Actually, It's Jesus, 9: Inside
Jesus rode silently in the back of the patrol car north along Highway 101 up past San Rafael, exiting the freeway and curving around to behold the famous Marin County Civic Center, a monument to the ego of the late architect, the bane of its maintenance people, and a strangely alienating place for those whose offices were inside. Not for nothing did George Lucas use it to film scenes of stark alienation in his first feature film.
And yet for all of its strangeness, the place carried a heavy weight of the mundane. If one lived in Marin County and needed to pay a parking ticket, talk to the planning department, or attend a court hearing, this bizarre quarter-mile long building built of pink arches with a rounded, oddly-patterned blue roof inexplicably topped with a stubby golden spire was the place to do so.
Another group of people who had to visit this building did so under less fortunate, although no less alienating circumstances: those who were incarcerated. For Jesus this meant no touring of the empty corridors with their blood-red floors, skylights, and weird sightlines. Instead, the patrol car he was in drove into a breezeway beneath the building where a metal gate rolled up to admit the patrol car he was in. When the car was inside and the gate was shut, he was brought out of the car into a space just like any other whose purpose was to book arrestees. There were fluorescent lights overhead, steel benches, beige walls, and a pair of partitioned-off booking desks with thick clear panels between the inmate side and those working desk duty. The room smelled of humans on a bad day: piss, shit, stale alcohol and fear.
Jesus was seated at a bench with one handcuff attached through a loop in front of him. After a few minutes Tony was brought in by two deputies and roughly seated on the bench some distance from Jesus. Once he was attached to the bench, the deputies left and were replaced by a corrections officer, who stood at the end of the room.
Jesus looked over at Tony, who didn't seem eager to meet his eye. Finally, he said “Tony... I'm sorry man.”
Tony kept his eyes forward. “Got me fucked up here, apostate.”
“No talking!” barked the officer.
So the two men sat in silence, alone in their thoughts.
Tony couldn't really blame Jesus for going after that guy, but also he couldn't help being mad at him for it. Big hippie-looking dude had been itching for a fight since they had first arrived. All Tony wanted was to slip past that motherfucker and spend some of his money having fun. Now they were both in a cage, and for nothing. Still, Tony figured he probably would have gone after that guy for what he had said – there are things that you just can't do, at least not without a payback. The part that bugged him the most was how that weird-ass Houseboat Jason's people all got to walk. The way that cop shook his hand, too. Rich people shit he figured, not incorrectly.
For his part Jesus was trying to think in several directions at once. First off he had somehow never been arrested before and didn’t know what to expect. The place had the same vibe as a couple of the group homes he stayed at, but multiplied. So he would, as he had so often done before, wait and see what happens. Then there was the situation with Houseboat Jason. Jesus didn’t know anything about Jason’s dad but clearly he was not only rich but had pull in the community. So that was worrying. But also fuck Houseboat Jason for turning on him like that when it was his shithead toady who started the whole thing. He worried about whether any of this was going to blow back on Charles. Probably not – Charles was on good terms with a lot of people and would probably just have to forget about any work from Houseboat Jason from then on. Jesus figured he’d be fine. Last, there was the fact that Tony had been arrested, and seemed pissed off at Jesus about it. Tony hadn't done anything so why was he in jail? It didn’t seem right.
After about half an hour another correctional officer came in with a long chain with cuffs that went around Jesus’s ankles and wrists, unhooked him from the bench, and led him to one of the desks where another officer took his fingerprints. Beside him was a clear plastic bag with Jesus’s wallet, belt and other things in it. He held up the bag: “Are these your belongings?”
“Are these all the belongings you had on your person when you were taken into custody?”
Jesus looked, there were no stacks of $20 bills. Fuck. Fuckety fucking fuck. He’d been robbed by men with badges on and there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it. “Yeah.”
