Activist jailed at Sodexo rally
As a leftist, I already came from a political analysis that was anti-prison, and thought that I had a fairly good idea of what being in jail would be like. I certainly knew it wasn't going to fun when I volunteered to get arrested with the Sodexo workers in an attempt to shame Sodexo- so as to allow its workers to form a union. The Ohio State University hires its food service workers through Sodexo, an international company, which has been paying many of its worker's just barely over minimum wage, not gauranteeing them hours, and offering no health care or benefits. Many of these same workers are expected to raise a family on these wages. To the rational person, it is insane and quite frankly, impossible. The way that our society has shaped class politics in this country (and all over the world) has always disgusted me, and a few hours in jail seemed like a small sacrifice if it meant holding a multi-million dollar company accountable for not paying or treating its worker's fairly. Despite how much Angela Davis I've read, however, I was not prepared for emotional turmoil that jail is when one is a prisoner.
by Stephanie Diebold
April 29, 2010
I was first taken back by the humiliation, pain and sense of powerlessness one has when being handcuffed and strapped into the back of a paddywagon. I immediatly felt a rush of fear just knowing that the police had total control over my body, even though my white class privilege makes me far less likely to be beaten by the police. I felt frustrated with some of my fellow arrestees who chummed around with the police. Sure, I don't want to piss them off when they have me shackled in the back of their sweat box, but I'm sure as hell not going to chum around with these capitalist class slime bags that have me SHACKLED IN THE BACK OF A VAN AS IF I'M CATTLE. If it weren't for legal precedent and our wholesome respect for state governance, this would be considered kidnapping, abuse, and a violation of one's freedom. Here in America, however, we call it 'the justice system'.
After many hours of being toted around, sweating and handcuffed in the back of a paddy wagon (which is fairly standard procedure) we were taken to be fingerprinted, where we were un-handcuffed just long enough to be fingerprinted and have our mugshots taken. During this time we were then shackled to the floor, you know, in case we decided to flee while we were in a locked room with two other cops. I asked an officer at one point if I could use the restroom. His response was "No". I immediatly was thankful that it was not an emergency. All the same I felt the humiliation of being an adult and having another adult tell you that you can't use the restroom when you need to, as if you are incompetent to make this decision on your own.
We were next moved to the county jail, where we were greeted by guards and officers who were more than overjoyed to remind us of the complete control that they had over our bodies. Upon entry we were devided according to sex, screamed at to sit down, shut up, stand on the red line, bend over, etc as the officer wished who performed their search. I had the graceful experience of having three guards rip all of the beads out of my hair, as prisoners are allowed no form of self-expression, having every identifying object torn from them except those that are attached to their body. This was slightly better than my alternative, as one guard politely reminded me that he "had scissors and could take care of it" in reference to my dreadlocks.
As each of us was processed we were moved to a holding cell, which was a small beige room with a steel toilet at one end and a bench. We were each forced to change into prison garb that was equally as colorless. If you had to shit or piss it had to happen in front of everyone in the holding cell. All of the windows were coverd in black material, so we could not see what was going on outside. But you could certainly hear it. While I and my friends were left in the holding cell, we cold hear a woman screaming and crying. We could also hear the guards laughing at her and taunting her. I am only thankful that I could not see it.
I felt a quick building solidraity however, with many of my cellmates, who were quick to warn us of which guards were mean, which were 'nice', how to expect jail life to go, and how to get out of jail as quickly as possible. Despite the cop's numerous warnings about being jailed with 'dangerous criminals' I felt the safest with other women in jail. Most of the women I talked to were in jail for shoplifting and stealing of the sort. Many had children. All of them were poor. It seemed the strangest thing to assume that they way to keep someone from stealing is to lock them up alone in a room with other people who steal. If anything it was the perfect time to learn new ways to steal and not get caught. Even more so it seemed excrutiatingly absurd to think that poor people will not steal after they go to jail. People steal because they need things. Maybe if society provided what they needed they would not steal. There would be no need for it.
When we were finally lead to the room were we would spend out night (and most of our day had the union not bailed us out) we entered a larged cell, with the same emotionless beige walls, steal toilet in the middle of the floor, and inmate, excet this time we were made to throw our cots on the floor to sleep, as the jail was overcrowded. My friend and I slept next to the toilet, for lack of a better place to sleep. The only thing we had to hold our attention was a small tv and a few board games scattered around the floor. We also quickly learned that in a jail cell, the lights never go off, nor is there a clock, so one is unable to ever know what time it is. The cell mates are also served their last meal at 4 pm. So by midnight, one has gone eight hours without eating, and will not be fed again until 5 am. All of the windows are also covered in black so you have no idea what the outside even looks like. Guards run in and out of your room all night yelling, ensuring that no one really sleeps for long. If they had wanted to beat us they could've, there is nothing anyone could have donw to stop them. This is a form of sensory deprevation. Similar abuse tactics are used in places like Guantanamo bay. Except this is happening in your city, and cities all over the world, twenty-four hours a day while the voices of those who experience it are silenced behind jail cell walls.
We were released from jail around 3 am. I was thankful, but all the same, felt sick to my stomach knowing that so many many people must live like that everyday. And this is a minimum security jail. This was only touching the iceberg of abuses that occur in jails everyday.
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