that the officer gave me, now I would be separated from the very people that I might have to interact with in the future.
When I went into this cell, I sat there with six other inmates with the same classifications as me. One being a transgender woman who actually was very nice and didn’t ask me questions unless I asked her. She was caring to another inmate; they knew each other from this very place.
By this time I had already spent another three hours in this cell with these individuals when they called my name for the nurse again, but this time it was different, they called my name and said, “release.”
I had been sleeping on a metal bench with these other inmates and
i had just arrived in this institution and now I was being released. The feeling of relief and anxiety filled me . The transgendered woman looked at me and said, “hey you’re being released, that’s good, congratulations,” but the other inmates looked at me with faces of disdain and resentment. One inmate asked, “what makes you so special?”
I felt like I was in an episode of Orange is the New Black, probably because the inmate that said it reminded me of Crazy Eyes from that show. He had the same features as she did; African-American, gay, hair made up just like hers, and was kind of crazy just like she is portrayed in the show. Although when he asked me this question I just shrugged my shoulders and pounded on the door so someone would let me out.
The officer that came to let me out was a white woman with a nice face. I asked, “they said that I was going to be released over the intercom and to go to room A?” She then replied, “oh that means your processing is done and that you need to see psych.”
I couldn’t help but wonder why I would need to see someone in psych when it came to me; that nurse in the beginning wrote down that I was depressed. I was thinking that asshole, I told him I saw a therapist in the past to help me with some problems and I took medication for anxiety but I was never placed in an institution for depression, so now I would have to be interviewed to test my competency. Great.
When I walked into the room a man with snow-white hair and facial hair to match, wearing a black polo shirt and a lanyard with a badge on it, called me by my name, my first and last name; the first time that someone had said those names in the past 15 hours. I felt a tickle of being human again.
He sat me down and asked to see my wristband; anytime you left a room you had to show your wristband to every officer so that they could check your identity. Then he proceeded to reassure the good news that I was going to be released. Then he started to ask me if I was suicidal and if I was depressed, to which I responded no.
Then he pursed his lips and had a curious look on his face, he turned to me and said, “the reason why I ask you these questions is because they wrote that you were depressed, and I’m curious as to why.” I reassured him that I had a rough time after my dad/uncle died and I saw a therapist to help me with some anxiety that I had in the past, but that was years ago.
He looked at me and said, “well you look well adjusted to me, and I don’t see why you should be in here any longer.” He then said well if you don’t have any questions for me then we’re done. I stopped him to ask him a question, “do you know how long it would take for me to leave?” He then replied, “after I hand this off that’s when they start your process, as far as how long I don’t really know.” I nodded my head, reached my hand out to shake his and said, “thank you.” He smiled, and I walked out of the room.
When I came into the doorway that would exit room A into the general processing room, the officer that took me into room A had her back facing me. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to walk behind anyone so I just stood there. When another officer realized I was there she yelled out, “WALKING!”
I then put both of my hands in front of me like I was surrendering. When she turned around, she looked at me almost angry and said, “inmate whenever you are behind an officer or walking around one you always say ‘walking,’ do you understand?” I nodded yes and kept my hands where they were at.
In that moment the feeling of being validated as a human again left me, with just one word I went from having a shred of humanity to being nothing but a number again. In that moment I was nothing.
As the officer walked me into the room I said to her, “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to scare you, I’m just new to all of this and I don’t know how everything works.” She looked at me and replied with a smile and said, “it’s okay, it’s just you never know when someone is going to come up behind you and clock you, but whenever you walk anywhere and an officer is there you say ‘walking,’ and you have to always walk with your shoulder against the wall, this is just for our safety.”
I restated, “I’m sorry I really didn’t mean to,” she smiled even bigger and asked, “you really don’t belong in here do you?” All I could say was, “I made a bad decision and I’m paying the price that was issued to me.” She then looked at me and said, “after all of my years in this institution I have never heard someone own up to their actions like that.” I just replied with, “thank you.”
She opened the door, I walked in and she closed the door. By this time there was another person in the cell with us. Another African-American man, but this guy was a little different, he was one of those people that couldn’t shut the fuck up. He constantly was talking to himself or someone else. I hadn’t engaged with anyone before he came in and I wasn’t going to start now, so I decided that I would try my best just to sleep.
