The Louisville Metro Department of Corrections on an average books 123 inmates a day. In a month, that amounts to 3,763 bookings and annually, 45,161, as stated in the 2010 Louisville Department of Corrections fact sheet. Have you wondered what your tax dollars are paying for? Have you wondered what being arrested and going to jail is really like? This is my first person account. It may or may not be different for everyone, but I assume the booking process is the same regardless of a person or the crime they may or may not have committed.
Personally, I am a law abiding citizen. I had never been arrested or seen the inside of Louisville Metro Department of Corrections until recently. It all started when I was on my way to the pharmacy to pick up an antibiotic for a virus that had been floating around my household, infecting everyone within it. We were pulled over and told that the reason was the car we were in matched a description that they had and it was simply being pulled over on suspicion. My nephew, who is covered in tattoos, was the first person who was asked to get out of the vehicle to which he obliged and was patted down in a search, then allowed back inside of the vehicle as the officer continued to run checks on everyone who was seated inside.
The cop then asked me to get out of the car to which I was patted down and searched in the same fashion as my nephew had just been. I was then asked to walk with him to the front of the police cruiser where he proceeded to tell me that I had a warrant out for my arrest. Now my first initial reaction was that I was on some sort of hidden camera show considering I had never been in any serious legal trouble ever before. But it turned out that the warrant was due to my supposedly being a no-show at a court date that I was in fact in attendance, along with not paying court costs in the amounts of $135, which I had gone downtown and attempted to pay. They told me they couldn’t find the case in their system and after a 50-minute wait (so they could walk across the street to look in the archives), they refused to take my money and that was that, or so I was under the impression that it was over.
The officer then told me I had to come with him. I was still in such a state of shock. I just stood in place completely in a daze trying to come to terms with the reality of what was happening to me. I was then placed in handcuffs and got into the back seat of the police cruiser.
The ride to downtown Louisville was likely the longest of my life. I talked to the officer honestly and he said he doubted I would in custody for too long because it all just sounded like a mix up. I explained to him that I had never been to jail before and was extremely nervous. He put my fears at ease for a few moments at least by telling me that nothing bad would happen to me. They wouldn’t let it.
Once we arrived to the Department of Corrections, I got out of the police cruiser, and the handcuffs were removed, much to the happiness of my freed wrists, which at this point had red rings and slight bruising from how uncomfortable being handcuffed actually was. I was then placed in a cage that reminded me very much of a dog pen with a metal bench. There were two in total and the surroundings were a parking garage for the cruisers to start the booking process.
I’m not sure how long I remained in that cage, but I do remember the entire time I was a complete wreck on the inside although on the outside I simply appeared to be quiet and cooperative. Once I was removed from the cage, I was led to a door, where I was told to stand with my back against the wall as I waited for the next officer to take me through the next step of the booking process.
Once inside of the next door, there was a small area with a mat against the wall. I was told to take off my shoes, hoodie and empty all contents from my pockets. I was then told to stand in front of the mat and place my hands on it, allowing the second search of the afternoon before moving on to the next area, where I was fingerprinted, told to sit and wait. I was then called to get my mugshot taken, and then a fire alarm was sounded to which myself, along with four other females who were being booked at the same time were placed in a small holding cell with another woman who was clearly distraught and out of her mind. We looked out the glass window to see nobody out walking around. The police officers all going outside while inmates being booked were left inside tiny holding cells with nothing but a mentally unstable person who was in there to begin with and a urinal.
Once the fire alarm was over and done with, we were allowed back out into the waiting area, which followed by being called to two different desk stations. At the first one, they take down your medical information and at the other one, you give them an emergency contact in case they need one.
I used the next few hours of my waiting time using their phone to call home, and my older sister paid my court cost, which was now what I needed to be released. Another set of fingerprints were taken, as well as another series of mugshots. Then there was another period of time where I still continued to sit and wait, which I believed that I was waiting to get released since everything had been worked out. That was until my name was called along with another woman who had been booked at the same time as me. I was thrilled, I thought that my experience was over with and I was just mere steps away from having my freedom back. But that happiness hadn’t come just yet as the female officer proceeded to tell me that we were going to the second floor. I asked her in all seriousness if that was where the exit was, but she shot down my hopes of finally being released after such a long and stressful day.
After taking the elevator up to the second floor, we were handed tattered, thin, worn-out vinyl mattresses and a blanket that clearly reeked of an unknown odor. Here, I had been in custody all day long and had not had anything to drink, eat or even my medications, which I rely on every day just to keep me alive. Out of all of my worries, my medications had to be at the top of the list, especially considering that I am a severe asthmatic and my rescue inhaler was taken from me earlier in the booking process. When I asked the desk station that went through my medical information with me, I was told I would not have access to my rescue inhaler, but they did have breathing treatments. However, they would have to check your oxygen level and it had to be low enough for them to approve and give you one. The woman at the desk told me she knew it was awful for people who had severe asthma as asthmatics know when they can’t breathe or need a rescue medication.
We were taken into a dormitory that held about 30 to 40 other female inmates, rows of metal bunk beds and a couple of tables with built in stools and an open bathroom where everyone could watch you do your business if they had wanted to. On one table was a cooler of ice, and the other three tables were completely empty give or take a few inmates just sitting around. At 10 in the evening on the dot, the television automatically cut off, leaving inmates to find their own means of entertainment. I socialized with those that socialized with me first, but for the most part, I kept to myself, just waiting anxiously to be released while wondering if I was actually even going to be released as I was told that I would.
After hours of sitting impatiently, worried, anxious and pondering whether or not my future would involve being locked permanently down in a dormitory with a large group of strangers, good news finally came and I was being released along with four other females.
We were taken back to the elevator and where we had started within the booking area, an officer had our paperwork to which we got to view our mugshots and sign our names. Everyone was given their next court date except me, who was given absolutely nothing before being ushered into another room, backs against the wall and only stepping forward when called to regain our property. Once all of us had our possessions, we were placed in another small area between two locked doors until the door was finally unlocked, allowing us back into civilization.
Now, a lot of people who had been arrested before have told me that 10 hours is nothing, and they may be right considering they spent longer amounts of time there. But I had not committed a crime, and everything had been sorted out within my 10-hour experience. Had I been an actual criminal, I would have been completely reformed after just being in there for the 10 hours. So I honestly can’t imagine how it is for those which are in there for longer. I just know that although the officers were helpful and considerate to my worries and questions, I did and will never belong there, proving that freedom is indeed sweet and I would not trade it in for anything.