Without going into details of everything that happened, and it happened quickly, I can say that what actually transpired in court last Friday during the modification of my child support hearing, is still a mystery to me. In short, although I was forthcoming on everything, provided proof of everything, and told every detail of my story, I was charged with Direct Contempt of Court for basically not checking my bank account for a month. It has become apparent that this judge hates me. In 2 court dates, I’ve been accused of being violent, aggressive, a liar, a schemer, manipulative and, oddly, very intelligent.
I did nothing illegal or immoral, but yet, to my horror, the judge proclaimed “Bailiff, I’m going to need a deputy in here, now!” and delivered a sentence of 5 days in Peoria County Jail, leaving me shocked and mortified!
I was cuffed and taken into a holding room off to the side of the courtroom and as the door closed, I looked at the deputy, whom I knew very casually, and told him that I had never been arrested before and had no idea of what I was in for.
Nervously, I offered no resistance as he went through my pockets and and he reassured me that it was not going to be that bad, but he agreed that what was happening was definitely mysterious and uncalled for. I asked him at what point I could make a phone call as I surrendered to the inevitable, and he replied that as soon as I got to “county”, I could have access to a phone. It dawned on me that I don’t know any actual phone numbers anymore, so he allowed me to use my cell phone to call a friend and arrange for him to come and get my keys and take my car home.
I waited about 30 minutes, during which I prayed to God that the time would go easy, was led to a police van, full of prisoners who had obviously been through this many times, and off we went. Men on one side, women on the other, separated by a steel divider, I kept quiet while the rest of the people yelled back and forth to the women on the other side. We arrived a few minutes later and I was kept behind while the prisoners were led into the building. I focused on being humble and calm.
10 minutes passed and I was led inside, asked to remove my shoes and socks, walked through a metal detector, then given a lunch tray, my first encounter with jail food, and taken to a holding cell where 3 others were already waiting. Purple Bologna on semi-hard bread, some yellow looking juice, and some fruit, and a few other things I didn’t want anything to do with, I opted to pass on lunch.Within minutes, 2 were led out and the one who remained, I learned his name was Phil, and I started talking. We had a lot in common, both small business owners – Phil owns a towing company with a fleet of trucks – and we got along well. I told him this was my first arrest and he assured me it wasn’t that bad and that I, like him, in for a DUI and a 3rd time visitor to the jail, would be in a pods with others that were just doing a very short stay. Several hours later, I was brought a dinner tray. Purple ham steak, hard bread, cold, sticky macaroni & cheese and peas that tasted like paste. Purple seemed to be the prevailing color for all the lunch meat I had in there.
After about 2 hours, I was taken to booking, had my prints and mug shot taken – why do they always make you look like you’re a serial killer in those? – and was interviewed. The booking officer was shocked that he couldn’t find me in the system, until I told him I had never been in police handcuffs before. So far, everyone I spoke to, I did so like I would anyone, respectfully, and I was shown the same in return, something that carried over my entire stay with all the personnel at the jail whom I encountered. Then I was led back to the holding cell where I sat until almost 9:30 that evening. During my time, I prayed that God, who I acknowledged had put me here for a reason, would show me how he wanted me to respond to this event in my life. I would find out his purpose on Sunday.
A young guard finally came to take me to the back. We went to a locker room area where I was given a striped jump suit, which I quickly changed into, then to a supply room to choose a blanket, sleeping pad, a sheet, and towel. We made small talk about this being my first incarceration, and he told me that it would be pretty easy time and handed me an extra amount of soap bars, toothbrushes and toothpaste. Something that came in handy while in the pod. Then he led me to where I would be staying.
SP-6 is a smaller pod with and open area with 3 stainless steel tables, 3 cells on the lower “tier” and a shower and toilet to the right. Stairs went up the middle to an upper tier with 4 more cells. The guard told me to find a spot on the floor to put my things, and quickly he was gone, leaving me in a room full of about 20 prisoners. I found a spot by a wall and dropped my gear and looked around then heard someone calling “Hey you!” Looking up at a man sitting at the top of the stairs who was calling for me to come up, so I climbed the stairs and said hello. He asked me how long I was going to be there, and I told him 5 days and his shoulders slumped. Sitting next to him was a kid they call Tattoo due to the large number of tattoos he has from the neck down. Scott told me that this was his “Celly” who was leaving Monday and he was looking for a new Celly, but since I was only there a few days, I wasn’t gonna work out for him. Scott and I became pretty good friends while I was there. He was someone that had respect amongst the other men. He looked very familiar and I mentioned that he said the same was true for me, then advised me to move my things under the stairs, saying that was the best spot. We talked for a few minutes and then I went down to make up my spot and sat down looking around. Few people really paid attention to me, but I realized that I recognized a lot of them as people that came into the Circle K, where I used to work.
A few minutes later, an older guy, named Rob, asked me if I played Spades, which I do, very well, and I was invited into a game with him and 2 others, Sheff, a former Peoria Pirates Arena League Football player and a guy named George. As I answered the inevitable question “Why are you here”, I offered my hand and introduced myself. It was obvious, this was rare to these guys. We played a few games and got along great, then the call was made for lockdown, meaning the TV was off and the guys who had cells had to be locked in. There were about 6 of us who were “On the floor”, and we sat close and talked for a while. So far, everyone I met was actually pretty cool. And none were there for criminal acts, but for violations, drinking or drugs. Eventually, I laid down on the hard floor and under way too much light, I prayed a bit and then I fell asleep.
