Jail is jail no matter how nice it is painted. The walls in Delaware County jail look freshly painted right now. It’s clean. The brown industrial carpet is clean. All of the windows are gleaming and streak free. For a jail it looks pretty nice. The hard heavy plastic chairs that probably weigh five hundred pounds kind of put a damper on comfort and the inch and a half bullet proof glass that surrounds a lady are a bit intimidating to say the least. But if you try really hard you can almost forget that you are sitting in a jail waiting room.
I have been sitting here roughly one hour and twelve minutes. My right foot is totally asleep. There is a man that has been here two hours and twelve minutes. He is waiting for his friend to get released. It looks like he just now finally decided to give up waiting and put some money on the jail phone system so the guy can call when he actually gets out.
It’s very interesting here and also soberingly sad.
Another man came in about thirty minutes ago to pick up his wife’s cell phone.
She was arrested at probation for failure to do something. He waited about a half an hour for the guard to call him back only to realize he forgot his ID. He looked so defeated. He started to tell me his story and then just stopped. He shook his head and went quiet. Drugs are involved. His life most likely isn’t what he imagined on his wedding day. Or ever for that matter. He is back now with ID in hand and was informed that his wife will be here over the weekend no matter what. Still he needed to wait for the phone.
An older Russian couple just came in. Their daughter was arrested as well. She was being transferred from court back to here for release. They don’t seem to understand the process. The mom is currently pleading her case to a female officer. As nice as the officer is you can tell she is losing patience quickly with them.
“My daughter, she is good girl. There is mistake here no?” she keeps saying.
“Ma’aam, I am sure your daughter is very nice. There is nothing I can do until the release paper comes. Do you understand?” the female guard keeps saying.
“I wait,” she declared again firmly.
The guard looked at me and then shook her head and left. The mom looked at me with pleading eyes and went outside to sit.
There is another couple to my left now that is here to visit their son. They are having a conversation at a rather audible volume on wether or not to hire a good attorney. The Dad is angry. The son has stolen from them before and he doesn’t want to spend any more money on him. Drugs are involved.
This isn’t how they imagined their son when they brought him home from the hospital so carefully. The mom, she is broken, she is defensive of her son, she wants to be any place in the world except the jail we are all sitting in.
They are quite now. I think they have decided that this doesn’t need to be a public argument and that the decision doesn’t need to be made this very second.
There is a constant buzzing in here. A buzzing of the fluorescent lights, the air conditioning, a pop machine and some weird prisoner connect machine. Several lawyers have come and gone, most are drug related charges. There isn’t much privacy in the jail waiting room.
The fighting couple have begun speaking to each other again. Just small talk. It seems like they are trying to normalize their current situation. The pain is clearly there as they talk about going to the grocery store. It could be a conversation in any waiting room anyplace. But it isn’t.
My own freedom at this current moment is being dictated by this jail system. I can’t leave. I am waiting for a young man to get finger printed, photographed and DNA swabbed. First court, now this and then back to probation. At the end of all this, we both get to go back home. I am very grateful for that. He is very grateful for that as well. Until we get to leave here time is at a stand still. People here have nothing but time.
A man came rushing through the door and went straight up to the window. Tap, tap, tap. Nothing. You can’t really see behind the window that he was tapping on. I imagine the more he tapped the less the guy behind the glass wanted to help him. He didn’t seem to realize that his agenda means nothing here. His pacing only serves as a distraction to the others sitting. Eventually he slowed down. I think he realized that time moves differently here and sat down.
What does it take for someone to want to get off this hamster wheel?
I think for my guy, this whole ordeal is like hitting a hard brick wall of reality. The reality that his life is nothing like he imagined when he was a little boy riding his bike up and down the street with his pals.
Did he imagine the loss of freedom that drugs would rob from him? Could he even imagine that heroin would be a part of his life? Not for all the gum in the world did he ever envision getting a DNA swab, to be held on record in the event he was involved in another crime. That is stuff he watched on TV.
He is a normalish young man. He just wants to go back in time and undo all the wrong doing. He is so full of remorse and disbelief. He isn’t high anymore. He hasn’t been high in three months. He can’t remember what it even feels like anymore. And he can’t remember why he ever started in the first place.
The Russian couple is back inside again. It seems that the paper work arrived. The mom is anxiously waiting for her child.
“Everything is ok?” she asked again.
Ok is a relative term right now. Nothing really seemed ok here.
My guy has been back there about an hour now. I can’t really figure out what was taking so long. But then again we are on their time and they seem to have plenty left still.
We are back to waiting room banter again, what they watched on TV the night before, where they will eat dinner. The conversation is strained and still full of pain. There are drugs involved.
Finally my guy comes out with a big smile on his face, he is relieved to be leaving. I stand and nod at my fellow waiters and we walk out. Everything seems normal, like we are leaving a Doctors appointment. But we are not. We are leaving jail. My freedom is restored, I won’t take it for granted, I don’t think my guy will either. This journey isn’t over for him yet.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” John 8:36 NIV