Monday, July 20, 2009

I Know My Rights

When Fred came into the CDU he was angry. "I am fifty years and I have no business being in jail. I was arrested for no reason. I had some chukka sticks in my backpack. This is not illegal. They're not considered a weapon. If I hadn't been poor, the police never would have hassled me and searched by backpack"

Everyone has an x-ray when they come to jail and Fred's x-ray was read as suspicious. He was sent to the CDU and was required to provide three sputums. If these sputums came back negative, Fred would be released to general population. "The mark on my lungs is the result of some scar tissue I got from a stab wound. I have had it for thirty years."

Fred refused to give sputums. By law, a resident can not go to court if medical services
says that he may be infected with a contagious disease. Fred did not go to court. The court date was rescheduled. Fred refused to give sputums. As a matter of fact, Fred did not leave his cell. He refused all contact with the medical staff. I saw him regularly to see if he was deteriorating mentally. If there was any sign that he might have a mental problem that might prevent him from cooperating with medical advice, it might be possible to get a court order. However, in practical terms, even with a court order, it would be difficult to force Fred to spit into a cup.

Since it was winter, some of the staff thought that Fred might have found a home with "three hots and a cot", the common expression for three meals and a bed. This is not unknown and jail population always increases when the weather gets cold. However, Fred had been here for six months. I realized that he wasn't getting any new court dates. It seemed as if the court had forgotten about him. Theoretically, that meant that Fred could spend the rest of his life locked up in this cell. Fred said that he was making a political statement about false arrest. I thought that he was spending an inordinate amount of taxpayer money. I really believed that he knew his medical condition and that he had an old scar from a stab wound.

April was warm and spring looked like was here to stay. It looked as if Fred was here to stay too. I couldn't find the lawyer assigned to the case but I was able to locate the district attorney. She couldn't believe that the case hadn't been settled and that Fred was still in jail. She asked me to call the judge. The judge say that he would have only gotten about 20 days if he had been convicted. The judge said that he would write the order the release him.

When Fred left, he winked. I still don't know if he was actually morally indignant about about his "false arrest" or if he preferred the CDU to a shelter.