When morning came I began my third day of false imprisonment. I had been arrested, as you know, only because I am a sincere politically-involved Bible-believing Christian who opposes government corruption and supports homeschooling.
I looked through the thin window on the steel door of my cell. McC, Hall County's own Hitler Youth, was back.
I banged on the door and asked to sign my paperwork and to speak to a lawyer.
“You refused to comply the first time, so now you’re on our terms.” He said, trying his best to sound like a grown-up.
Then he walked away.
Of course, what he said was entirely untrue. There was no time that I had been offered a piece of paperwork that I hadn't immediately signed.
I banged on the door.
He pretended not to hear me.
I banged some more.
He pretended not to hear me.
I was determined not to miss another hearing. I began kicking the door in rhythm and screaming: “I want to speak to a lawyer. I want to make a phone call. I want to sign my paperwork.” I shouted it over and over and over again until McC couldn’t ignore it.
He came back to the cell, dragging a chair with him. Officer R, the jail’s token homely 20-ish girl, was backing him up.
The chair looked like a medieval torture device. It had leather leg and arm straps for restraining the person sitting in it.
“Hey! You in there!” snapped McC, the smirk clearly wiped off his face, “If you don’t stop asking for a phone call I’m strapping you in this for your own protection.”
“Oh, for my own safety! Is that it?” I shouted back, “Because you really think I’m a threat to myself because I want a phone call?”
McC glared at me, but he didn’t answer. He walked off and left the chair.
So now, things were at their worst. I had been unlawfully detained, held longer than is legally allowed, refused legal services, refused a phone call, threatened with indefinite detention, and refused booking paperwork. If I asked nicely for my rights again, I'd be strapped to a chair, and then what? Beaten? Sodomized? Left to starve? There seemed to be no end to what these psychopaths were willing to do to me.
I didn't like the ramifications, but all civil options for ever getting out of the jail seemed to have been exhausted. I started thinking about how I could escape. I’d be within my legal rights to do whatever I had to – I was a kidnapping victim and everyone knew it. I won't tell you what my plan was, as I wouldn't want to give the kidnappers notice of where their security holes are, but it didn't really matter anyway.
R was the next one to open the door.
We’re moving you to the tower. She said. You’ve got a hearing at 2:30.
That astonished me. I'd been told that I couldn't have a hearing until all my booking paperwork was signed, and that the paperwork hadn't been signed in full.
“What about the paperwork?” I asked.
“All your paperwork is signed.” She answered.
I was shocked. I'd been told that I couldn't have a hearing until all my booking paperwork was signed, and that the paperwork hadn't been signed in full. As it turns out, all the paperwork had been signed the previous morning. There had been no reason for me to miss a hearing. The guards had invented the entire paperwork ruse. Don't ask me why. Perhaps it was incompetence. Perhaps it was an attempt at psychological abuse. Maybe they were just hoping to find a reason to strap me to the chair.
For the first time since I arrived at the jail I was removed from solitary confinement and escorted to a cell where I waited for half-an-hour with a few convicted drug users. I’ve never used drugs before. Never drank. Never smoked. I don’t like drugs. But having spent a little time in the jail, I can tell you that I’d much rather have drug users on the street than police officers.
The druggies seem to be better people, and less dangerous. They make much more intelligent company, display a much stronger moral underpinning, and aren’t likely to kidnap a person for absolutely no reason.
And of course, if a druggie ever does try to break into your house and kidnap you, you’re a lot more likely to beat him in a gunfight. He won’t have a posse with dogs, assault rifles, and bullet-proof vests with him. And most importantly, you won't go to prison if you win.
Now you might be saying, "That isn't really a fair comparison. You're seeing the best side of drug abusers, because on the street, drug abusers have access to drugs, but the ones you met in jail don't." And if you believe that, you obviously haven't been in the Hall County jail, where it seems pretty clear that our oh-so-righteous guards are supplying the prisoner's demand. We can rest assured that infiltrating law-enforcement is a prime goal for any drug cartel, just like infiltrating a government school is the objective of any pedophile. With the low standards for entering police-work, I see no reason that it should be harder for a drug-dealer to get the job than it is for anyone else.
