I received this story from Rita via Facebook.
I am a 64 year old mom of two, grandma of an amazing 16 year old, and wife of 40 years who saw your Locked-Up Abroad episode Raving Arizona. I have such a 4th Avenue jail story. My family and friends can barely believe what happened to me.
It’s pretty hard for me to write, but I've been carrying a lot of pain and fear and anger for 16 months. I’m a Buddhist and that has saved me, otherwise I think I would have been devoured by the whole mess. There is not a soul in the world I hate or hold bad feelings for, however Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his thugs tip the scale.
First, I am not looking for pity or absolution or trying to make excuses for what I did and the consequences. I am ashamed and still in disbelief over what I did and what happened to me. I do accept responsibility, but I will never accept being dehumanized at the hands of Arpaio and his sadists in the 4th Avenue jail in Jan 2011.
My background. I’ve lived in my home for 30 years. I have never had any problems with the police or courts. I volunteer in food banks and reading programs. My last job was a Flight Attendant.
Both of my parents were died in the wool alcoholics. Dad was a vicious bully who beat my mom senseless for years and mentally terrorized me. Mom had series of suicide attempts. I was an only child – a mistake in the back seat of a car.
I was a great student. I made up my mind to never wallow in the crap I was subjected to as a child. I held good jobs and met a "solid" man who I married and the rest is history.
I did inherit the addiction gene, and battled alcohol off and on for years, but I was never a script druggie or used illegal drugs. Once a year, I smoked a joint, which hurt my lungs, so I never made a habit out of it.
I’ve suffered from hideous nightmares since childhood. Sleep is very strained. I have been prescribed several sleep tablets: Ambien, Lunesta… But I can’t tolerate them. I become irrational and horrible when I take them, so I just get whatever sleep I can. I am prescribed Enbrel, a biologic medication for rheumatoid arthritis and it is wonderful. I've been on Fluoxetine for about 20 years. It seems okay. I take vitamins and heart medication as I had a cardiac ablation in 2006. I love reading and have hundreds of books in my library. I love art, music and nature.
My daughter is bipolar, which we have experienced with her since she was about 22. She lives with us off and on, and has had many suicide attempts. She has a big heart but a huge hole in her soul.
Okay now back to Jan 30th 2011. At about 10am, I was asleep in my room. I heard scratching at my door, so I got up. My Australian Shepherd pet was standing there caked in his own diaherrhea. My husband had been up since 3am, and my 38 year old daughter since 9am. The poor dog couldn't get anyone to let him outside to do his business. I just stood there for a minute. I walked toward the back door, through the kitchen and family room. There was dog poop the whole way as he was becoming occasionally incontinent. His long hair was coated with poop. I let him out and went to my husband in his den. I asked why he hadn’t let the dog out.
He said, “I’ve been busy on my computer and didn't notice him.”
I went to my daughter in the bathroom, getting ready for work, and asked her why she hadn’t let him out. I got an eye roll. That just did it for me.
Everyone expects me to clean up the poop. I always have and still do. I went out and hand-cleaned his poor old bottom. I came back, but couldn't get anyone to communicate with me. I went and had two Natural Light beers. I thought I didn’t want to argue and face today, so I went and got my husband’s Temazepam he takes for sleep. I took at least two. I went back in my room and lay down. I just wanted to sleep.
I do not remember anything till after 3pm. I was standing in front of my front entry door with a 9mm Ruger pointed at my head, babbling, reality going in and out. I remember looking up at the sky and thinking, What a wonderful blue sky. Then I saw four Chandler Police officers with their guns aimed at me behind our retaining wall about six foot from me.
I heard them yelling, “Please don't make us do this!” and I didn't have a clue what they were talking about.
I was standing there with this gun as if it were no more than a cell phone or a soda. I knew I had it, but I didn't know why. I was brandishing it. Then I saw our neighbor across the street coming down his driveway and I thought, Oh Roger is gonna wash the Corvette. Maybe I'll help him...
I felt totally disconnected from what was happening , and like I was floating, no fear, no worries, just in the moment as we Buddhists like to say. I sat down on a bench at our door with the gun in my lap and the police still yelling at me. I felt so sorry for the young men in front of me. I couldn't understand why they were so upset. Then my front door opened and out came my poor old 70 year old husband.
The police then took aim at him. Well, he grabbed the gun and threw it in the birdbath away from me. The police were screaming, “Get in the house!” The next thing I knew, I was walking toward the police with my hands up. I went around the corner of house where two very large officers with assault rifles grabbed me, handcuffed me behind my back, dragged me half a block to the squad car, and threw me in. They had cordoned off the whole neighbourhood. There were 15 officers there. They thought I was probably going to die that day.
I give them so much credit for their restraint in not firing at me. They were just playing it second by second. I have no problems with their behavior or response at all. They were professional and did what was necessary.
Next, I was taken to the Chandler Police Department building, finger-printed and booked. I started to get into reality a bit more. It was my arresting officer’s second day on the job. He was so nervous, absolutely a great guy. His training officer let him take charge. He was having a hard time with the fingerprint machine, so we both worked on it together. I was still not totally in reality. I knew where I was, but just didn't care. I was cooperative, jovial and even downright funny. We got along fine. The officers told me that I would need to be booked at Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s jail and I could be bonded out that evening or early morning.
