THINGS I HAVE LEARNED SINCE MY RELATIVE HAS BEEN IN JAIL AWAITING A PLEA DEAL OR TRIAL

  1. The right to a speedy trial is horseshit.
    Unless they mean relatively, as in: compared to the lifespan of the earth, this is speedy. I have seen so many continuances and delays of a month or two because a prosecutor hasn't had time to look at the evidence or because, say, a major sports hero has died and his funeral closes downtown and cancels all court proceedings for the day.
  2. Jail is cruel and unusual punishment.
    I'm not going to argue for kitten playtimes and fur-lined bunks. I know this is punishment. But my relative has been in jail for three months and hasn't been outside once. He is in a dorm with 23 other men who have access to no programs of any kind. They are bored senseless, which creates a fantastic breeding ground for tension. Jail time is considered far harder to do than prison time because of the lack of activities, resources, jobs and outdoor time.
  3. It makes no difference if your crimes occur as a result of your addiction.
    Besides initial detox, the jail has one 30-day drug treatment program. But it is over-booked and underfunded. With hundreds in jail on drug- and addiction-related charges, there is room for 60 men and 30 women. And that's one of the LARGEST jail addiction programs in the country. At a time when a person is most ripe for change and reeducation, the waiting list is months long. My relative could be getting help instead of staring at the ceiling all day.
  4. The profiteering is ridiculous.
    From the commissary to the privatized phone call company charges, keeping your relative safe and staying in contact are expensive propositions. The majority of guys in my relative's dorm have no family contact or commissary funds because their families can't afford it.
  5. Healthcare is frighteningly slow.
    When my relative was arrested, he bruised a couple of ribs. He had pain that prevented him from sleeping. It took a month before he got to see the doctor. All he needed — and wanted — was some ibuprofen. A month.
  6. The jail, and many like it, is over-crowded, under-budget and under-staffed.
    It's not safe for inmates or COs. Guys are sleeping on the floor. Dorms are holding many more inmates than they were designed to. When the jail is over-crowded there are no funds for additional food so they stretch the same amount of food across all the inmates. This makes supplemental food (tuna, ramen) from commissary even more important.
  7. More than half of the guys in my relative's dorm are in for domestic violence.
    Especially chilling given the wealth of research connecting domestic violence and perpetrators of mass shootings.
  8. There is no room for nuance in most statutes and mandatory minimums are bullshit.
    Which I knew before but I REALLY know now.
  9. Everyone is fighting a hard battle.
    I know — it's a cliché. But the visitation waiting rooms are filled with people gathered for a common purpose. I see so many small kids here visiting a parent, or parents holding it together while they visit their children. It is all heartbreaking and some of them have shown me great kindness.
  10. This happens in all kinds of families.
    We thought we were different, too.
  11. Visitation isn't necessarily what you think.
    While it varies from facility to facility, the visitations at my relative's jail are done by video. You go to the jail, sign in and wait up to three hours to sit in a room at a bank of grainy television screens and talk to him via a handset while he sits somewhere in the same building and talks to us through a screen on his end. There is no in-person contact.
  12. Inmates are crazy imaginative when it comes to cooking and other hacks.
    A guy in my relative's dorm made a birthday cake from commissary items by crushing up cookies for the bottom layer, filling it with peanut butter cups. He rolled out two honey buns with a soda bottle and used it as a fondant to drape over the top. Guess that's where all the free time comes in handy.
  13. Nobody other than my relative reads to pass time time in his dorm.
    They think he's strange for reading for pleasure. He says, however, that there are enough chess masters to take down Russia.