I’m still wrestling with the guilty-until-proven-guiltier concept. My friend has been in Jail since April 7. Her first trial date was slated for April 25, but the people who were supposed to take her from the jail to the courthouse never showed up. Her new trial date is sometimes in late October.
Her attorney, a public defender with dozens of indigent cases, says he will look into it. Meanwhile, she sits in jail.
She cannot receive telephone calls. Any telephone contact is one she has to initiate. When she calls me, a woman’s voice asks if I am willing to accept a call from an inmate at the detention center. I am and I do. The ensuing conversation lasts a total of 15 minutes and is punctuated by shouts, the occasional scream, doors slamming open and shut, and unintelligible public address announcements. The calls are monitored and she is not supposed to talk about her legal status. Her smart phone was taken from her. Like most people nowadays, she has not memorized the numbers of her friends, so even if she wants to call someone, she doesn’t know the number to dial.
She cannot have face-to-face visitors. Any one coming to see her—aside from her attorneys who to date have not seen her—must do so with Skype. She will sit in a room with a camera and microphone. The visitor will use a smartphone.
All this, to me, implies that her standing in society has been diminished to that of convicted criminal whose rights have been abrogated.
Frankly, I don’t doubt that she screwed up, but that’s not really the point. This is a free society defined by very specific laws designed to protect the rights of even the worst accused offenders. The only thing one can say of a doubtful positive nature is that, from what I hear, she is being treated exactly the same as other inmates, regardless of sex, race or religion. I guess when you slash people’s rights, there is no need to discriminate.
All this is seriously unsettling.
Many years ago, I spent a few hours in a lockup in Washington, DC. I had been caught driving my motorcycle without a motorcycle license. I did not know I was violating a recently passed law regarding specific licenses for specific vehicles. I was handcuffed. My helmet was forcibly removed and I was shoved without ceremony into the back of a police car. Yes, just like in the movies, the officer pushed my head down so I wouldn’t bump it. I was taken to a local police station and led to a cell. I complained that the handcuffs were cutting the blood circulation, and a matron came and loosened them. I took the opportunity to tell her I didn’t know about the new law; I’d been riding motorcycles since I was sixteen years old, and had taken the road safety courses offered several years earlier by the local Department of Motor Vehicles. I even told her I’d written a book about bikes and bikers. She was in no way impressed and told me my ignorance of the law was not her problem. I was fingerprinted and a mug shot was taken.
I was released later that day when someone realized there was a grace period for obtaining a bike license, and the expiration was a month away. No apologies were tendered. I took a cab back to my bike, which the police had left on a sidewalk near a major thoroughfare. I found a $25 ticket affixed to the handlebars for parking in an illegal spot.
I am not sure what will happen to my friend next. I can’t conceive that she’ll stay in jail until her new trial in October, but it’s in the realm of the possible.
I’m afraid of making too much of a fuss; I have heard horror tales of revendication against inmates whose friends prove troublesome.
I want to help. I don’t know how.