Well… It happened like this:
I had an active warrant for my arrest out of Graves County, Kentucky, for a charge of “Flagrant Nonsupport” that had been dismissed almost a year earlier, but when it was dismissed the warrant was never taken out of the system.
Now the reason for the original charge was based out of not being able to see my son and not paying the child support out of protest. I was a kid and thought the legal system worked a little differently then. Only a great fool fails to recognize when he is being a great fool. I, at the time, was a great fool. Nonetheless, I had already been arrested, paid my arrearage, and had the charge dismissed.
Cut to: two years later...
The year was 1997, and I'm living in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago when I get pulled over.
Well, not exactly. At the time of the event/arrest my car was parked, actually.
The police officer, one of Roselle’s finest, rolls up behind my car, idling in park, standing next to the curb in the corner of the parking lot at the strip mall on the corner of Nerge and Plum Grove. I've got out-of-state plates still on my 1975 Ford LTD, which he said was made my vehicle “standing in the fire lane” of more “criminal investigation.”
|Blockbuster was in the corner here back then|
I had left the car running in the fire lane while I ran into Blockbuster to give my girlfriend her dinner that I bought for her. When I came back out, I found the cop standing next to the open driver door of my car, his cruiser behind mine (also “standing in a fire lane”) with the flashing lights going.
The officer asked to search my car, and as I knew I had nothing in there to hide, I said he could.
It was during this extensive search of my car (wherein he unloaded the whole of the contents of my vehicle onto the sidewalk, while continuing to block the fire lane) that he found a one-and-half-inch pocket knife on the floor under the passenger seat. So...of course, he was forced to bounce my face off my trunk lid for not disclosing my “concealed weapon.” Let the party begin, right?
He arrested me and charged me with driving on a suspended license (that was suspended for the warrant I didn't know about), parking in a fire lane, and possession of a concealed weapon.
Once he had put me in the back seat of his car, the real fun began. His radio crackled to life and informed him that I was a wanted fugitive currently fleeing justice and that I had an active governor’s warrant from the state of Kentucky. They didn’t tell him the charge for the warrant, he didn’t ask. His behavior changed though. He stopped treating me like a kid he was going to enjoy slapping around and arresting and treating me like I was a murderer on the run and deserving of dehumanizing completely.
I could go on and on about where I was stripped, in front of how many people, where I was made to walk at the detention location while naked, and all of the chains that were on me, as well as the fact that I got hit every time my mouth opened…but do we really have time for that?
Anyway, it was a night that just sucked.
Nearing dawn I was told that transport was being sent to take me to 26th and California, the Cook County Jail. For the record, not only were there no women or lawyers performing musical numbers, but it is one of the single most hostile environments you will find in the U.S.A.
I had to change uniforms again, had to get naked, get probed (yes, they put a stick in the guy from the tip, and yes they spin it like they are stirring coffee), get dressed again, sit in chain link cages, and generally hate life for about eighteen hours.
When they moved me again it was to plop me in D block in the old jail building (no lie, rats the size of house cats). It was medium security because with the out of state warrant I was a fugitive and a flight risk.
To make matters worse, I had just shaved my head before I got arrested, due to losing an unfortunate bet at work. Everyone on D block immediately started chanting “White Power” when I was brought in. I was the only white person...guards, prisoners...anyone...the only white guy...and I had a shaved head. I couldn’t make this shit up. I was waving my hands and yelling, “No! No white power! I’m not a racist!” I’m fairly certain they thought I was lying.
The people who booked me in at Cook County had told me that Graves County, Kentucky, had thirty days to come claim me on the warrant. If they chose not to come get me, I would be released. However, until those thirty days were up, I could not get bail. I could not find out what the charge was. I could do nothing. Absolutely nothing.
I would spend all thirty days there.
Eventually, halfway through my stay, I was taken before a judge and he waived all the other charges against me because he had been informed that Kentucky did intend to extradite me on the warrant. He also noted to my arresting officer, who showed up there, that, in the future, a person shouldn’t be charged with driving and being parked at the same time. That made me laugh, but anyway, on with the story.
The second day I was locked up there I met Snake. No kidding, Snake. His real name was awesome, but that’s not what he went by, and I don’t think it would be fair of me to write it here, in case he’s cleaned up his life and doesn’t want this chapter of it spoken on…and also if he hasn’t cleaned up his life he might come find me, so, no.
He was a pimp. He was a member of the Gangster Disciples. It’s a gang, in case you have lived a life so removed from that culture to know that.
