[by Jon Fontaine, a NYS inmate who has been transferred to the Monroe County jail from Mid-State Correctional Facility, awaiting a hearing.]
There were two holding areas. In the first were guys in street clothes. In the second were guys in jail jumpsuits. Other than the deputies, I was the only white guy in booking. Everybody was staring at me because I was in prison clothes. They were stating the obvious:
“He just came from prison.”
“He’s a white guy who just came from prison.”
The deputy led me to a room full of jumpsuits and property bags. I found a pair of new, jail issue, generic blaze orange clogs. I was not issued a single undergarment, nor were there any in sight – no socks, no under Ts, no underwear. My previous stay was the same. Monroe County jail does not issue any undergarments.
I sat in the holding area for probably an hour before a deputy came around saying, “I have to lock you guys in a holding area. We have a crazy guy coming through.”
We got moved to a holding pen the size of a living room. I took the coveted corner spot where two wood benches met, and put my back against the wall and my feet on the bench. Four other guys napped in the hard chairs, while one paced the holding area. And one kept popping up and down from his chair saying he hadn’t gotten to make a free call.
On the far side of the pen was s stainless steel toilet and sink combo. From 20 feet away, I could see both were totally covered in filth. Flies buzzed over the scum. The floor was littered with trash.
A deputy was locking the guys dressed in street clothes into a second holding pen. A few of them started complaining about being locked up.
“There’s no crazy coming through.”
“Yeah, they’d bring him in cuffs and lock him in isolation.”
“They just wanted to lock us up.”
“It’s two o’clock,” I said. “Shift change is in an hour. A crazy is coming through, but he’ll be wearing a badge, and these deputies want us locked up until their shift is over.”
The guy complaining about not getting a call asked, “You’re the guy who just came from prison, right?”
He sat down next to me, two mystery meat sandwiches wrapped in plastic in his hand. “What were you in prison for?”
“I beat a guy to death.”
“Damn! What’d you beat him with?”
I held up my hands. “My fists.” I touched a scar in the center of my forehead. “After I head butted him in the face.”
“Holy shit! You’re a bad dude! Why’d you kill him?”
“Last time I was in prison, he asked me what I was in prison for.”
His eyes got wide and his jaw moved around. I couldn’t tell if he knew I was joking.
“You want a sandwich?” he asked.
“Can I have both?”
“Sure,” he said. “Take both.”
The guys spent the next five hours asking about prison, talking about their cases and telling stories. The oldest guy, the one who gave me his sandwiches, would get up and pace around, and then sit back down next to me. When he’d talk, he’d wave his arms all around and I’d have to tip my head to avoid getting smacked in his excitement.
Every time he moved his arms, I’d get whiff of rancid body odor.
Finally, I got up and stood in a corner by the door like I was looking out into booking. I was near a vent and could still smell the rancid BO. I started sniffing my own jumpsuit. It reeked. “Do they wash these things?”
“No, they just put them in a dryer.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah. It kills bugs but saves money on water and soap.”
“My God this jumpsuit stinks.”
Despite a few dozen requests, it would be seven days before I got to exchange my jumpsuit.
Also published on Medium.