First Time (by Guest Blogger Jose in San Diego)
It is with great pleasure that I introduce this guest blog by one of the longest running readers of Jon’s Jail Journal, Jose in San Diego.
I remember the first time I arrived in the San Diego County Jail. I finally made it out of the bullcrap kindergarten world of Juvenile Corrections and into the Junior College of the Justice System. I was arrested a few times before as a juvenile, but in September of 1996 was my first trip to adult county.
A few homeboys and I had been drinking all day when a buddy of ours named “Chance” came around with a half sheet of LSD. He immediately gave Villain and I a tab each and within the hour we started to feel the effects. Well as anyone who has done acid knows, smoking weed enhances the high, and we were smoking bowl after bowl and laughing until our insides were hurting.
It was only around 7:00 in the evening when we ran out of beer. As if reading each others minds, Villain and I immediately knew what we needed to do. BEER RUN. This was a regular practice of ours and it wasn’t unusual for us to drive around and hit convenience store after convenience store sometimes 6 to 7 stores in a row. The funny (or stupid, more fittingly) thing is we decided to hit the 7-11 DIRECTLY ACROSS THE STREET from my house.
There was a Texaco gas station located immediately to the right about 20 yards from my house. The gas station lost its liquor license and it went through numerous ownership changes and thus I lost my connection who would front (loan with interest) us beer and alcohol. The only places you can do beer runs where the policy prohibits owners from confrontations with thieves and robbers are convenience stores that are not franchised. We had never attempted a beer run from this location because of its close proximity to my home and the alley about 4 blocks south where we convened.
With all reasoning out of our heads and thirsting for more beer, Villain and I left the house bent on our objective. About a few steps to the liquor store I realized three things. One, I recognized the Arab who was working the shift and two, we were wearing house slippers. Hardly good for traction when fleeing a crime scene. Third, I thought, “Where are we going to go after we get the beer??” I spoke my thoughts to Villain who simply replied “Fuck it, we’ll just run!” The dilated pupils and huge grin made the plan seem foolproof, and on we went.
We walked right into the 7-11 and made an immediate left to the coolers that housed the liquor. The store was staffed by only 2 workers, the Arab and a younger Chicano. I always felt the need to go first as I wanted to always be the first one out of the store, leaving any other accomplice with the bigger chance of encounters with those who tried to stop us. Our usual demeanor was one of arrogance, as we would usually stroll into a store casually, grab all items we wanted including beer, and walk out simply without any care of repercussion or any attempts to stop us. We simply didn’t care because there were always too many of us and because any one who foolishly attempted to stop us usually found out the hard way that preventing the theft of two twelve packs worth a total of $15.00 is not enough to justify serious bodily injury or even death.
Our look as we always walked out to stunned patrons and staff was a look of “Is it worth your life to confront me?” It worked 100% of the time. Or in this case, it was just time that our luck, more so mine, ran out. As to avoid being detected as the “neighbor from across the street”, I ran out with full speed as soon as I grabbed the two twelve packs, one in each arm. I assumed Villain would follow suit, which he did.
As soon as I was out of the store the first car that was pulling into the 7-11 parking lot was a San Diego Police Dept. cop car. I reacted by immediately throwing the first twelve pack at the windshield with a weak underhand toss that landed on the hood, exploding on impact. The cops managed to jump out with weapons drawn demanding me to stop. Villain was running directly parallel to me but froze when the cops drew their weapons. I on the other hand continued to run past the open cop doors and tried a little evasive maneuvers to escape. I threw the other twelve pack behind me and made my way south on the next street. Thinking I could outrun the officer and hit the alley where I can jump the neighbors houses and make it home safely, I turned on the burners hoping to make my escape.
I had a good lead when suddenly a black and white cut me off. I squeezed by and I heard another officer yell to me “Stop right now or I am going to beat your ass when I catch you”.
I didn’t wait to find out the outcome on whether he made good on his promise. I immediately dropped to the ground and was placed under arrest. I remember the officers placing me in the back of the car and driving like mad men looking for my accomplice. I told them I had no idea where he was and because my license had my previous address located across town, so they gave up.
They drove me back to the 7-11 store where no one was willing to identify me which infuriated the officers. The Sergeant on the scene told the officers that the simplest way to deal with the matter was to charge me with minor (since I was 18 and not 21) in possession of alcohol. As we arrived at the San Diego Police Department to be booked and processed, I come to find out I was being charged with BURGLARY in the second degree, which carried up to a year in the County Jail.
The county jail pull is where all of the cops bring in criminals, and is sort of like a bustling grand central station, except no one is departing, every one is here on arrival. Many different Law Enforcement agencies from the San Diego Police Department, San Diego Sheriffs Department, Harbor Police, San Diego State University Campus Police, and a variety of other agencies all bring in their prisoners to the main central jail booking. It is also a place of fraternizing for all of the agencies to pretty much grab a cup of coffee or water and leave you in the car with uncomfortable handcuffs until they deem ready to come get you and book you.
At times I have been immediately taken, while others waiting an hour or more. Heat isn’t an issue because San Diego is usually 72 degrees year round and the booking is underground. After being taken out you are fingerprinted, photo taken and wrist banded (usually blue for mainline meaning you are staying a while and purple bands meaning you will be released “soon”). Then you are placed in a holding cell. At this point you are still in your civilian clothes and mixed in with everyone from DUI arrestees to rapists and murderers. The cell merry-go-round continues until you are placed upstairs into a permanent cell.
