We came, we saw, we sat down in the streets and raised hell. Now we're...

Monday, February 02, 2004

12:43 AM PST, 01/27/2004
[Rush sent me this asking me to forward it to the group - so here it is!


Dear Lockheed 52,

I have been encouraged to write a brief report on my week (which reduces--given
jail crowding state-wide--to 5/6 days) at the Santa Clara County Correctional
Facility at Elmwood. I spent from December 28, 2003 to Jan. 3, 2004 at Elmwood,
the same place we ultimately were taken before our release last spring.
Although I have been arrested many times in my life, this was the first
occasion in which I spent nights in jail.

Elmwood is a minimum-security facility, which means that the yard is "open" for
more than just a short time each day. You can be out of your barracks when the
yard is open, and that amounted to between 3 and 4 hours a day. You could walk
around (on the walkways where you were allowed to walk), go to the sport field
(no one told me where it was, and I found it only by accident), or to the
library. However, the weather was rainy and cold, and given the fact that you
get one set of clothes per week (including 1 pair underpants and socks),
getting real active or wet did not seem advisable. My barracks--like others in
the Lockheed group that chose the jail option--was the OG (old guys), housing
about 25 souls. In form and layout, much like the other barracks, as far as I
could gather, but the guard presence was a little less, and no one was trying
to prove how tough they were, or anything like that. Among the people I talked
with, everyone was quick to volunteer how much time they had to serve, but a
bit reluctant to discuss why they were in (usually insisting it was a
misunderstanding, or a mistake, on the part of the law). Most of my guys were
in for drunk driving (repeat), or driving under the influence after their
license had been revoked, or counterfeiting, or domestic violence. My sense is
that everyone in the barracks wanted to get along, and to make everyone's stay
(including their own) as trouble free as possible. From talking to folks who'd
spent time (earlier) in the state penitentiary (or in the "Gladiator School" at
Elmwood, reserved for violent offenders, with 23-hour lockdown, etc). the
attitude in OG at Elmwood may have been exceptional. However, I saw many
examples of inmates working out problems that could have gotten ugly (during a
soccer game on the sports field, for example, an incident that could have
gotten racially nasty) on their own. And I witnessed (and benefited from) many
small acts of kindness and generosity from fellow inmates.

The food was awful, and served at ungodly hours--b'fast at 4:30 am, lunch at
10:30 am, dinner at 4:30 pm (this after Italy!!). I've been a vegetarian for
over 30 years, so I ate a lot of cabbage salad, which is the staple green thing
on the plate. What's funny is that--even though the food is really crummy--one
looks forward to it. Now and then you'd get a small packet of fritos, or the
like, and then you learn how arbitrary the system is. Normally the guards allow
the inmates to take that out of the mess hall, but one day they didn't say so
OUT LOUD, so they confiscated these little packages of food on departure from
the mess. Normally this kind of thing is not worth mentioning, but in jail it
matters. Little things matter, and of course it represents how power operates
when it is so dominant--that is, arbitrarily, so you can never be sure exactly
what's going on, EXCEPT that you're an inmate, and you are basically
powerless. I could give countless other examples, but the point is quickly
grasped. In jail, you're an inmate, and that's all. Even though I was in for
such a short time, I felt like an inmate and I was. That's that. I kept my head
down, and I toed the line. The smallest thing can get you "infracted," and that
means more time. The people who have spent years in jail and kept their spirits
and minds intact (especially those who were wrongly incarcerated) have my total
admiration. How do they, did they, do it? I may have future opportunities to
learn a little about that, as this 2 year court probation means an arrest in
Santa Clara County will probably lead to automatic jail time. I've been
fingerprinted, eye scanned, probed and documented so many times getting in and
out of jail (at the Palo Alto Courthouse, where I was held for several hours,
at the Santa Clara County jail, where I was for about 8 hours, and at Elmwood
as well, not to mention whatever they did when we were first arrested)--I think
I'm in the system. And I can't imagine avoiding arrest, given the state of play
in the country right now, and in the forseeable future.

Let me close by saying I was helped in my short span at Elmwood by others who
have been there, and knowledge can alleviate worry or lessen that sense that
you don't know what's coming. If anyone finds themselves going in, I'd be glad
to speak personally with you about what little I know of how to make the best
of it. I'm glad I chose the jail option; I'm glad I got out so expeditiously;
and I imagine I'll see you there one of these days!


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