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Part Deux
Previous | Next by ralph 28 October, 2002 - 7:00 PM

Well, where was I? Oh yeah. In jail.

At 6:00AM, the lights came back on in the cell, marking the beginning of my first full day in Hunterdon County lockup. At 6:05 the door of my cell magically unlocked itself and an unseen loudspeaker that was obviously set to its loudest setting blared to life. "Chow Up!" was what echoed throughout the pod, sounding not unlike the speaker at any drive-through fast food restaurant. I hopped off the top bunk, put on my oh-so-fashionable orange slippers and down to see what my first meal there would consist of. When I got down there and saw what was for breakfast, I immediately wished that I had stayed in bed. I grabbed my tray from the pile and saw that we were having gruel disguised as oatmeal, a piece of cornbread and scrambled eggs that still held the shape of the ice-cream scoop that was used to serve them. Tasty. I quickly observed that everyone else was opening the two sugar packets that were provided and dumping it on the "oatmeal". When in Rome. As I started to mix the sugar into the "oatmeal", I realized that it had a skin on the top like soup does when you leave it out too long. This was going to be good. Well, needless to say, the oatmeal was vile. The eggs were barely edible, along with the cold cornbread. Breakfast passed without a word from a single inmate, it appeared as if breakfast was merely a brief interruption to everyone's sleep. As each person finished, he put his tray in a pile by the door and went back into his cell for some more sleep. I followed suit. Well, one meal down, five to go for this weekend.

After breakfast, I climbed back into my bunk and passed out for a few hours. I woke up somewhere in the vicinity of 10:00 to the sound of Chris snoring. Again. Great, this guy was going to be sawing logs all weekend. It might be time to roll up some toilet paper and stuff it in my ears. I laid there, staring at the beige cinder-block walls for what seemed to be an eternity, thinking about how my stupid ass ended up in there, wondering what my friends were doing, what Melanie was doing. At that point, I decided that once my sentence was over, I wouldn't be coming back. Ever.

At 12:00, the loudspeaker came to life again, informing us of our next meal. Chris was still asleep. How can one person sleep so much I was wondering? Well, I guess he was used to sleeping in institutions, he'd been in jail multiple times, along with a few rehabs. He woke up to the sound of the loudspeaker, and we both made our way downstairs to eat. Lunch was better than breakfast, but not by much. The portions of every meal are very small, barely enough to keep the hunger at bay. I can't exactly recollect what was served that day, but undoubtedly it was served with two pieces of wonder bread, a vegetable, dessert (usually two Oreos), two pats of butter and a salt (wet) and pepper packet. After lunch, I retreated to my cell again. After about another two hours of staring at the walls and ceiling, I decided to go and see what my co inhabitants were watching.

There were probably 8 people downstairs; four of who were playing cards (spades, by the looks of it) and the rest were watching whatever mindless movie/show was on TV. I sat there, listening to everyone, trying to gather as much information as I could without actually talking to anyone. I managed to gather a few of their names. There was another Ralph (a black gentlemen of about 50 years old), Roach (yes, Roach; he looked to be about 20), and Carlos (Carlos looked to be in bad shape). After about an hour of watching TV, Carlos quit the game of spades, and I was asked if knew how/wanted to play. Sure, why not, I had nowhere else to go. Now I hadn't played in a few years, but I used to be pretty good. Well, it came back to me. My partner was named Brad. We sat and played for a few hours, and we absolutely mopped the floor with Roach and Chris.

At 3:30 to 4:15 every day is "lockdown". Inmates have to be locked in their cells. This is so the guards can do a shift change without worrying about us rioting, trying to escape, etc. Chris and I were locked in our cell (which fortunately had a clear view of the TV) and continued watching the cinematographic masterpiece "The Blob". During commercials, Chris paced throughout the cell like a caged lion. At 4:15, he was watching the clock on the wall in the pod, waiting for them to spring us from our cage. At 4:16, he began to get irate; "These motherfuckers get us into our cells on time, why the fuck can't they let us out on time!" At 4:17, he began pounding on the cell door with all of his might "Let us the fuck out!!" was repeated over and over. Around 4:20, the door was opened. Thank god.

Dinner came and went at 5:00 (some type of pasta with a hot dog sitting in the middle of it all) and so did more card games. Chris and I played a game of Rummy 5000 (yes, five thousand). Now, these cards that we were playing with were probably new in 1970. The deck (52 cards) was, no joke, two inches thick. Dog-eared didn't begin to describe this deck. Some of them were thicker than others; they had writing on them and were just falling apart. Shuffling them, and in turn, playing with them, was a joy.