As soon as you arrive, you are given a brown bag containing a bologna sandwich, a cookie, and juice, along with mustard and mayonnaise packets. Now, to be quite honest, the lunch is good. Nothing like the green bologna as described by Jon. Some people hate it, but I never had an issue with the food. The cells are kept cold, but not to the freezing point as described by other inmates in Arizona. After a while of talking to other inmates and seeing a few homies and checking fools, they place you in ANOTHER holding cell. They keep getting smaller and smaller as inmates are removed and the last group you are with is the one that goes upstairs with you to the permanent cells.
My group had a core of 7 of us. A few for gang violations, one for Grand Theft Auto, and one for rape. He was a young boy about 19 that came from a very well to do affluent area of San Diego. He informed us that he was in for a rape charge. It was the run of the mill story heard a thousand times before. College frat party, him and a drunk girl had intercourse, he passes out, and is awaken by the police and the victim pointing him out. It was his first time in jail. When we heard his story we simply told him to do one thing as soon as you are placed into a cell: he needed to inform the guard that you want to be placed into protective custody. Even though he was not CONVICTED of the crime, we told him that his inexperience in the justice system along with rapists not being a hot commodity in jail would be the best course of action. If any shot-callers interpreted his crime as a for sure thing, it could target him for assault. I never forget the look in his face. He immediately got on the phone and called his family and begged for them to bail him out. Within 2 hours the kid was gone. We knew the trial and ordeal ahead of him was not going to be fun.
Finally, after a couple more hours (usually when falling asleep), the corrections officers usually come to take you upstairs. You are led outside of the holding tank and told to stand against the wall, nose to it. There are three different colored lines that are on the floor that dictate where you are going to be heading. There is red, blue and yellow. Honestly I never knew the difference but they all lead to somewhere. We were told to stand on the blue line, and you always had to walk with your hands inside of your waistband.
We were taken upstairs and given our showers and placed into our cells. I was given a cell with a homeboy from the South Bay named Big Chino. He was a cool dude facing a light little day or two due to a warrant for a DUI charge he never went to court for. We chatted and finally called it a night. The funny thing is I came down off of my acid high immediately after hitting the cell. I wasn’t even tripping hard.
In the morning at 4:00 you are woken up and breakfast is served. One of the best meals. A bag with those little cereal plastic bowls with the cereal in it (Rice Krispies) with 2 juices, a hard boiled egg, bread, and a cup of hot coffee. Then you go back to your cell. You are brought down about 2 hours later to watch TV, read, talk. This is the same routine except on Sundays when you can go to a little Church mass. We used to be able to play basketball in the roof of the building which is the recreation yard until an ex-cop was stabbed in the neck while getting a haircut.
Finally on my arraignment I was taken to court. You stand in this little glass box with other inmates until you see the judge. The DA told me before I saw the judge that since it was my first arrest as an adult that they would drop the burglary charge to misdemeanor possession of alcohol, if I plead guilty, paid a $50.00 court fine, and went to AA meetings and remained on probation for 3 years. I agreed, which if you recall was the first initial charge the Sergeant wanted to place on me anyway! I was taken in front of the judge, repeated yes your honor to everything he stated, and was taken back to be released.
Now if you have been to jail, it seems to take almost twice as long to get released than to be processed. I remember being taken to another holding cell, then one more, then to the final one where you are given the clothes you came in with and told to take off the county issued jump suit and throw everything into a big trash can. I remember my homeboys always sneaking out an SD JAIL jump shirt or even the pants under the clothes they wore out until I saw the BIG HUGE SIGN that reads IT IS A FELONY TO TAKE ANY JAIL ISSUED CLOTHING OUTSIDE WITH YOU. I thought “great, all I need on my way out is for them to search the bin and find the shirt missing and take me right back inside”. I decided against it.
Finally after waiting 2 hours in the last holding cell and reading every piece of graffiti, My name was called to the little box and I was buzzed into the final door. There is a glass with a clerk who gives you your personal property such as wallet, cell phone, money, watch, etc.and then finally takes scissors and cuts off your tag. Then you are buzzed through one final door. After that you head down about three sets of stairs and finally outside into freedom.
The other thing is you never know what time it is until you hit the door. I came out during the downtown lunch hour with hundreds of people milling around while I looked like shit. I called a girlfriend up who worked for a downtown printing press and she came and got me and took me home.
For my first trip to County I achieved my goal and made it to the first stop before my eventual incarceration in prison. I wore that trip like a badge of honor and went to the homies who welcomed me and congratulated me for finally getting there. “It ain’t shit huh homie!” I remember the homeboy Bird telling me. “Nah dog. Easy-ass time. Boring as fuck though”. I came to find out the Villain had gotten away scott free as he ran and went to the backdoor into my house while the police focused their efforts on me. I remember trying to return to the 7-11 and was told by the clerks who actually had known it was me, that I was not ever welcomed back. Till this day, nearly 14 years later, I never stepped foot inside that 7-11.
As this is Jose in San Diego’s first guest blog at Jon’s Jail Journal, your comments would be greatly appreciated.
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Shaun P. Attwood