Oh look. Police dealing drugs..
So which one do you want on the street? Regular drug-dealers or drug-dealers with badges? I want just regular please.
The convicted drug users asked me why I was there. They seemed incredulous when I said I had been arrested for speaking out against public schools in church.
“Well that can't be right." they said, "you must have done something.”
They were also shocked that I had been held in booking for three days.
“If they did that to me, I would be pissed.” Said one.
A while later I had a first appearance hearing. It was done via video-phone so Hall County wouldn’t have to bring me to the courthouse. The video feed to the prison was so bad I couldn’t even actually see the judge’s face. I guess I just have to presume that I was talking to an actual judge.
She, in a completely mind-numbing act of stupidity, set my bail at $4,000.
You should bear in mind that at about that time the Fed determined that about half of families couldn't even find $400 in an emergency, but now I was being told to pay that ten times over.
For the crime of saying stuff.
I was asked if I wanted a public defender for my trial.
A county lawyer? I’m supposed to trust that to get me off? No way. I told the judge I’d get my own.
On the way to and from the hearing room, I asked every officer I met if I could use a phone. They said there was a phone in the area of my cell that I could use during “rotation”.
Rotation was a time at which the prisoners in Hall County are let out of their cells for half-an-hour. They never go outside. Instead, they have an indoor commons area connecting about eight of the different cells. There was a phone in the commons area.
When rotation came, I couldn’t use the phone. I had to enter a prisoner ID number, and I didn’t have one. Booking hadn’t done their job. I informed one of the guards.
“You have to have an ID number.” He said. “Everyone has an ID number.”
I convinced him I didn’t. He went away to booking and came back with an ID card for me.
I still couldn’t use the phone. Unlike the phones in booking, this one cost money. I couldn’t make a call unless I had money on my prison account.
I asked another prisoner if he had enough money for me to make a phone call. He told me he’d trade me a call for my wedding ring. So I gave up on using a phone.
Now that ransom was set I figured surely Mindy would be coming for me soon, and I was right about that. I had been very concerned about her safety in my absence (particularly given the degenerate state of our local police), but no harm had come to her. She had spent every moment since my arrest trying to free me. She had called the jail repeatedly, recorded Jason Berry as he shoved off responsibility, shown up for the first hearing to be told that I wasn't on the list, and had sat in the actual courtroom while I watched a video of some blurry-faced incompetent.
When she heard that my ransom was $4,000, she rushed off to get the money, but when she got to the jail she was told it wasn't enough. Evidently the state of Georgia charges 10% in addition to all bails (and a processing fee of, I think, $13). Even if the defendant is found to be innocent, he doesn’t get the fee money back. Does that sound constitutional to you? It doesn’t to me either. Innocent people shouldn’t have to pay fees to their captors. Mindy had to go home and get $413 more dollars to pay for my vacation in the Hall County Hotel. And it’s a good thing that she did. Without those $4,413, I would have sat in jail until I had a trial. Georgia law allows the state to hold a trial at any time within two years.
Effectively, just by being accused of something – even something ridiculous like speaking in church – a person who doesn’t have ready access to thousands of dollars has already been sentenced to up to two years in prison.
Four hours later (evidently after jail workers had taken as much sweet time as they could possibly muster), I was told my wife had paid my bail. I was walked back to booking to change my clothes. Then Bustamente walked me out of the jail.
“Good luck finding a better church!” said one of the drug users when I was taken away.
For the entire time I was at there, I was never allowed to make a phone call. There was never a minute that I was not under florescent lights. I never had access to basic hygienic items like a toothbrush or soap. I never spoke to a lawyer. The jail was so filthy that in the weeks after my release, all of my fingernails fell off.
Americans are supposed to be innocent until someone proves them guilty. Is this the way to treat innocent people?