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Sunday, January 13, 2013

Screaming Kids at the Bibb County Jail

The building is concrete block painted a harsh shade of orange-brown.  A few people mill around in the parking lot, smoking, their faces drawn.

Inside, two women sit at a desk beside the metal detector.  They check my ID and take my keys.  I walk through the detector, setting off its cold and judging beep.  One of the women takes a scanning rod and swipes it up and down my sides.  It sounds sharply as she moves it over the button of my jeans.  She directs me to the elevator, I step inside and touch “2.”

Again, concrete block for walls, and a wide hall that smells of dirt.  The floor is damp, adding to the pungent stink, and I walk several yards toward the open door on the right.  I second guess my decision to come. 

Before I reach the door, my ears are assaulted by the screams and screeches of several small children.  When I enter the room, the sounds echo off the walls in an ear splitting cacophony.  What are they doing here?  Their mothers and grandmothers are oblivious to the noise, but they see that I need help, and shout to offer it.

“Did you come to see a man or a woman?” a large woman with a worn face asks.  Her eyes are kind and reflect a kindred spirit.  When I tell her I have come to visit my son, she points me to the wall where the phone booths are lined up, each with a chair and a phone on the left wall.

I see Parrish walk up the stairs and sit across from me on the other side of the dull glass.  His face is unshaven and gaunt.  He has lost weight in the last four weeks, but his eyes are clear, if a little wild.  He picks up the receiver on his side. pushes a button and says, “Hey, Mama.  How are you?”
How in the name of God can I ask him how he is doing when there is nothing remotely good or normal about his situation?  I search my mind for another way to begin the conversation but fail and ask the insane question.
“I’m in jail, Mama.”

Humbled, I admit the stupidity of my question and try to think of something to say.  I struggle to hear him over the chaos behind me, where the children run up and down the hall, squealing and stomping.  

Parrish takes the lead, asking me to drop the trespassing charges so I can bail him out.  He asks this question in every letter he sends me, and I tell him again that I cannot help him out of jail until he has a safe place to go.  He takes the remark in stride, seems resigned to my decision.  

“I’m doing everything I can to line up a lawyer who takes cases like yours.  I think I have found one, but we have to be patient.”

I ask him if he will consider going to a hospital for a time when he is released.  He warily asks me how long he will have to stay.  Knowing that I am being less than truthful, I explain that he will only stay as long as he needs to be there, that we will need a judge to order his admission.  
He bristles and says he won’t stay in hospital for a year, and I gently assure him that it will be better than this filthy jail, that he will receive the treatment and medication he so desperately needs.  I ask for his patience and willingness to keep an open mind.
We are exhausted, and he wants to know the time.  It is time to eat and he has to go downstairs before they take up his food.             

“I love you.”
“I love you, too.” 

The blasting racket fades as I walk back to the elevator. 



Sue said...

Raw and heart wrenching.

But it is what it is, right?



Viki said...

Wow, I can only imagine how hard this is for you. Take care!!