There exists, in any occupation, the propensity to become lazy, to have one’s passion for a particular profession diminish over time. This is true of jail house guards as much as it is true of janitors. I had made mention in a previous post of the idea that 2/3 of the guards employed by Kitsap County didn’t want to be there, implying that the other half (not great with fractions) did want to be there. I arrived at this number purely through a subjective observation of the behavior I witnessed while serving my time. The number is not as important as the message that not everyone who was in charge of keeping the peace in the jail was interested in keeping the peace in the jail; this became problematic one Thursday morning at lunch (note: we took our lunch in the morning).
There was this kid in our block who was, for lack of a better term, slow; he had a hard time understanding simple concepts, and was highly agitated almost all of the time. I think his long-held insecurities were exacerbated by the fact that he had no where to go and be alone to process through his thoughts when he became frustrated. There was a horrible benefit to getting your name called for clean-up detail, and that was an extra meal tray…so if your name was up, your digestive system had to work twice as hard to dispose of the mounds of what was referred to as food in the K.C.B&B. I had a hard time choking down one, let alone what came after. This kid’s name was up for clean-up detail so the guards (two cage rattlers) handed the kid his two trays, but the kid didn’t understand why he was receiving two trays. Now the guards that wanted to be there (the non-cage rattlers) would’ve taken a moment to explain the circumstances to this kid, as it was no well-kept secret that he was a little disabled, but these two just started tearing into the kid without relent until the kid walked away, in tears, to his table…still confused. Agitated as ever, he grew more and more unsettled as each of the inmates tried to explain the circumstances to him; unfortunately, the damage had been done and the kid couldn’t really even hear what the inmates had to say. He was spun up. Finally, when one of the guys came up and tried to take his tray (another kid that should not have been in County, rather a state hospital) the kid snapped, he threw his food across the room, and began telling some other guy that he was “gonna lock him down” (no one really knew what that meant). The guards, of course, swooped in to see what the ruckus was about, asking, “what happened?”; none of us had the stones to tell them it was all their fault, we hadn’t the stones nor the opportunity. “LOCK DOWN!” We all went to our bunks as they cuffed the kid up and took him to solitary. On his way out one of the guards made an off-handed comment about it being too bad that Western State (a mental hospital in Western Washington) was over-full; thus making the point that he understood that the kid had mental issues. This was a wake-up call for me, the realization that things could get out of control quickly, that I had little control over my destiny, and that the guys whose job it was to maintain control, weren’t interested in maintaining control. I imagine this was some sort of karmic payback for my misspent youth when I would go down to the beach, find small crabs under the rocks, and put two of them in a Dixie cup to see how they’d react. In my defense, I was an idiot with no regard for anything but myself…I’m not sure how the guards would defend their behavior.
I was truly shaken, and had to fight the urge to cry; I was angry and scared and the only hope I had was in Christ, and that made me uncomfortable. I had always felt that I’d done a good job trusting in Christ, but it’s hard to maintain that delusion when all the things I used to supplement that trust were gone and I was left with nothing but the reality that trusting Christ made me uncomfortable. So I prayed and tried not to look weak and dug my heels in a little deeper, as I had four days and a wake-up before I could go home to my girls. After seeing how things could go wrong in five minutes, it seemed like an eternity.
For the most part, I passed my time reading, and writing. Every evening at 6pm I got to call home which was bitter-sweet, I could hear over the phone (when I could hear) the strain in my wife’s voice as she tried to hide her stress, and I could hear my little girl’s vocabulary growing exponentially in a short time. It was a constant reminder of the time I was losing. Ten days isn’t a great deal of time, I know many families are separated for longer spans, under nobler circumstance, but it was hard for me to be away from my wife and daughter.
Monday, October eighteenth at six in the morning my name was called, it was time for me to go home. I was returned my clothes, my I.D., and my black-framed sun-glasses, and I, along with two other guys, was led to an elevator that dropped us two floors to a corridor that had but one door, a door to the outside. I walked out toward my wife’s work to see my wife and daughter for the first time in a dime (or is that ten years…ten is ten you ask me) wondering how they would receive me, what it would feel like to be home, and where I could get a cup of coffee. There was also the not so insignificant detail of whether or not this whole thing would work out…would we be allowed to adopt our second daughter from China, or had I blown it, terminally.