So far, I was making the best of a very bad situation. They took me into the 4th Avenue jail, and right off the bat I knew this wasn’t a good situation. It was dirty and loud and hostile and oh so cold. I was barefoot and in my jammies. No one would even offer me flip flops for my feet, which were scraped bad from being drug through the rocks and over the pavement.
I kept thinking, Hold on you'll be okay. You got yourself into this and you will have to suffer the consequences.
A guard threw me in a Plexiglas tiny holding cell with a poor girl who had seen better days. Her makeup everywhere. Only one high heel. Her fishnets ripped. She was totally not there.
My arresting officer said, “Don't talk to the crazy lady.”
I told him, “I’m the crazy lady.”
He and his trainer and I had developed a good rapport.
I was interviewed and asked health questions. I told them about my prescription meds. Then my arresting officer said he was going to be leaving soon. I got scared, more scared than I have ever been. Just the week before, Marty Atencio had been killed by guards using Tasers at this jail.
Video of the guards murdering Marty:
In a loud voice, I said, “Please don't leave me. They kill people here.”
So help me God, you could have heard a pin drop.
The woman interviewing me said, “Tell ya what I'm gonna do with you. You don't seem to be taking this very seriously, so four guards are gonna take you to a cell where you will be all by yourself. It’s padded. No toilet. No toilet paper. You get a hole in the floor to do your business. These guards will throw you on the floor and take all your clothes off and your dentures and they will leave you there. If you don't cooperate there with them, they will make it bad on you.”
I started crying
“Shut up!” she yelled.
I called over to my arresting officer who looked about as scared as me. He came and put his arm around my shoulder and said, “You are a strong woman. You can do this. Stay calm. Don't talk. Don't cause trouble and do exactly what they tell you. You'll get thru this.”
Then I pleaded with him to call my family and let them know where I was. I asked him to call and check to see if I was still alive the next day. He said he would. I really thought I was going to be a statistic. I’d pissed the jailers off and they were gonna make sure I was as miserable as possible.
My arresting officer walked with me to the bench in front of the booking desk and set me down and cuffed me to the wall. He was talking with staff.
A young African American was a couple feet down the bench, dressed so cool. He kept staring at my bare feet. “Where's your shoes?”
“I don’t have any.”
“You shouldn't be walking on that cold filthy floor barefoot.” He yelled up to one of the staff at the desk to get me some slippers and they told him it wasn't his business and to shut up and stay out of it.
I said quietly, “That's okay. Don't worry.”
“No it isn't. I'll get my shoes off and you take my socks.”
“No. I’m sure they’ll give me something.”
A few minutes later, my arresting officer came over and walked me back until the jail staff took charge of me. He held my shoulder the whole time and kept whispering, “You will make it. Stay strong.”
I don’t think I've ever been given more compassionate concerned advice from a stranger in my life.
“Thanks for not shooting me.” I knew he would make a great police officer.
My own personal hell was about to begin.
I can’t stand whiners and I don't want to come across that way. I only spent 4 days in Arpaio’s jail, but what I want to emphasize is whether you are there for 4 minutes, 4 days or 4 years, you have certain human rights, and if you do not do anything to disrupt the system, you should not be degraded and dehumanized.
First thing was I had to strip in front of the guards, both male and female. They gave me a cavity search. I was dressed again to be taken to "wherever." Four women guards took me, handcuffed and shackled. They pushed me into a room called “the pit” and pushed me forward on the floor face down, spread-eagled. They tripped off all my clothes and warned me they would make it hard if I didn't cooperate.
They told me to give up my dentures and one said, “If you don't, I'll take them and you won’t like that.”
They left me totally unclothed. The pit smelled and had handprints on the wall of people who had streaked their poop across it. In the middle of the floor was my "urinal'' – a hole in the floor about 12 inches in diameter with metal bars across it. Every time someone flushed a toilet upstairs it would gurgle like it was going to back up. I figured I was in a women’s section but soon found out differently.
The door opened and a male guard threw in a 3 by 3 foot plastic dog pad as a blanket. It was stiff and not large enough to cover much. There were cameras in the room and oh my God how cold it was. I was born and raised in Denver, so I knew the cold, but this was terrible. I couldn't quit shaking. About every couple of hours, a male guard would come to the door to look in a small window to check on me.
After several hours, I was so thirsty, so I stood by the door and waited till he came and asked for water. When he gave me half of a bathroom Dixie cup for mouthwash, I asked if I could have toilet paper.
“What am I supposed to do?”
“Figure it out.”
I was in that pit for 17 hours with no food and only about 4 ounces of water, really cold and so humiliated. I couldn't sleep because I was so cold and I was on the cold floor. I really thought I was going to die. I hadn't had my medication in 2 days. I could feel I was dehydrating. My arms were completely black from my fingers to my elbows from the cuffs the police and guards had put on me. I was bearing everything but the cold. I put my modesty and femininity aside and just knew I had to deal with it.