“I will now open your wallet and count all items in it. Any item not determined to be contraband or profits from illegal activity will be returned to you upon your eventual release.” The officer pulled all the money out of Jesus’s wallet, counted it out, and wrote the amount on a form, and then listed his driver license, keys (four keys total), bank card and the polaroid, which he studied for a moment before writing it on his form.
“Sign here.” Jesus signed, and then the officer who had been standing behind him escorted him through a steel door which buzzed open as they approached and closed with a loud clang behind him.
So it came to pass that Jesus found himself an involuntary guest of the Marin County jail. The environment there was tense, an echoing space filled with angry voices, cheap fluorescent lights, and the slamming of steel doors. During booking he was informed that he was being held on charges of attempted murder in the first degree, a startling revelation that made no sense.
His initial appearance the next day was in a circular courtroom with the judge seated at a raised dais on one side, the jury box to his right, and visitor’s seating across from the jury box. It had a strange amphitheater-like layout. He was kept seated in the jury box under strict instructions not to talk to any inmate or visitor. It was a short hearing for Jesus: he was brought down by a bailiff, sworn in, and asked if he had an attorney or wished for a public defender. He said “Public defender, your honor,” and with that he was returned to the jury box.
Tony was in the same hearing, and continued to avoid making eye contact with Jesus. The look on his face was one of bitter resignation. When his turn came he also requested a public defender. Within an hour the inmates were all returned to the jail.
Meals were a challenge in learning the environment. From looking in the room it was clear that the men segregated themselves by race: closest to the food queue were a group of white people, then a substantially larger group of Hispanic people, and finally the Black inmate population whose numbers were greater by far than the other two groups combined. Jesus knew what he was looking at, and didn’t like it. Fancy snow-white Marin County sure did like to lock up people with darker skin.
After lunch all the inmates were brought back to their cells and once a headcount was completed an inmate trustee came through with correspondence. Jesus was handed a stack of paperwork including the arrest affidavit filed against him. It made for interesting reading:
As I approached the scene in my patrol car I observed three men engaged in melee. A large WMA in a tye-died shirt, later identified as GERALD O’NEILL, stood in a partial fighting stance but with his hands raised to shoulder height in front of him, attempting to avoid the fight. The other two men, later identified as suspects TONY FREEMAN (BMA) and JESUS CLEMONS (WMA), were aggressively posturing themselves in the direction of O’NEILL. Based on my experience and training they were preparing to assault O’NEILL.
As soon as I stopped and exited my patrol vehicle I heard CLEMONS say the following in a loud yell ‘IM GOING TO KILL YOU MOTHERFUCKER.’ After saying that CLEMONS charged directly at O’NEILL and using a grappling technique forced O’NEILL off the dock in a head-downward position. At the same time, FREEMAN said in a yell ‘KILL THAT CRACKER.’ At this time I drew my service weapon and directed CLEMONS and FREEMAN to surrender and was able to take them into custody without incident.”
Jesus finished with the document, set it on the table, and stared at the wall for a while. Why would a cop lie like that? It didn’t make any sense – he’d seen bar fights before where both people were charged with disorderly conduct. What Jesus had actually done wasn’t any worse than a bar fight, mud notwithstanding. And the things Tony had supposedly said would be laughable if the situation weren’t serious. For one thing, he never said “cracker” to Jesus’s knowledge, but he’d certainly heard Tony call people, Jesus included, as “honky.” In other words, he wouldn’t have said what the cop swore he had. Given what was written down there, at least the attempted murder charge made sense. But why? He began to get an inkling of what Houseboat Jason had meant.
Jesus endured the county jail as best he could, trying to live with the stultifying boredom of being locked in a cage for most of the day. Taking a hint from his cellmate, he began exercising a couple times a day. The guy he was in with was older and had a lot of years of hard living written all across his face. Neither man asked the other why he was there – of all the questions one might ask a fellow inmate, this one was anathema. They talked little beyond introducing one another and organizing their shared life in the tiny cell.