After dinner, my biggest fear about going to jail was realized (well, maybe the second biggest fear, you can speculate about numero uno). I had to crap. Thankfully, my cellmate wasn't in the cell, he was down in the pod, on the phone with his not-yet-legal girlfriend. Pooping in jail is about as fun as you'd think it would be. First off, it's not like pooping at home, when you merely have to pull down your pants. No. You have to basically pull off your whole damn jumpsuit. I got the whole process done as quickly as I could and rejoined everyone for yet another game of cards.

We watched TV and played cards until lockdown at 11:30, thus beginning another night of fitful sleep.

Sunday went by in the exact same fashion. Every day in jail is the same, they all blend into one, and there is no variety at all. Three meals a day, card games, lots of sleeping, TV, and if you're lucky, you'll find a book to read. We got a new inmate or two that day, but no excitement. The high point of each day came when the COs brought the female inmates into the recreation pod, which was two doors down from us. You should have seen some of the guys in my pod go nuts. You'd think that they hadn't seen a woman in months, rather than a few days. And it's not like these women are very good looking either. Most of them have been on the inside for months at least, and looks aren't that important in jail.

By Sunday night, I had been able to learn a little bit about the company that I was keeping that weekend, and here's as much as I learned, inmate by inmate.

Chris - My cellmate
I've covered Chris in these posts, but there are a couple other things that are worth noting. First off, he's 21 or 22 years old and has a 17 year old girlfriend that he calls collect every hour or so (collect calls are the only calls you can make from jail, they each run upwards of five bucks - No 1-800-COLLECT here).

Roach is 19 years old and is in HCJ because someone threatened his younger brother. Well, that wasn't really it. Roach beat the crap out of the kid, and then stole whatever money he had on him. He was charged with Assault and Robbery. This wasn't Roach's first trip to jail, and I don't think it'll be his last. Roach was a pretty funny guy. On Sunday, I was in my cell reading a book from the extensive selection that they had, and I saw Roach walk up to the door of the pod and yell "OK! I was just kidding! I didn't really want to go to jail!" That got a pretty good laugh out of me.

Brad was my spades partner throughout my stay at HCJ. Brad was pretty quiet, kept mostly to himself, had a good sense of humor, and seemed to know what was going on. He also seemed to be a pretty smart guy. Brad wasn't on his first tour through jail either. I found out that Brad had finished a 7 year bid the year before and was out on parole when he tested positive for cocaine. He was hit with a VOP (violation of parole) and was in jail, waiting to see the judge. He was hoping that the judge would send him to a rehab program, and not hit him with the rest of his sentence. What that 7-year sentence was for, I don't know. Brad seemed like a pretty good guy. Let me rephrase that. In a place that's full of scumbags, Brad was probably the best one there.

Ralph (not me)
Ralph spent most of his time either in his cell or sitting at one of the tables talking about God. He was definitely a church-going man, but apparently forgot about one or more of those rules that the church has. What are they called? Oh yeah. The Ten Commandments. I'm not sure why Ralph was in there, but I bet there was a good story behind it since his bail was set to $50,000. I had asked him at one point why he was inside, but he said he couldn't talk about it and hinted that the whole thing was one big misunderstanding. I hope I don't ever have any $50,000 misunderstandings.

Franklin was a skinny, gray haired black man in his mid-fifties. Franklin liked to pick up hookers, and got himself caught one night. Oh yeah, he also had quite a selection of drugs on him, so he was going to be staying awhile. He was waiting to be transferred out of D-Pod to one of the other pods, where the guys that have to stay for an extended period of time stay. He stayed in his cell for most of the day, coming out for probably only two hours. He was real quiet, really kept to himself.

Earlier on I said that Carlos looked like he was in rough shape, and as it turns out, he was. Carlos was kicking heroin, and hadn't been sleeping for the past week. I'm not sure what he was in for, but I know that he liked to watch cartoons in the morning. God, there are some weird people out there.

Charles was a twenty-something year old black guy. He had his head shaved bald, showing off the 2" x 4" scar on the back of his head rather nicely. He got picked up for an outstanding warrant for marijuana possession and his bail was set at $100. He couldn't post bail, so he had to wait until he could come up with the money. It turns out he ended sitting there from Saturday till Wednesday, just because he couldn't come up with a hundred bucks. Sorry bastard.

Mr. Angry
I don't know what Mr. Angry's name was, but he had an attitude about everything. The food, the accommodations, the COs, the water temperature in the shower. It turns out, he got caught driving without insurance and got a sentence similar to mine. What the hell did he have to be angry about? It wasn't his first trip there either.

I was released on Monday morning at 6AM, an hour earlier than I thought I would be. Sleeping on Sunday night was like trying to sleep on Christmas Eve when you're 7 years old. I knew that the next morning was going to be great. It was fantastic to walk outside and breath the cold, fresh air. One weekend down, one more to go.

OK, that's about it for today. Tomorrow's post won't be nearly as long, I promise. Stay tuned for the final installment of my time in jail.

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