Disclaimer: This article is not designed to make you the baddest inmate in the jail; it is to provide guidance into the unknown. If you get your ass whooped in there, it’s not my fault. This article is for entertainment purposes only.
If you are reading this magazine, I assume that you are a responsible, law-abiding citizen, a patriot and a survivalist. You pay your taxes and do right by your family, like you’re supposed to do. You might also fall into the category of people who don’t plan on going to jail, ever. Not even to visit someone. Keep in mind, however, that those unpaid parking tickets can turn into a suspended license and a warrant before you know it, or you may choose to drive home one night after having one too many drinks with the crew. Even things that seem trivial at the time can land you in jail, and when that happens, what you do from the moment of your arrest onward will have some impact on your future and your freedom.
Regardless of what circumstances led to a police presence and your arrest, be courteous and respectful, despite your emotions. This goes a long way during your booking process, especially if you haven’t remembered any of the important numbers saved in your cell phone. If you are respectful and not defiant or resisting arrest, the arresting officer will most likely allow you to write down a few phone numbers on a piece of paper to take into the jail with you.
Your preparation to enter the last known primitive environment in America starts long before police contact. The keyword here is “primitive.” There is little to no access to technology, no privacy and no comfort. The two main skills you’re going to need are the ability to talk and the ability to fight. You should be capable in both and know how to use them with precision. Your ability to do both well will contribute to your overall survival.
During your first 24 hours in, you will sit in holding cells with other inmates from different cultural backgrounds, which doesn’t necessarily mean color, ethnicity, creed or sexual orientation. I am primarily referring to those who have done prison time or those who are drug users or dealers, transients, seriously mentally ill or sexual deviants. Some may also be first-timers, like you. Keep to yourself and observe how they conduct themselves. Many will act like predators looking for prey. Don’t be prey.
You will be able to distinguish between the two within minutes of entering the first holding cell. The predators will begin to ask you about your arrest and other personal questions, especially if you look like an easy target. Be vague and polite. They don’t need to know about you. You could also let them know that you just want to “do your time and get out.” Don’t try to act “hard.” They will see right through that and will find other ways to get to you. The other inmates will likely be asleep, withdrawn, talking to themselves or on the phone frantically attempting to call any number they can remember. If you are tired and start to doze off, just make sure that everything you came in with is securely on your person. Inmates will often take anything they think they can use, especially the transients.
“He said the trick is kick someone’s ass the first day or become somebody’s bitch. Then everything will be all right.”—Rob Newhouse in Office Space
This is not true.
Do not punch the first inmate you see. That’s a great way to extend your time in jail, since assault is a crime. Do not start any fights but finish all of them. Detention officers and deputies are trained in investigative techniques to determine whether you were a suspect or a victim in a physical altercation. All modern-day jails in metropolitan areas are equipped with high-definition cameras, especially in cells intended to hold up to 50 or more inmates. These aren’t your old, grainy 1980s gas-station surveillance cameras. Some of them have the clarity of the cameras on a Mars rover.
Going to jail is like going to the worst, transient-smelling DMV you can imagine. It’s an anxiety-ridden game of “hurry up and wait.” You will be shuffled between holding cells while waiting to be called. And within 24 hours of arrest, by law, you will see a judge. This is called your initial appearance. The judge will advise you of your charge or charges, your next court date and your release conditions.
This is not the time to plea or state your case. However, this is the time to tell the judge that your wife is off work since the recent birth of your child. That you’re the sole provider and that you also volunteer at the Humane Society. Don’t lie— you aren’t a flight risk and that you will make all your court hearings.
The best-case scenario is that you are released on your own recognizance. This means that you will not have to post bond to ensure your presence at the next court date. You will be released from central booking within a few hours. There is no set time for your freedom, so do not harass the detention officers or deputies by asking them when will you be released. A decent-case scenario is that the judge gives you a reasonable bond to post.
All jails will have a current list of local bail bonds companies. Industry-standard cash collateral is 10% of the total bond with most bond companies. Ideally, you want to post your bond before leaving central booking, since you and your property are in one place and there won’t be any delay in releasing you. Once you get dressed out in the black and white stripes and housed inside an actual unit—usually a different facility—a bit more staff coordination must happen in order to release you.
So, what do you do if you can’t post bond and must sit in jail until your next court hearing? Well, you could listen to Rob Newhouse, or you can tune into the next article in this series.