Wow. As I’m writing this post, a glance at the title field reveals the Roman numeral “XIV”! I intended to write a kind of op-ed piece, not a TV series, but be that as it may…
So I was sitting in the dayroom listening to guys relate their stories. On my grandfather’s ashes, I was appalled. No less than 1/3 of the men on the intake unit were there for penny ante stuff related to alleged violations of Protection From Abuse (“PFA”) orders or child support arrears totaling less than $1,000.
Jail? For that? Really? Are they locking guys up for jaywalking, too?
Before I go on, I need to establish some things:
- I relocated to the Lehigh Valley because it is a wonderful place to live and raise children;
- People here are generally friendly, thoughtful, respectful and law-abiding;
- At the time I relocated, I did not foresee any marital issues that would result in the morass in which I find myself enmeshed; and
- My days of gambling with my life and liberty were over for more than a decade before I even considered leaving New York, which is to say that I do not flout nor do I intentionally run afoul of the law. I’m a father and, generally, a busy one — I try to set an example for my kids and I have no time to be running back and forth to court for nonsense.
Yet, here we are, or rather, there I was:
- In jail;
- Not convicted of any crime;
- Taking up space;
- Watching painfully bad TV;
- Waiting for the results of a TB test;
- Wearing a jumpsuit better suited for a scarecrow than a human being;
- Eating foods of dubious origin;
- NOT earning money for child support;
- Missing my kids, friends and family;
- Ordered to pay a fine, then incarcerated before I could even visit a bank or make a phone call;
- At the mercy of people who would violate my constitutional rights because I had the nerve to point out that they were violating my constitutional rights;
- Listening to other guys whose constitutional rights were violated, some of whom were held prisoner for failing to pay child support arrears when their incarceration had cost them their jobs, others because they were simply accused of violating PFAs, even if there was no evidence that they had done so and consequences be darned;
- Stuck in Northampton County’s modern take on the debtor’s prison; and
- In jail!
So I took notes, gathered contact information, jotted down ideas and cultivated strategies. The men on the unit might have been content to rot in jail while the creeps who put us there spent the weekend laughing it up somewhere, but I’ve worked too hard to have any kind of life to allow some good ol’ boys to rip it from my hands simply because they can. No sirree.
- The show performed the previous day in Room 8 went off without a hitch, as if the players had recited their lines ad nauseum over hundreds of performances;
- Too many men on the unit were telling the same story for it to be a coincidence;
- No one can be expected to pay off a debt from a jail cell; and
- Karma is, er…not a friend of the unscrupulous.