This time I was interrupted by an officer and an inmate that were passing out food to us. I had to get up to get something to eat although my plan was that I was not going to eat because if I did then I would have to use the bathroom in front of these people and that was one part of my dignity that I was not going to let go of.
So I grabbed the food and carton of orange juice, placed them next to me, and fell asleep. The next time I would wake up someone would be taking me out of this cell and into another one, and then I would be going home.
An older Asian male officer came to the cell, opened the door and called my number. I stood up and he said, “come on you’re going home.” I was half asleep and half awake, I walked as quickly as I could out the door and into the hallway where I was going to be released. We then walked up the hallway and into another block of the institution with more rooms filled with people.
I was placed in another cell labeled with the same letter and numbers as the one before, “K-6 G.”
This cell was smaller and had an African-American man inside and an older white man. Both of them must have been friends because they were talking very friendly with one another and complaining about how long they spent in that cell.
I was curious as to how long they spent in there, but I asked no questions to either of them. When the topic of when they were going to get out came up the white man, who looked like he was around his late 50’s and had done a lot of drugs in his life, went to the door and hit it with his fist and screamed, “when the fuck are we going to get the hell out of here?!”
At this point I was in shock that someone would do this, this close to being released. Any type of action that he would do could cause him to delay himself from being released and because we were in the same cell as him that would mean that it would affect us as well.
Shortly after his outburst, the same younger officer that arrested me and assured me that suicide was nothing to joke about came to our cell and asked, “who the fuck hit my door?” At this point I put my head down and didn’t look up, when the white guy looked at him and asked, “well which door is your door?”
At this point I was thinking, “you have to be kidding me!” who in their right mind would ever say something like that to an officer and how could you even do that when you know you’re being released, and who cares how long it’s taking? We’re going home.
To my surprise the officer opened the door, walked up to the man, and said, “you better shut the fuck up, and if you do that shit again I’ll make sure that none of you make it out of here.” He then looked at me and the black guy and said, “you guys hear that? So I’m making you responsible for him. Keep his ass in check or none of you are getting out of here, you got it?” I picked my head up and looked at him then nodded my head.
After the officer shut the door and walked away, the white man was walking around and talking about what he would have said to him if he didn’t walk into our cell at the moment. I didn’t know what came over me but this wave of anger and anxiety rushed out of my mouth as I said,”listen, if you ever do anything that compromises me getting out of here again I’ll rip out your fucking throat.” He then looked at me and asked, “what?”
I said, “you heard me, you’re fucking around with more than your own life here, so if you do something like that again I swear to god, I will fucking kill you.” The black guy in the cell said, “okay maybe we should all just calm down and be quiet for a while, we’re going to get out of here soon so just relax.”
I looked at the white guy when he said, “okay, okay,” then I looked at the black guy and just laid down. These emotions of complete anxiety and anger were rushing through my body, I couldn’t believe this fucking idiot.
In any case, shortly after that another officer came to our cell and gave us back our clothes. We had to get naked again and get dressed in the clothes that we brought in when we were processed. I couldn’t feel more happy that I had my shirt, my pants, and my shoes back again. I began to feel human again.
After we got dressed we had to wait a few more hours before they released us from the cells into another room where we would be finger-printed again to make sure that we were the right person they were releasing. The younger officer that arrested me and came into the cell where I was, was the same officer that was going to release me, and when he called me to be released he said, “this is ironic isn’t it? I just arrested you yesterday and now I’m releasing you.” He smiled while he said that, but from the past experience with him I just looked at him and said, “thank you sir.”
He then directed me to the door where I could pick up my property they took the day before, and to a door where I could get the money that I brought with me so that I would be able to get a train back home.
When I picked up everything, I ran out the door and down the street to union station, checking my back to make sure that no one was following, like I had done something else that would make me have to go back inside there. I quickly bought a train ticket and jumped on the train to head home.
This whole experience was because I decided that I wanted to drink all I could before jumping in a car so I could go home. I had to feel like I was a number, I had be surrounded by people that might have killed me, I had to experience these things because I was stupid.
You never know how life will effect you, but at least you are able to do what you can to make sure that the name that you have is a name that you keep, because if you don’t and you’re like me, your name means nothing. Everything that you have achieved up until that point means nothing, because now you’re just a number.