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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Scariest Stories-Are Usually True:Jail Time, LA County

This story takes place roughly 25 years ago. I doubt much has changed since then.

I was young, kind of stupid. But learning. I had a drinking problem-blitz to the max every night. Consequently I got dui-driving under the influence tickets. Though I never killed anyone, or hurt them. I did destroy property on occasion. I am not proud of this behavior-it just was. This is a story about one of those life experiences I could have done without.

“Mr. Graefen” said the judge. Your attorney has suggested that though you were driving under the influence of alcohol, you did not lose control or hurt anyone. Your speed of 85 miles per hour was excessive though. So I am prepared to accept your plea to a lower charge of reckless driving. I hereby sentence you to 4 days to be served in the Los Angelus county jail. Sentence to be carried out immediately. Please follow the deputy.

The L.A. county jail is one big-but frightening place. Hundreds of rows of cells full of every dreg on the planet. At this point in time a serious shortage of space had occurred. So inmates were stuck 6 and 7 to a cell which stretched a whopping 10 ft by 10 ft. roughly. This is what occurred.

As you enter the LA Zoo as I named it. You’re shepherded into a giant room for your “clothes” and a deloucement. Since hundreds of thousands pass these gates everyday you are treated with all the human dignity of a cock roach. As you enter the deloucement chamber you were told strip naked-hand your clothes to the officer at the booth then follow to line to the back wall. Approximately 15 men are standing against this backdrop, with a tiled floor and drains. A deputy takes a “large” fire hose a starts spraying everyone in line with a delousement solution. He takes great joy in nailing everyone in line with a shot to the gonads with very high pressure. Enough force to make some double over in pain. It’s akin to being kicked hard between the crotch. After receiving your new jail uniform. You are directed to a closed room-no windows at all. Lined with many solid stainless steel benches. As you enter you are handed a “sandwich” which tastes like cardboard and fowl cheese. In this room is where my real story begins.

As all of we inmates start munching on our only “food” for 24 hours. A dispute takes place between a small Cuban and black young man. The young black is insisting that the Cuban give him his sandwich. He loudly starts yelling that it belongs to him. As the Cuban objects a small tussle starts as they struggle for the meager amount of rotten tasting food. There are roughly 50 men all locked in this room. There is no deputy to be seen.

A very large 6’5” or better and massively built black man, with a chest which was at least 60 inches, and arms larger than my legs, moves to the Cuban. He says very loudly-give him the sandwich!. The small and basically defenseless Cuban looks up at the giant man towering over him and says-“it’s my sandwich”. The monolithic man says one more time-GIVE HIM THE SANDWICH. The Cuban again refuses. The giant grabs the poor man with one arm. Raises him into the air and slams him head first straight into the steel bench. The poor Cuban is now barely conscious and very out of it. The giant looks him in the eye-then says give him the sandwich which the Cuban is still clutching. In a weak and piteous voice the Cuban drawls-my sandwich. The giant jumps up into the air as this poor man lies on the bench and slams feet first down on his chest. He weighs in at 350 lbs or more. I can see the poor Cuban mans chest make a compression and hear a cracking sound.

There are roughly 50 to 100 men all stuck in this room. Most of use for petty offences.
We are all watching this transpire with our mouths wide open. NOT ONE OF US TRIED TO INTERVENE. We all, I am certain, felt the same way. Scared to death of this giant ape like man. All I could think of was-I am glad that’s not me down there. I read in the paper 2 days later the poor Cuban died of internal injuries.

10 minutes later the room door opens, 4 deputies come in-see the poor Cuban and drag him out. The rest of us are assigned to a cell.

With my typical luck and good fortune-I am put in a cell with the giant ape like man, that I just watched murder a man in the coldest and most heartless fashion imaginable.

For 2 days this behemoth decides that he likes his new homey white guy. For hours on end over a period of 2 days I listen to him prattle on about how he talked to the whales and that he could hear their song. That animals could communicate with him. He was incarcerated on a murder charge. After what I had seen I was in no way going to argue with or irritate this “animal”. I just replied ah huh over and over and over. After 2 days I truly believed that he did talk to the whales. I was too afraid to consider anything else.

Since the cell is tiny, and hasn’t been cleaned. And I am still wearing dirty socks which are now 3 days old. My foot becomes infected. I never should have tried trimming my toe nails in this dirty environment. The next day I wind up with a giant and very painful water blister covering my entire toe. In pain I call for a guard. Ask him if I can see the jail doctor. He looks at my foot and complies.

I enter the jail “doctors” area and meet a man who hasn’t shaved for at least 5 days and smells very strongly of alcohol. Drunk on his ass-he gleams at me and says Ill bet that hurts huh, I reply yea. He quickly grabs a scalpel pops the enormous blister, infected body water spurting every where. Then he grabs a pair of tweezers,  grabbing the dead skin and in a quick upward fashion “rips” the skin off of my toe with a hard a fast jerk. As I scream in pain he laughs and joyfully looks at his aides. They kind of ignore it all. He says loudly, and drunkenly, send this one to the hospital.

I am transferred to the jail hospital expecting to be released the next day. This is not too bad really. I have a private cell with a bunk and storage container. Though the lights are very bright florescent, I have blue eyes and this type of lighting has always bothered me. I start to get a head ache. So I start staying awake at night when the lights are reduced. Stashing my food when it’s brought to me in the cabinet.

I should have been out of here-my four days are up. I am brought antibiotics everyday.
After day 6, I am allowed a shower. I tell the guard-I am supposed to be released. He ignores me. I sat in this hospital for 30 days next to a cell with an inmate who has Aids. This is loudly proclaimed by a note on his door. I look in the window and see a skeleton covered in skin. His eyes bulging out of his head as he waits to die. Unable to move or feed himself, he is “watched” by the staff. All I can think is: God-I will never have unprotected sex again, or use a needle.

It is now day 31-I am released to take a shower-down the hall I see a pay phone. I calmly walk toward it-like its ok. And place a fast call to the public defenders office. They had me out the next day.

On getting out of jail-I had lost my car, my job, and my apartment. My little indiscretion had cost me everything. And now I was homeless. It took 2 months. I finally found another job, but had been scrounging for food and sleeping on the streets for along time.

The moral of the story is-1 do not drive drunk
2- The jails cannot be trusted
3-stay away from the LA County Zoo at all costs

You might never be the same again.

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