The room was a small nine feet wide by six feet eight inches deep and nine feet six inches from the floor to the ceiling. The all cinderblock room had a toilet/sink combo, smaller than one would find in an airplane bathroom. I laid the stained blanket on a flimsy plastic mattress which covered a concrete block bed and sat down, thinking about what to do with my time.
A bright fluorescent light bulb shined down on me; so bright, it gave me a headache. There was no clock, and the only window was located in the steel sliding door. With no light coming in from the outside, it was impossible to judge the time of day.
On Tuesday, May 26th at 9:30 P.M., I went on a journey that only a select few high school students go on each year… to be arrested and spend a night in jail. No, I did not get a DWI nor was I in the possession of narcotics. I did not interfere with a police investigation, participate in a fight, commit a larceny, or even get caught carrying a dangerous weapon. I spent the night in jail on my own accord — mere curiosity to see what jail was like.
The boredom of my imprisonment served as the worst punishment. I would try to sleep but the fluorescent light would still work its way through my eyelids. I took off my shirt and placed it over my head so that the light would not shine through. Again, I tried to fall asleep to kill time; but I always found myself waking up, checking to see if it was time to go. I paced around the cell until I figured that there was still a lot of time left of my imprisonment. I got to the point of boredom where I wanted to ask the police officers if I could leave and go home; however, my self-motivation would not allow me to quit. It was so quiet in my cell that every time someone walked down the hallway, I would wake up.
The desire to spend a night in jail was not a whim. Why do people neglect the law, is it to earn respect from their peers, earn street credit, or is it just an unfortunate lack of judgment? To figure this out I decided to see what it was really like to be arrested, to spend a night in jail in the hope that my story might deter crimes
The police came to my house in two patrol cars, their strobe lights flashing. They came to the front door and the officer said, “Put your hands behind your back. You are under arrest.” The handcuffs squeezed my wrists tightly as the officer checked my body for any hidden knives, weapons, and needles. Two armed cops escorted me to the back of the cop car; the seat was a cold plastic, with windows covered with steel bars.
My heart was beating through my chest, not knowing what to expect. I imagined how much worse it would be if I was actually guilty of a crime. The cold ride in the backseat of the police cruiser was difficult, trying to balance my body with my hands handcuffed behind my back.
After a bumpy ride, we finally reached the police station. The cop pulled into the back parking lot and drove through a sealed garage. I got out of the car, and the officer walked me into the facility.
Inside, I was put behind a white-steeled bar cage, where police officers question detainees. The officer told me that he was going to un-cuff me and that I was to put my hands on a thick glass that separated me from a person asking questions.
In jail, I was allowed to have only one shirt, so I had to give the police officers my hoodie. Next, I was told to take the shoe laces out of my Nike shoes, a precaution that is taken so detainees cannot hang themselves in jail. They asked me if I had any scars, tattoos, birthmarks –anything that would help them to identify me in the future.
I found out that there were two other people joining me in confinement that night — a convicted murderer and an illegal immigrant — adding to the anxiety of the situation, even though they were in separate cells. The police took me out of the cage and escorted me into the next room, where they took my fingerprints and mug shot.
From the mug shot room, an officer threw me a blanket as the other escorted me down a long, white cinderblock hallway; each step that we took made an echoing sound. After a brief walk, the officer slid open a steel door to an all-white room. I entered the room as he slammed the door behind me.
I studied my surroundings. In the plain block room, there was a bubble camera that was located in the top right corner. It was angled in such a way as to give the inmate toilet privacy. There was also a sprinkler in the case of fires. I thought back on my expectations of what the cell would be like, cold and smelly, only to be surprised how hot and plain it was, with no smell. I began to twist toilet paper together to amuse myself, trying to craft some crazy creation. I measured the length of my mattress with my hands — four hands wide and eight hands long. My activities only lasted for about ten minutes, but it felt like eternity in the timeless cell.
Finally, the officer came to my cell, Wednesday, May 27 at 6:30 AM, and said, “Time to go.” I sprung up from my bunk with excitement, grabbed my shirt and walked down the white hallway to the officer’s office. He handed me my bag of belongings and escorted me to the exit. He said “I hope I never have to see you again”. I agreed with a smile and walked on.
Through my short-lived experience, I’ve come to realize that jail is everything you should be afraid of. Jail is a place where there is no source of excitement or entertainment; a place that is horribly boring; a place where time stands still; and a place that I would never want to see again. Fortunately for me, I had the easiest sentence possible; I did not have to bear the guilt or serve time for a crime that I committed. I spent only one night in jail. Some people are in prison for months, some for years, and some for life. If there is advice that I could give, it would be: Do not disobey the law, it is a sad avenue that does nothing but halt your dreams. Throughout life, there will always be decisions to be made and paths to be taken. Follow the right path, and all doors will be open for you to be successful.