* Lest We Forget, II *
- J.A.I.L. News Journal
Los Angeles, California September 4, 2004Lest We Forget, IIBack on the 21st day of December, 2001, I published a J.A.I.L. News Journal entitled, "Lest We Forget." I find that such a fitting title that I believe it should also belong to following article, so I am now emailing what I have chosen to entitle, "Lest We Forget, II."Many of us have had the past experience of suffering humiliation of being placed into a jail cell, and the treatment we received. I've experienced this to the point that I resolved that I was just going to make the best of it, and treat the experience as if I were on a vacation with all expenses paid, to wit, -- food, housing, clothing, etc. I figured that I may as well not fret because it was not going to change one thing. I would start documenting clogged toilets, feces and urine on the floor, no toilet paper, etc, and then report it to the County Grand Jury, recommending they send through bogus arrestees to document my Grand Jury report.I don't know, but sometimes I think the system was frustrated because I seemed visually to enjoy jail. One Superior Court Judge even commented on this in one of my lawsuits against a commissioner for kidnapping, holding me hostage, and demanding a ransom. He said, Mr. Branson, in all my twenty years on the bench I have never met anyone like you, 'Just keep me here in jail until you are finished with me.' I know he was thinking how the system would get entirely clogged if everyone took that attitude. It was because of my manifest attitude that both the trial court judge and the appellate court judges called to my attention that I was standing before them with a warrant for my arrest, but none would arrest me because my lawsuit was about the issuance by my defendant of this false warrant for my arrest without jurisdiction of which I was calling upon them to decide. They did not want to get into the legality of the warrant, but to just dismiss my case against the commissioner. Their problem - how do you intimidate and threaten a man who outwardly appears to enjoy jail.While below, the victim views her situation as an overzealous punishment for her own wrong-doing. Rather, I viewed my own situation as a victim of power-hungry men showing off their muscle just because they can do it and get away with it. Far from justice, or something I deserved for crimes I committed.-Ron Branson----- Original Message -----From: spence kerriganSent: Monday, October 04, 2004Subject: Spence's News & Views 10/4/04
Time ServedAnother satisfied customer from the Harris County Jail
By Miss Mel
The shove was not the most upsetting or even humiliating thing that
had happened to me during my stay at the Harris County Jail. It was
just the last in a long line of verbal abuse and physical neglect and was
almost the straw that broke this camel's back.
My jail time adventure started about 4:30 pm Monday when I was pulled over for expired stickers and then arrested for warrants I had with the City of Houston and Harris County. It was upsetting, I'll admit, and I shed a few tears as I kissed my boyfriend goodbye and was handcuffed and driven away by the arresting officer. I tried to remain calm and accept my fate.I was the one who had not taken care of my responsibilities and I was the one paying the price. My resolve lasted all the way until I was being searched at the City jail with a row of seven or eight leering men sitting on a bench directly behind me while a female officer lifted my shirt, grabbed my bra, and proceeded to shake it so roughly that my breasts fell out for all to see. I was totally humiliated and rushed to recover myself as soon as the lady officer finished her task. How could she be so cold about exposing me like that? Two more women she searched in this same fashion and both looked just as shocked and embarrassed as I felt.
This was my first inkling of what was to come. When I began to realize that those in charge saw us as nothing more than misbehaving animals, no matter what type of crime we had committed or whether we deserved such degradation or not. The officers at the City jail were mean and cruel. I was kicked in the side my first night in the cellblock for falling asleep on two bed mats instead of one ( a rule I had not been informed of by anyone). Questions about court times and other information that related to why we were in jail were almost never answered. We were told we could take showers in the one shower stall but no one would provide a towel or soap and there was no shower curtain. Several women could not reach friends or family because the phones we had access to were collect calls only and couldn't connect with cellphones or anyone long distance, yet none of the guards would allow them to make a call on the regular phone or even call for them. The officers used profanity constantly in talking to each other and in talking to us. If you missed your name being called the first time they would call you a"dumbass" and would yell at you about wasting their time for the next fifteen minutes.
