In this text, I give the reader a first-person view of my experience while incarcerated at the Broward County Jail on a charge that was immediately dismissed by the judge that I was brought upon. Though I felt the charge was ludicrous, the dehumanization and fear that was instilled in me made it very hard to simply “move past” the ridiculousness of the arrest. This was my first and only time being arrested, something I feel like everyone will eventually go through despite being innocent or cooperative. There are simply times where the “justice system” is meant to carry out anything, but justice and it can leave an everlasting impact on the people that find themselves on the wrong end of the stick.
The overlapping roars of indifference occurring within my head seemed to echo in unison with the chatter of the block. Tremors throughout my entire body made it increasingly difficult to sit still, anxieties struck every nerve of my being and rendered me into a petrified wreck. Constantly asking myself over and over again, “Why am I here? Why did they do this to me?” I was a medley of indignation, discomposure, and sheer panic. While my frigid gaze was aimed sightlessly at the fabrics of my jumpsuit that read “BROWARD COUNTY JAIL”, I sunk lower into the chair beneath me. Hundreds of thoughts and scenarios condensed into my mind, sending me into a deeper pit of panic.I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen to me. With no indication of what was to come, only time would be able to declare my fate. That is, until an inmate approached me. He stood in front of me, towering over my slumped body as his dreads covered his eyes. “What happened?” he asked in a dry yet concerned tone. “I was skateboarding,” I muttered. Just then, all the noise from the inmates lowered and reduced to silence for a moment. Before I could even reflect on what I had just said, they erupted into laughter and disbelief. Naturally, I’d feel defensive toward people laughing at me, but I soon realized they weren’t laughing AT me, they were laughing at the absurdity of my “crime” and me being there in the first place. Several inmates sat down around me, some still laughing, but mostly trying to be supportive and helpful. It was at that moment I had finally felt some relief since being arrested.
They would jokingly take jabs at me, calling me “a violent criminal” and “worse than a murderer” whilst also criticizing the police department for wasting resources and time. Being able to express my frustration with the situation while also giving my side of the story was a refreshing change of pace, but it also allowed me to develop a sort of comradery with so many people that had no business being locked up in the first place. Half of the inmates I met had been there for months, whereas the other half were individuals that had just been arrested the same day as me, but a majority of us were there for non-violent offenses. Obviously we all shared resentment toward the people that were responsible for putting us here in the first place, it wasn’t blind hatred through. We were all frustrated, some more than others. I gained vast insight from people who are often looked down upon by the rest of our society, people whose lives were permanently changed after being put into this place. The morality most of the inmates possessed was inspiring. So many of them didn’t know when they’d be getting out but nonetheless were just happy to be alive. Every exchange I had with someone discussing their arrest, they always emphasized how relieved they were to have not been shot, to have not been beaten to death, or framed for a crime they didn’t commit. This only solidified my perspective of the police department’s corruption, but it was extraordinarily disturbing to behold the shared relief of not being murdered or violated by individuals who are meant to “protect us”.
A large portion of my time was spent thinking about the excessiveness of our country’s law enforcement. Despite getting along with other inmates, we were often separated throughout the day when we were sent into our cells. I didn’t share my cell with anyone, which may sound nice, but ended up being the worst-case scenario. Time went by slower, my grip on reality grew looser, and my anxiety rooted deeper into my chest. I’d lay out on my cot, staring at my blurred reflection in the bulletproof mirror across the cell. For some reason, I was able to maintain a relaxed composure, yet I could still feel the sharpness of my heartbeat vibrate throughout my chest. No amount of optimism was able to rid myself of the fear I had of the unknown. My life was at stake, my future was at stake, and my sanity was at stake. All I could do was stare at my reflection and pray I was going to get out of this awful situation.
The entire process of being confronted by the police, belittled, handcuffed, detained, fingerprinted, photographed, stripped down, and thrown in a cell was absolutely dehumanizing. The very people that put me in here seemed to deliberately withhold any information about what was going to happen to me. They only give you one option and it’s to bail yourself out, usually set at an amount that would render someone in financial straits or simply put in a dead-end. I couldn’t afford my bail amount and they made it impossible to contact a bondsman to help pay the bail. Once that was established, I was whisked away to a unit and still without any information as to what was to come. When could I get out and go home? When could I get my belongings? How long am I going to be here? How do I get out of here? Why did I get a third-degree felony for skateboarding? Is it because I’m black? How are you allowed to do this? Why did they do this to me? All of these questions went unanswered except for the last, to which I was told by both the overseeing officers and inmates “It’s the last week of the month, everyone’s trying to reach a quota.”