During the night, I had to urinate twice and those times were the closest I came to crying. I have never had to squat to pee on the ground with no toilet paper. I mentally told myself, You will not poop in here and believe me I held it in.
Believe it or not, I sang Johnny Cash jail songs and Emmylou Harris also. My Buddhism helped me. I focused on each individual moment and didn't think ahead about, When am I getting out? I just had to be in the moment.
The guy in the room on my left cried and sobbed a lot of the night. The guy in the room on the right ranted and cursed and raved the whole time. Apparently he was a Veteran of Afghanistan and was hitching across the country when he was picked up by Sheriff’s deputies and thrown in jail because he had a sign asking for food money. I didn't try to communicate because I didn't know if that would violate their rules, plus both of my neighbors were in their own hells.
I did look out of the tiny door window and made the attention of a young Hispanic guy in a room labelled ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement]. I started giving him the peace sign and he grinned and gave it back.
Finally, I had no idea what time it was but the door flew open and a male guard threw a plastic bag with my clothes in it at me. Two people dressed as civilians were standing there staring at me, a man and a woman. They never said a word, but I took them for psychiatric doctors. I had to ask for my dentures.
I was foolish enough to think I was leaving, but the guard said, “Hurry and get dressed you are going to court.”
I thought, Okay, at least that is progress.
I wasn’t allowed to wash or comb my hair to go to court. I got dressed and was taken out and shackled to a bunch of women in a line in the hall, cuffed at the waist of course, still in jammies, still barefoot. We stood there for a long while, men on one side, women on the other, no one talking. I was the oldest person there, 63, and I think everyone knew I was out of place. The inmates were all kind to me, and somewhat caring. The guards were disgraceful. I'm not a dancer or very coordinated, but I was having a horrible time shuffling down the hall once we got moving. I didn't want to trip the other girls up because I thought the guards would beat me.
We were led to a garage area to get into a paddy wagon, men on one side, women on the other to go to Chandler Municipal Court. I had a hell of a time getting up the steps to the wagon. I pretty much crawled on my hands and knees, and not a guard would give me a hand. We were scrunched in pretty tight with no safety restraints. There was no heat, and it was really cold. Some of the gals and guys bantered back and forth. I guess there were a lot of return customers. I just kept looking down at my cold bare feet. Everyone else had shoes or slippers. Everyone else had an ID bracelet. I had a piece of paper they gave me to hold on to. We made the 40 minute trip to Chandler court.
I stumbled off the wagon and we stood for a long time, each waiting our turn to go to the room and talk to the judge through a phone. I could not hear him. When I finally got there, he was a pisser.
He said, “This is terrible. You cannot go back to this address on the report until you have a letter on my desk on Monday morning from all the residents in the house that you can come back, and I'm going to plead for you guilty.”
Oh my God, I thought, Wait a minute, you can’t do that. It’s my right to plead guilty or not guilty.
He issued me a $2,500 dollar bail, and that was it other than to keep telling me I was terrible. At that point, I didn't know what crazy shit I had done that day, but I knew I was in deep and I felt like I was singled out. I just kept quiet and remembered what the arresting officer had told me. I knew I was in Arpaio's custody and anything could occur.
We made it back to the 4th Avenue jail, where we were put in a hall and divided up. I was sent to a cell, not back to the pit. A guard threw a real blanket to me. I tried lying on the concrete shelf and sleeping, unsuccessfully. I had no idea what was coming next. I was alone, but the blanket was a blessing. Actually it was a sheet, but who's to quibble. I was still barefoot, still in my jammies.
I was taken to another room with a lot of guards and fingerprinted again and given another piece of paper. I couldn't read it because I had no glasses.
A woman guard came up to me out of nowhere and said, “Don't accept any favors. You’ll never be able to pay them back.”
I had no idea what she was talking about.
From there, I was taken back to a little cell, and sometime later, collected.
A guard told me, “You’re going to see the psych.”
I thought, Good, let me tell them I have no idea what’s happening, no idea what I did to get here.
I was really scared, sat in a holding cell waiting to see the psychiatric doctor for a long time. A nasty little cell with cockroaches. I had no idea how long I had been there even what day it was and I was so tired and cold. The guards everywhere in the facility were wearing big old ski jackets.
Finally, a doctor came in and asked me a few questions. He wanted to know if I would go to a treatment center if they scheduled it. I happily agreed. I would have agreed to eating nails at that point.
“I'll get on it,” he said.
Now up until this point and through the entire ordeal no one had given me a sobriety test or drug test. I sat there alone for a long time, so thirsty and light headed and not thinking I was ever going to go home or if my family even wanted me. I started thinking I have crossed the line and my husband is not going to bail me out, and I'm not really sure what I did.
So now I was really depressed and paranoid and thinking, This is my future.
I’m going to stop here for now, and will write more later. In my heart of hearts, I know my human rights were violated and in this country at this time that is totally unacceptable. What is even worse is that I'm frightened to step forward. I just can’t seem to let go of this, and I don't want others to have their humanity ripped from them.