Saturday started off with a 6:30 wake up and a line of towels appeared at the shower, so I added mine and sat down and started talking to some other people, while the mop bucket and cleaning supplies that had mysteriously appeared in the door was used by people to clean out their cells. Again, everyone was pretty friendly. So far, this was not so bad, and nothing like I imagined. After a shower, breakfast arrived. Snotty oat meal, purple juice, rancid looking blueberries, I barely ate but saw how the trade game worked as people bartered for items on each other’s trays. This was my last meal that I didn’t eat. To be honest, the rest of the time, the food was pretty decent. Coffee, beef stew, ham and beans, goulash, etc…. Not so bad. Other men I hadn’t seen the night before appeared out of their cells and a few of us got to know each other.
The day was basically spent playing cards watching TV and the arrival of my biggest annoyance began to set in; the echo. Being in the pod is like being in an empty, indoor swimming pool. That echo never goes away and by the end of my stay, I was pretty tormented by it and how the battle between the volume of people talking and the volume of the TV, which distorted horribly, the louder it got, went on endlessly.
By the end of the day, I was pretty well settled in and had gotten great news. My 5 days was going to be more like 4 days. Friday was considered a day served and instead of leaving Wednesday, I would be out Tuesday at 5AM
I didn’t sleep well as the floor is really uncomfortable and cold and guards come in and out during the night for counts and other various reasons, so Sunday morning, I was up early and got on the list for Church. Afterwards, I could see that I had some really good friendships starting and had fallen into a sort’ve clique. Scott, for one, Mike, a hippy from Chillicothe – a bunch of guys were from Chillicothe, – ‘Drew, nice enough guy from the ‘hood who had been in and out a few times, Nick, a smart kid who was there for a DUI and who we later threatened to hunt down if he ever had to come back, another guy whose name I never learned that cheated at cards, some really odd dude that reminded people of a young Jim Carey and amongst a few others, a kid named Jeremy.
Jeremy was in for the first time and was depressed that he might not get out in time to see his first kid born. He was really upset about being there, and worried about his girlfriend. We really connected and talked a lot, as he kept to himself, for the most part. This was it. I knew right away, God was at work here. By the end of the day, Jeremy confided in me that he was disappointed in himself and was committed to putting gang banging, drugs, negative influences and bad habits behind him and focusing on being a good father to his daughter and a good man to his girl. I told him I’d get a message to his family when I got out, reassuring them that he was OK, promised I’d be there to pick him up when he got out, and be there for him if he needed any help on the outside. We talked about God, my faith, and as the conversation ended, he asked me to pray for him. I told him I’d been praying for him since the day I got there.
I walked away, thanking God for giving me this opportunity to be a part of Jeremy’s new found love and dependence on God and accepting Jesus. Later that night, he showed me a rap he wrote about putting his past behind him and allowing God to lead his life. God is so great.
That night, I had more fun than I had in a long time. The pod was like a big party. Groups of people talking and laughing, card playing with a lot of joking around, and other than the echo that was becoming more and more of an issue with me, it was pretty fun night. One of the things that people do is pace. Walking back and forth from end to end, alone or in groups, talking. It’s weird, but a real part of passing time in jail. Eventually, lockdown time came, and those of us on the floor sat up awhile talking, joking around, passing time.
Tattoo was probably the most jail seasoned kid there. He wasn’t very big, but he was the guy that ran the trades between our pod and the one next door, getting food, tobacco, which was rolled in toilet paper, devised a way to light it with pencil lead and an electrical outlet – Jail innovation is pretty cool – and had a lot of respect from the other inmates. I never talked to him much, until Sunday night, when we ended up as partners in a game of Spades. I asked him how old he was, 23, how long he had been there, 30 days and he told me he had done 2 prison stints and was looking at 12 years when he got out. I said that he didn’t have to live life like that and could change it, but he replied that he had been in institutions since he was 10. I asked him if he wanted to change that pattern and he informed me he was a heroin addict, and that when he got out in the morning, he had some waiting for him and would be high before he got off the property. I felt bad for him. His life had been rough and he was comfortable with it.
Monday night, ‘Drew called his grandmother to see how he was doing. That shot of Heroin he had waiting for him, it killed him….
I’m still pretty broken up about it, as was the entire pod, and I’ll be going to his wake this Friday to pray for his soul and give my respects. All the laughing and joking was underscored by the truth of the rough life these people live.
I spent the last few hours making plans to get together with some of them after they get out, traded phone number, Facebook pages, and talked to Scott about hiring him to come work for me, hoping I can help keep him off the Heroin that landed him there. Leaving with me in the morning, Nick and talked a lot of smack, but in the end, neither of us slept well. I was anxious to get out, but I felt, and still feel that I left something behind that I wish I could go back and revisit. People that I wish I could play Spades with and tell jokes and just make sure that they’re all doing easy time. I can see how profound jail time is on a man, as I feel the effect from just a few days behind bars, and I hope that the lessons I learned never leave me. I thank God for the opportunity I had. With God, everything is an opportunity to develop character and prepare yourself for a future in his kingdom, if you can identify where he is working and join him in that work.
I was already awake when the guard came to lead Nick and I out. Turning in my gear, getting dressed, out processing, all of that was a blur, and with bus pass in hand, I walked out into the cool morning air to hear a horn and see the lights come on from my car. Kevin was unexpectedly there to pick me up!
From October 17, 2012