Monday, March 04, 2013

What's Life Like Inside A County Jail?

Inside the West Easton treatment center
As you might have expected from a bottom-feeding blogger like me, my friends mostly consist of politicians, lawyers and residents of the County jail. Lowlifes like me. I've never been a guest at our County jails myself, but my rubber underwear is ready. What's it like? Let me tell you.

One fellow in the Big House was given a bunk mate his very first day, a dude from Philly with ten children from eight different women he calls his baby mommas. In his adult life, he's spent a total of 81 days on the outside. He obviously makes the most of it.

He might be promiscuous, but was very bashful about going to the bathroom on a toilet with a cell shared by others. Eventually, he set up some kind of curtain and assumed the throne. ... For an hour. Grunting away. He basically shit out a CVS pharmacy. He spent the next hour or so, happily cleaning off little plastic baggies, inside which his goodies were kept. One of them had tobacco, which could be rolled into toilet paper. Another had loose matches and a flint. Then there was an odd assortment of all kinds of drugs.

My friend was offered a cigarette, but passed.

After this fellow returned to the City of Brotherly Love, a second inmate took his place. After exchanging pleasantries and learning that this guy had turned himself in because he wanted to go straight, this fellow suddenly had to take a shit, too. This time, a Rite-Aid pharmacy was produced from yet another assortment of plastic baggies swallowed the night before.

Once again, my friend passed on a shit-flavored, toilet-paper wrapped, cigarette.

When they smoke, whether it's tobacco or weed, they blow the spoke into the toilet bowl and flush.

We read about contraband rings, but most of gets in through the stomachs of new inmates. If corrections officers required inmates to take their first two shits in front of them, using a strainer, they could probably reduce contraband by 90%.

Nothing is free. Whether it's brought in from your stomach or served as a meal. If you don't want your breakfast, and chances are you won't, you can't give it away. Not even a cookie. Otherwise you destroy the market in a prison economy in which inmates barter and sell everything.

A cookie, incidentally, is worth 25 cents.

Food at the County jail is horrible. It is common for inmates to go a week or more without a bowel movement because the highly processed food lacks any nutritional value. That lousy food, and the lack of exercise, ruins your health at a County jail. It's not something County officials fret over, to be sure. But that's short-sighted because the County must pay all medical costs incurred by an inmate. Even Medicaid stops once someone is incarcerated.

Inmates inside a County jail are mostly unable to read or write in cursive and are unable to do basic math. I don't know whether this is because they are stupid or went through a lousy educational system.

Most inmates on work release have no jobs. They are given a few hours every day - I believe it is five - to find work. If unable to do so after three or four weeks, it is back to the main jail.

Five hours is not a lot of time. Most inmates have no cars, so they rely on buses to do their job hunting.

In Easton, that might be OK, but in Lehigh County, it's a disaster. A 6:30 AM bus takes you to Broad and Guetter, the main bus hub. It's next to impossible to do any realistic job hunting in the time allotted. So many inmates just make up places they visited for jobs. When they get caught, it's back to the main jail.

In jail, the message an inmate gets at all times is that he has no value as a person, and the only way he an get anywhere is by playing the system. This is why treatment facilities like West Easton are so important. Inmates must start getting the message they have value as human beings.

30 comments:

Anonymous said...

Interesting piece Bernie. Although I disagree that most of work release is unemployed. I don't have the numbers but I believe over half are employed.

I agree that the West Easton facility is a step in the right direction but I don't think it was built out of a pure-hearted desire to reduce recidivism and improve treatment. Its my understanding that the county (and the private owners) actually turn a profit by operating it due to some type of state or federal funding they receive per inmate.

Northampton's prison system is in need of serious overhaul and should be a more prominent issue in the Executive race.

We have absolutely horrid facilities and treatment programs overall.

Anonymous said...

If you don'twant the time, don't do the crime girly boys!

Bernie O'Hare said...

12:20, I am going solely by anecdotal evidence, so you may be right. More than half may be employed.

Anonymous said...

Bernie,this practice of smuggling contraband into the jail via the colon/rectum can be done two ways. To injest the substances and safely pass them thru the digestive track can be a risky proposition due to timing ones entry into the main housing unit and breakage of the vessel it is housed in (condom,latex glove finger).
Items can also be"keistered" or "boofed" which is more prone to discovery due to the necessary string attached to the contraband for retrieval. This would usually be detected during the squat and cough procedure or by somebody waddling around, or sitting down very gently.
Interesting piece, and I agree with your assessment of the food situation not only is it horrid but the items available through commissary are usually quite unhealthy. Fruit is not that expensive, make it available warden.

Anonymous said...

bullets are cheaper.

Anonymous said...

I suppose they're all innocent too?

Fuck em, they deserve what they get!

Anonymous said...

Is the treatment center a treatment center or jail now? Sounds like a jail.

Anonymous said...

They should work even harder to make this prison more like prison. The place is filled with repeat offenders who can't find the digs too awful.

Peter J.Cochran said...

