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Jail - Frequently Asked Questions

  • What was it like to be arrested?

Well, it has happened about three times now, each a little different:

  • When resisting eviction from a home where I lived alone - There was a knock at the door and the deputies introduced themselves.  I invited them in, and treated them courteously. I told them I understood they were just here doing their job and I didn't have any problems with that and didn't plan on giving them a hassle; however, I did tell them I would not leave the home voluntarily and they would have to arrest me. I think they were genuinely baffled by that. They were pretty nice and spent quite a while trying to talk me out of it.  I lived in a pretty nice house, about a $150,000 -- and almost all my furnishings were still there. They told me it would be a waste to see it all gone, they would give me more time if I would just agree to leave. It was not an easy decision for me!  Finally they put the "cuffs" on me and took me away.  By this time some neighbors were watching -- they could see me being taken away.  It touched some of them also -- and in a spontaneous effort they rescued much of my personal property!
  • When asking for arrest with the Sheriff - It was strange walking into a Sheriff's substation asking to be arrested as part of a protest.  The deputies didn't quite know how to handle it. Some attacked my methods and mental stability (although others seemed to appreciate my reasons and experience). I was treated with contempt by some, and at times it would have been  easy to respond with contempt for them -- I tried to avoid that. Civil Disobedience does work  There was one deputy who was especially verbally abusive. I remained polite and he was the one to drive me about 30 minutes to the Jail.  While we were in his car his mood eventually softened and we got to talking. He had also been through divorce. We talked about our children and by the time he left -- I felt we had a common respect for each other, and he wished me luck.
  • When arrested by City Police - For a description of what happened, read a letter I wrote soon after. This was truly bizarre. For a while I felt I would suffer physical injury during the arrest.  The officers appeared very provoked by my request and I had a lot of rough physical handling -- it was difficult to remain passive.  One needs to be very careful!  As I wrote in the letter, it can require strong mental discipline to override a natural "self defense" reaction.

A common theme of what well intentioned folks told me was, "You are not going to accomplish anything by doing this, no one is going to notice."  For anyone thinking about this type of action. Remember, you are doing it because you believe your cause is "right", don't count on becoming a 'star' or getting publicity -- carefully read the words of Gandhi, and what he says about chasing results.

  • How was jail?

The Justic Center here is pretty new.  Every prisoner has their own "cell" (a bed, a toilet, a sink, and small table).  Within the POD or cell block there are about 50 inmate cells. There is an eating area with tables/chairs. There is also a "recreation" area which has two TVs and chairs. There is also a small library (consisting of mostly Reader's Digest condensed books).

I really had no complaints at all. If you have been through any type of Military Basic Training, it is a much less "strenuous" experience. I didn't know what to expect, but I was surprised to discover that the percentage of "jerks" doesn't change in any population, whether that be an office, school, or jail.  Within a few days I had made some friends with guys that were in on a variety of charges.  I still go down to visit or write some of them even now!

I never felt in danger there from the other inmates.

In an earlier occasion my son was still living nearby and by far the hardest thing was not seeing Domenic.  The weekend was especially tough, it normally would have been our weekend together -- I looked outside the "bars" and thought how we would be playing together right now -- was what I was doing really worth it? I was very close to trying to get out right away!

Since he relocated to California, the last stay of 21 days was not that bad.

  • What was your daily schedule?

6 AM - Still dark, the deputy would do the rounds and give anyone a razor that wanted to shave that morning. After you were done, you put it in your cell window, and he would pick it up.

7 AM - Breakfast, which came in trays, was delivered to the POD (cell block). We would be released from our individual cells and come down to eat. We would sit 4 at a table and most people were in a routine of sitting together with folks they knew (or got to know).

8 AM - We were locked in to our private cells after breakfast. Some of the guys were designated "cleanup" and they would take care of the eating area. For their efforts they were credited about $1/day which could be used to buy food from vending machines. After cleanup we were then released again and free to read/watch TV/talk/play cards/chess...

It is important to keep yourself "occupied" both mentally and physically -- I learned that when undergoing POW training in the military.  I established my own "routine". We were normally locked in after breakfast, lunch, and dinner.   During each of those times I would go back to my cell and:

  1. Do a series of back excercises.  I've been liable to back sprain. A doctor had recommended the exercises, but of course I am usually to busy to do them -- no problem here!
  2. Prayer/mediation.  I would either pray 5 decades of a rosary, or recite a series of Psalms from the book "Christian Prayer"
  3. Warmup/excercise - 40 jumping jack, 20 toe touches, some stretches -- then two sets of 25 pushups and 25 situps each
  4. Repeat the back exercise.
  5. ALL of the above took about 45 minutes

During the day I did not watch TV, but tried to either do some writing or reading. Many times, another inmate and I would just talk. After supper I would watch something interesting, or just play cards with some of the guys.

11 AM - Lunch was brought to the pod. The only eating utensil you get is a plastic spoon -- spaghetti is really a riot!

12 AM - 1 PM - Lock in

2:30 PM  - 3:15 PM - Lock in.

5 PM - Supper

6 PM - 7PM - Lock in.

10 PM - Lock in for the night.

  • What could you buy in Jail

It is good to have about 40-50 dollars when you are arrested. This is put into an inmate account and you are allowed to make purchases while jailed. You can buy stamps, paper, pencils, envelopes, toothpaste, and junk food too.  Family/friends can deposit more money into the account.

Again, I did not buy any extra food (popcorn, pastries, etc). It was a bit of self denial/discipline.

  • What happened to your property (arrest which occured in Dec of 97)?

I have to say there was a "Christmas miracle."  When I was hauled off to jail, the "movers" were already starting to take my property and put in out front of the house. I fully expected to come back to nothing.  I was quite surprised to find out my neighbors had rescued quite a bit of my stuff!  The people living near me were aware of what has happening, and when they saw the police cars, and saw people taking my stuff -- they got involved and started carrying the material to their own houses.

I really can't say enough good things about them!  Thanks to them I had all the furnishing's I need to equip an apartment (where I am living now). It was a lot of back breaking work -- especially right before Christmas where I am sure they had other plans.   It is nice to know there are a lot of good people around.


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