On his third day behind bars Jesus received written notification that he had been assigned a public defender named Stefanie something or other, but there was no other information beyond an assurance that she would be meeting with him prior to his next hearing, set in a week.
Within a few days Jesus found himself settling in to a way of living familiar from his days in group homes. There was wake-up time, meal time, time in cell, time out of cell, time in a tiny courtyard for “exercise,” time set aside for showers every two days, time for chapel on Sundays for those who wished to attend (Jesus did not), time spent passing time with no aim.
At Sunday lunch Jesus was joined by one of the larger inmates in the group of white men. He introduced himself as Claude. Jesus introduced himself as Jesus.
Claude gazed at him steadily, his face expressionless. “I’d heard that’s what you were calling yourself.”
“It’s the name I was given when I was born.”
Claude leaned back, stroking his chin. He couldn’t believe what this guy was saying but his bullshit-detector was silent on the matter, and that was a well-tuned instrument. “So listen, uh, Jesus, how come you weren’t at chapel this morning?”
Jesus shrugged. “Not my thing, I guess.”
By now Claude was really wishing his bullshit-detector would go off, but as far as he could tell Jesus was being straight with him. He didn’t come across as either a clown or a fool, and only somebody like that would attempt to bullshit their way through this.
“Well, Jesus, you gotta come to chapel. All the brothers are in there every week, gives us a chance to meet up for a minute to stay on the same page.”
“Yeah, Jesus, brothers. Look around.” Jesus lifted his head and saw that every man at the table was looking right at him, probably twenty guys all staring closely. “See,” continued Claude, “I heard about what you done so I know what you’re willing to do. And we gotta stick together in here.” He went on to describe the other, darker inmates using the obvious sort of language that rarely needs to be repeated and assured Jesus that if he threw his hat in with Claude and the other “brothers” then he’d be safe.
“What kind of brothers are you talking about?” Jesus asked.
Claude laughed, as did the other men sitting close enough to hear. “Aryan ones. We’re the Brotherhood.”
Jesus felt his blood turn to ice. He’d heard of the Aryan Brotherhood and knew their reputation for not fucking around. Now he was being invited to join forces with them. To Jesus, there were only a few things worse than being a racist. For sure there were some things far worse than being a racist, but it was a really short list just the same. He was about to stall for time, then some deeper part of himself jumped in front of that idea.
“Fuck you,” he said quietly.
Pulling back, Claude demanded, “You wanna repeat that? Say it for the whole room to hear. Go on.”
“Fuck you, you racist nazi cocksucker piece of shit.” Jesus said this loudly and clearly, and the volume in the room dropped instantly.
It was on. Claude picked up his lunch tray and flung it at Jesus, who deflected it with his right arm as he got up and threw a wild left at Claude. Before long the two men were on the floor rolling around grappling. The other whites circled around, trying to aim kicks at Jesus without hitting Claude. Then the corrections officers started blowing whistles, and all the inmates quickly got into the same posture, knees on the floor, head tilted forward, hands reaching up behind them as far as they could go.
Everyone except for Jesus and Claude, who by now were laying side to side each holding the other by their lower hand while throwing haymakers with their upper hand. As fate would have it this meant Jesus was able to swing with his right hand, and he was landing punches with effect. Claude hit hard too, but this was clearly his weaker side. Jesus heard boots running toward him from multiple directions and shouted orders that he didn’t bother paying attention to – his singular goal was to completely destroy the fascist pig in front of him.
Through the din, Jesus heard someone say “Last fucking warning!” He continued pummeling Claude, who by now was only able to throw feeble blows back at Jesus. Hands seized him and pulled him away from Claude, but Jesus continued to struggle to break free, managing to land a solid kick to Claude’s stomach in the process.
“That’s it!” one of the guards ran up to Jesus, his nightstick swinging, and then Jesus saw only stars.
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