He started chatting me up. He told me later he was trying to get friendly with me so that he could lure me off to get stabbed, but while talking he found out I could write. So, he had me write some poetry for him. No kidding. Poetry on demand in lockup. It’s a thing. Lucky for me, he liked it
For the rest of my stay, he had me write letters to all his bitches outside. Even his bottom bitch. He called me his private secretary. He wouldn’t let the other guys roll on me, and he kept me in smokes as long as I kept writing his letters for him. It wasn’t a bad situation. I even got hot food cooked on a metal bunk. It was like a surrealist look at summer camp that taught me a lot more than I would ever have guessed I’d know about BET, and I don't at all mean that in a negative way.
I would eat snack food I didn't have to buy. I would smoke on someone else dime. I was given preferential treatment regarding the phone on the block. I just had to keep writing flowery prose that met the approval of the graying pimp who called me his own. I eventually got to know almost everyone there and what they were in for. One had stabbed his girlfriend in front of their daughter, one had robbed a liquor store with a gun and was looking at a big sentence as it was his third offense, and one was guilty of (in his words) “jaywalking in front of a cop who didn't like black folks.”
There was a really strange sense of acceptance that I’ve rarely ever felt in classes, churches, or meetings of any sort. The group of us lived, ate, and slept in tight quarters under close watch, and I was secure because I was writing. I even began to be “loaned out” to other guys on the block to help edit their letters to their mothers, their girlfriends or wives or their “side pieces.” But alas, ‘all good things’... right?
When the representatives from Graves County Kentucky showed up to get me...it was the old, bald, fat sheriff...and his brother...his brother who wasn’t even a cop. They had driven from Mayfield, Kentucky, to Chicago to retrieve me in a personal vehicle that had been a police car but had been sold at auction, so it had the discolored spots in the paint where the police symbols had once been. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.
The two brothers from down south had planned their retrieval road trip poorly. They didn’t think to bring inmate clothing/uniform or cuffs and they were without sidearms or uniforms. These facts weighed heavily on the Cook County employees and much debate was had, but eventually I was remanded to their custody. I had to put back on my street clothes to be transported, and once out of the jail, the sheriff and his brother argued loud, long, and hard about literally everything humans can bicker or fight over. They got lost. Not once or twice, but over and over again...I had to give them directions repeatedly, sometimes with them yelling over me at each other before getting angry with me for not speaking loudly enough and calling me names as they had me repeat the directions again.
They were arguing so badly and were so engrossed in their squabble that when they stopped for gas on the South Side of Chicago, they simply threw cash back at me and told me to go in and prepay and then pump the fuel. I’m not going to lie. I was speechless. Few occasions in my life have seen me in that condition, but I was in awe.
It occurred to me as I closed the door to the car and walked across the lot to the building that I could just leave. I could have taken the cash, bought a pack of smokes, and got in one of the cabs that was sitting right there, but I’d have still had a warrant. Worse, I’d have been an “escapee” at that point.
When I finally got back to Kentucky, I spent the night at the guard station, shift after shift of guards came and went, none ever putting me in a cell...all the people who worked there just wanted to ask questions about what Cook County Jail was actually like. It was just another wave of the surreal crashing down.
The next morning I was taken before Judge Royce Buck who informed me that I didn’t have an active charge against me and that the warrant was just never taken off the books. He informed me that none of this would have happened to me if I hadn’t done something wrong to get charged in the first place, and I was just lucky that it was all over and I needed to let it “scare me a little” to remember to walk the straight and narrow. If you know me, you’ll understand why that is funny. My entire criminal history contains this event and the charges and warrants involved, and a check I bounced by one cent when I was eighteen, two speeding tickets, and one failure to stop at a stop sign ticket (that was also dismissed, because at the time of the ticket…there was no sign at that intersection). After I was admonished, I was taken back to the jail and left to sit and ponder for three hours, and then I was finally released. I was just shoved out the door. They put me out on the street there…in Mayfield, Kentucky…Four hundred miles, more than a six-hour drive, from where I’d been arrested.
|Photo taken at the time of my release|
From left to right: my ex, me, my friend Karen
My car, and apartment, girlfriend, and my whole life, really, were in Chicago. I lost most of it as well as my job while sitting in jail. I was behind on all bills. Oh, and the judge made a big show of warning me in court that I was now a month behind on my child support...for the time I’d been in jail for their mistake...so I needed to “get on that” unless I wanted to come back before him again, which he warned me I didn’t ever want to do.
If my friend Karen and my girlfriend at the time hadn’t been there to pick me up I don’t know what I would have done.
So, yeah. That’s a thing that happened. That was a month in my life when I was twenty. Kind of sucked at the time, but now I can put “Personal Secretary and Head of Correspondence for a Gangster Disciple Pimp” and “Temporary/Seasonal Employee/Member at Gangster Disciple” on my resume. So that’s a bonus, right?