Saturday, November 15, 2008

Going to Jail

So last Friday I went to jail at the Lafayette County Detention Center. It was a very cold and bleak place. It was probably the most creeped out I have been in quite some time.

In two separate cell blocks were the DUI and public drunk arrests from the night before. One was for the guys to sleep in, the other for the girls. The one girl I saw was quiet and hid behind her blanket. The guys on the other hand, were very mocking.

Other cells had convicts in them. Theirs were dim and most of them were asleep except one who was sitting on the floor next to the bars. He just kept glaring at me. His staring would have been more disturbing if he had not been starring at the other eight members of my Advance Reporting class.

Yes, I went to jail as part of a class field trip. I bet I had you going there for a minute. The detention center was just one trip we made in relation to Dr. Kathleen Wickham's emphasis study on criminal case reporting. Our other trips included the federal and circuit courts.

But the detention center was probably the most spine-chilling field trip I have EVER been on. While on the first floor, we viewed the fingerprinting station, the visitors booths, and the maximum security holding cells for prisoners that go out of control. Every other room we went through was another checkpoint for clearance.

On the third floor we saw the court yard and the library which the prisoners choose between for their one hour of free time each day. Then we went to where the year long convicts who were a danger to society are held.

It was strange looking at them as they came to the window to look at us through the 18 inch glass that divided us. The glass itself had a crack in it where one of the prisoners had punched it with his fist two weeks earlier. For the convicts, seeing people was a change from the everyday of sitting in a cell and doing nothing but watch television and clean. For the class, it was a very disturbing sensation of feeling as though we were looking into a human zoo.

Interestingly enough, I learned that convicts can have a small allowance to purchase books and candy. Jails do not provide toilet paper, so convicts have to purchase their own toiletries as well. The conditions are very constricting with their day to day schedule. Each holding area holds a max of 12 cells with one shower. The lighting is dark and the walls are gray. Just being in there for a week would seem dismal when some people stay there for a year.

Hope that you never find yourself on the other side of the 18 inch glass.

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