Posts tagged ‘burlington’

November 16, 2010

They are Trying to Build a Prison

by nkwilczy

Seven and a half hours before I turned twenty one I was pulled over for smoking a blunt in my car. I had eight more blunts, if they had been measured it would have come to a small, but safe, amount under the half of an ounce that is decriminalized in North Carolina. They were never measured, I had my registration in hand when the officer came up to my car. Since the glove compartment was locked (thank YOU Jay-Z) and the roach of my previous blunt was somewhere far behind us in the middle of I-40 the officer started grasping at any stem he could find, an empty plastic baggie (to prove, incidentally, that “all the weed is gone”), my traditionally terrible balance, his inaccurate assessment of my driving, he decided to use these things to make a case for a DWI. At that point those seven and a half hours were a big deal, and handcuffs jingled on my wrists as we rode into custody.

Before dumping me in a holding cell he asked me the time. He had taken my phone so I initially responded with “You tell me.” But he insisted.

“5:13,” I told him. I had been smoking a 4:20 blunt when he pulled me over and I had a good estimate of how long his shenanigans had taken.

When he checked his watch I was a minute and a half off. I like to think that he had a look of sudden understanding, as though he suddenly knew that I wasn’t actually inebriated at all. But then I was in the holding cell.

The holding cell in Alamance county had a couple of disgruntled guys who made a lot of noise on the telephone to their girlfriends or bondsmen but were otherwise quiet and as antisocial as the situation seemed to warrant.

A portly older man, the sort of individual that we refer to in the south as a “good ‘ole boy,” told me a story about his own processing. Specifically how he had found a handful of assorted and nondescript pills in his pocket at some point before he was searched and had taken the first opportunity to swallow them all in one gulp. I do not know what he was charged with. His eyes bugged out. The top of his head was bald, haloed by long white hair.

I spent a couple of hours talking to a very frightened Mexican boy, a fifteen year old who had been apprehended at a traffic stop on his way to Wal Mart for driving without a license. He told me that he was the primary English speaker in his household and that his mother would not be off work before seven o’clock.

The older gentleman rocked and moaned in the corner. The other inmates yelled at people who could get them out and glared at everyone else.

At seven o’clock, as the boy predicted, he was taken further into processing and I did not see him again. He had voiced a LOT of concern about being deported.

For my part I was not hauled off to county prison or to Mexico. I sat stubbornly in the cell for a full six hours until I was willing to call my parents and admit what had happened. The older guy rolled his eyes and his face went all pale. I assumed he had a prison break scheme involving an overdose until his daughter arrived to bail him out.

The standoffish types, a rainbow of bitterness and self-righteous rage, came and went, yelled at bondsmen, yelled at their families, and spent the rest of their time glaring sullenly at everyone else as though they had a shank, or were contemplating rape.

I couldn’t tell you if that little boy got out. I don’t know if his mother risked the trip to get him out or could afford the bail. I don’t know if the American Immigration system won another of it’s gruesome victories. I admit that I have spent no small amount of time wondering about it since, but it never mattered because I could never have helped him.

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