Bernie,This is a country club compared to a "Red Line Brig" run compliments of the U.S.Marine Corps. Do time at one of their facilities you will not want to come back,ever!

Elected offical said...

Thanks for the story Bernie. As a reentry voulunteer at the WE facility and an offical visitor/inmate advocate of the Pa. Prison Society at the jail..I can answer most questions people would have concerning the jail and how things operate. I agree that a discussion of the jail is long overdue and should be part of the county executive race. Mr. Stoffa has done some ground work with the opening of WE but much remains to be done.

Anonymous said...

Hey bernie,
If you open your eyes allentowns public is of no human value and considered to be mongrels by the elete¿

Anonymous said...

Boo Hoo Hoo. I am so sorry for those creeps who stick things up their arses befor going to prison just so they can make money while in prison. Really Bernie, are you seriously wanting us to feel sorry for these sicko bastards. Only twenty percent of these inmates are worth rehabilitating. The others will be back regardless of what you do for them. These aren't my statistics but they are National statistics.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"If you open your eyes allentowns public is of no human value and considered to be mongrels by the elete¿"

You get the government you deserve. Why should I waste my time on you people when you can't even produce a candidate for Mayor? Democracy is dead in Allentown and has been killed by the people.

Bernie O'Hare said...

" a discussion of the jail is long overdue and should be part of the county executive race."

It should be but won't be because most people don't give a shit about the welfare if their fellow man until a member of their own family is sent away. Much more popular to act tough than compassionate.

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget most of these guys are incarcerated for drug-related offensrs. Unless you've never smoked a joint in your life, or driven a "little" over the legal limit, compassion should be a consideration

Bernie O'Hare said...

Agreed, but you won't find anyone who cares when he is running for office. It's easier to appeal to someone's dark side than do the right thing.

Anonymous said...

Tell us Dave have you served time inside? You appear to be an expert about everything a jack of all trades but master of none. Please stick to writing your. fairy tales as the sbeltfan perhaps one about Johnny and how well liked he is and how he will win. Some day soon he will have to face the people of this county. and the truth will prevail.

Bernie O'Hare said...

This post is about life inside the County jails. It has nothing to do with Dave or your beefs with him.

Anonymous said...

Reibman is running with NCP reform and renovation as part of his platform... to bad he sucks in every other way.

Anonymous said...

Of course Stoffa let the main prison rot. Just as he has not taken care of the other county buildings.

Elected offical said...

I would be very interested in hearing Mr. Reibman's thoughts concerning NCP and what he would attempt to change or improve upon. Glad to hear it is part of his platform.

Anonymous said...

Reibman pledged to follow through with the plan Stoffa was involved in laying the groundwork for. Although, upon further questioning, Reibman refused to distance himself from some of the exploitative practices such as the 2000 percent markup on telephone calls for inmates.

Anonymous said...

We don't take care of our facilities.

Wait for it ........

Let's build a huge new building to replace the ones we failed to properly maintain!

Bernie O'Hare said...

" Reibman refused to distance himself from some of the exploitative practices such as the 2000 percent markup on telephone calls for inmates."

Of course he would not. He won't get vote by treating inmates like human beings. So he'll pretend he's a hard ass and tough on crime. After the election, you might get a more rational answer.

Peter J.Cochran said...

Look,Reibman probably only put the cost to inmates at the real cost to install , maintain and replace broken stuff. He was being very human. Under my plan , They would be re-leased to the Soviets to cut wood in Siberia ,no walls , want to escape?Have at it,Go! The Soviets would pay us for the drug labor and no mail, no visits from the babies mamma ,real easy.

Anonymous said...

Reibman actually had work done on buildigns including the prison. Stoffa let the prison and other buildings rot then complains about their condition. Hey, lets give him another new building. After all I am sure he can have a consultant or a commitee say it is a good idea.

Only Stoffa, only Stoffa.lol

Rob Hamill said...

The corrections bureaucracy, like all government bureaucracies has incentive to keep people in jail for as long as they can and expand at whatever the cost to anyone else. A zombiefied monster, if you will. Throwing inmates back in jail for not paying the fines imposed, ought to be a crime. I don't want my taxes to go towards playing the "keep em in jail" game. With reservations for real criminals, not just losers.

Bernie O'Hare said...

In Lehigh County, they are charged $10 per day room and bard. That is money that will never be collected. It does nothing to help someone get back on his feet. It might even be counterproductive, driving someone to despair. But it sounds good in a campaign.

Peter J.Cochran said...

Horse crap! Get work gangs in chains get'm to clean up the river side and pick up butts on Rt 22. Whatever they are not all completely stupid , make them do something that pays back , bed pans at gracedale ,clean up county vehicles , they don't want to act accordingly , fine off to Siberia to cut wood.

Peter J.Cochran said...

In Fact ,some of these dudes are smarter than we are, They should be processed and screened for viability and sent to GOVERNMENTAL AGENCIES to teach our employees the scams. Baby , If I was the Sheriff,It would be "CHAINS YOU COULD BELIEVE IN"for sure.