The entire time I was in the City jail I was cold, tired, sore, and absolutely
disgusted by what I saw. Here were my hard-earned tax dollars at work
funding a bunch of bitter, mean spirited police officers to treat me like an
animal at the zoo. It was true that I had broken the law and failed to pay my traffic tickets, or even go to court for them, but that did not make me less than a human being. On my third day at City jail my tickets were dismissed and I was transferred to the County jail in Downtown Houston. If I had thought City was bad, County was much, much worse. First came sixteen hours - sixteen long, exhausting hours - in the holding tank. Sixteen hours in a maybe 20x30 room with 41 other women and no air conditioning. Sixteen hours sitting on a hard cement bench or a hard cement floor with no place to lie down, no place to stretch my legs, and the smell of my sweaty, dirty body growing ever more nauseating (you do not change clothes at the City jail and so I had been wearing the same outfit without a shower for going-on four days). What was truly disturbing was that some of the ladies had been in that stinky, awful holding tank for almost 24 hours without even being booked in yet. We asked several times to have the air conditioner turned on and were told it was broken, but the deputies wouldn't leave the door open to let cooler air circulate in for us. We were given bologna sandwiches every seven hours and
all we had to drink was tepid water from a fountain off the back of the
toilet. I developed a rash on my left arm from the heat and my dirty
sweat and felt sick and hungry. One lady threw up several times and another had muscle spasms in her back from sitting for so long. The deputies at County proved to be just as rough and nasty as the officers at City. One lady was called a"stupid bitch" because she did not respond to her name immediately when called. Another tried several times to ask about her bond she was waiting on and was ignored and even had the door slammed in her face. At County we were treated as the lowest kinds of animals. We were yelled at and mocked, locked away and forgotten. Sixteen hours is an absolutely ridiculous amount of time to have to wait before being booked in to jail. And there was no reason to have us locked away with no air conditioning or even a fan until we were all almost sick from the heat and smell.
Is this what our tax dollars are paying for? Is this why we support
our law enforcement officers with charities and funds, so that they can treat people who have made some mistakes like dirty sewer rats? After sixteen hours in the holding tank, another two hours getting booked in, and another hour or so getting changed into my orange jumpsuit and assigned a cell block, I was taken down to court to receive time served. I would be released that night after midnight and until then waiting in the cell block until the release process began. While I waited to be called for release I was told I had a visitor and that, ladies and gentlemen, was where the shove came in. I was misdirected on what door to go through and ended up on the wrong side of the room where the visitors were. I switched sides without anyone stopping me, thinking nothing of it. Fifteen minutes later the deputy comes roaring into the room yelling at me for being in the wrong place and shoving me - physically placing her hands upon me and pushing me - out the door without getting to say goodbye. She didn't care that a mistake had been made or that it hadn't been my fault. She shoved me out the door and told me I was a lucky idiot that was being released or I'd be in serious trouble. At the time I was so relieved to be going home that I didn't focus on that shove, but later on during the three hour release process I had time to think about it and get mad. Since the moment the police officer arrested me I had been quiet and docile, doing as I was told and causing no waves. In return I had
been kicked and shoved and verbally abused. I had been treated like a dog in a cage at the pound and it wasn't right. Yes I had messed up. Yes I had failed to take care of my responsibilities and I was paying for it. But I still did not deserve what I got in those jails.
No wonder long term inmates have so much trouble functioning on the
outside of the jails and prisons.To be treated as an ignorant animal every day and be humiliated over and over in such a fashion would break most people until they truly believed they were that worthless. I was lucky I only had to serve four and a half days. Any longer and I don't know what might have happened to me. I wasn't even read my rights when I was arrested and that does not seem just to me. People should pay for their crimes, but they should be able to do it as human beings with their dignity intact or else justice is just not being served.
The above article was published in the September 1st-15th, 2004 issue of Free Press, a local newspaper available free at some news stands.
A website is now under construction-- www.freepresshouston.com
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