Editor’s note: This post is a non-fictional account of going to jail in New Orleans. This marks the first contribution to NOadventure from guest, A. Finely.
“You Down With O.P.P.?”
Yes, I know the song means “Other Peoples’ Pu**y,” but for this, let’s just agree it stands for Orleans Parish Prison. Hopefully, a once in a lifetime trip to Orleans Parish Prison.
1 Take a left, where there is clearly a “no left” sign, on St. Charles.
2 Do not pass go.
3 Do not collect 200 dollars.
4 Proceed directly to jail.
I was in the back of a squad car in less than 5 minutes. No field test, no breathalyzer at the scene, apparently I appeared so heavily intoxicated I had to be carted off immediately. I’ve never had any brushes with “the law” so I had no idea what to expect.
We hopped in the car and my buddy asked if I’m ok to drive. I told him “sure” and drove off. It was really dark and there was a light mist that would soon be rain. As I’m headed towards St. Charles, I saw a police officer on my right and thought nothing of it. We came up to St. Charles and I put my blinker on and turned left. Suddenly, I saw lights behind me. I pulled over and said aloud, “well, I’m going to jail.”
Rain started gently sprinkling on St. Charles as I was handcuffed with my back to the Delachaise. “Damn, I really like Delachaise, why didn’t I go there tonight?” The officer put me in the back and closed the door. I saw him walk over to my buddy, who was pacing back and forth on the sidewalk. At this point, I thought the cop was going to arrest him as well. When he reentered the car he grumbled something about drunk idiots. I’m sure, everyone says this, but seriously we weren’t drunk…
The car took off to the police holding area next to the Walmart on Tchoup. As soon as we got there, the mood changed drastically. The officer started making small talk, asking me if the cuffs were too tight. When he opened the door to let me out, he held his clipboard over my head, “Don’t want you to get sick, buddy. Let’s get you out of this rain.” Where the fuck was shithead cop? I was used to him, this nice guy thing was more frightening than being yelled at.
Two other officers were in the holding area when we walked in. They were filling out paperwork on this older guy, the pallor of his skin displayed his affection for wine. Dude sounded hammered. At this point I questioned my sobriety. Was I that guy? Then I did the sobriety tests and I felt confident that I was fine. Sure, I know the law; was I over .08? Yeah, probably. So then it came down to the breathalyzer.
As far back as I could remember, people said NOT to blow, but I just wasn’t sure. I was trying to do the math of how many drinks over how many hours against body weight, but I had no clue. I just figured that I probably should just go ahead and refuse. The officer seemed aggravated and put me in a cell after that. After what seemed like forever, he pulled me out the cell and walked me out to the car. He drove off, and talked about how this was his job, and how the city is blighted with violent crime. “Was I a part of this rampant violent crime? What are you trying to rationalize?” I wondered.
Right before we entered the prison, the officer said to me “Hey, whatever you do in there, DO NOT let them take your wrist band, OK?”
ME: What wristband? Someone is going to try to take my wristband?
HIM: When you get inside they will give you a yellow wristband which is a traffic band, if a guy in an orange band comes up to you, he is going to try to get your wristband.
HIM: Well orange bands are felons and yellow bands are traffic incidents, if they take your band you may not get out.
ME: May not get out? What do you mean?
He walked me through the front door and handed me over to the officers on the other side of the huge steel door.
It was another world to say the least. After a thorough body search, they told me to proceed to the waiting area, and to only sit on the front row. This was around 1 a.m.
It seemed purposeful that everyone moves at a snail’s pace. After maybe an hour or so I was called up to the “medical” desk. The guy asked if I take any medications, if I’m under the influence of any narcotics, history of mental illness, etc. I hoped that once I talked to him this would begin the process of booking. Nope. Then I was sent back to my chair to wait. There was a huge ruckus when a guy came in shithoused, argued with the officers, then pissed on the floor. After that, the guard made everyone sit in the front row. Random thugs looked at me like I woke them up. I tried my best to look like a hard ass. Two hours after that I got called up to be fingerprinted. Two hours after that I had my picture taken. I was finally booked at around 6 a.m. After I was booked, I was finally allowed to make a phone call. I had been pulled over at 10:45 p.m.
From other inmates, I learned that a guard might let you get numbers out of your cell phone. When given the chance, I jumped on it. Fun fact: phones in the prison can only call landlines. Do you know anyone with a landline? If I would have known this I might have been able to get someone’s landline number out of my cell phone, but I had no idea. After I tried my three numbers and none worked, I saw there was a small sheet of paper with several bail bonds company’s numbers. I called. A woman with a familiar New Orleans accent answered. She asked me some information then the phone chimed “You have 60 seconds left.” What the fuck?! “Hey I only have a minute the phone just told me!” “It’s ok just call me back.” To be honest I thought I only had one phone call and thought I had just spent it. I quickly rang her back and she told me my bail, and that I could pay right now over the phone if I had my credit card. So I run back over to the “Property” desk and ask if I can get my wallet out, the officer pulls my property and says there’s no wallet in here. Then I remembered when the officer asked for my driver’s license I pulled it out and set my wallet on the center console of my car, where it stayed. “Shit!”
I called her again. “Here are three cell phone numbers. Somebody will pay the bail.” She wrote down the numbers and said, “You’ll have to call me back in twenty minutes to confirm.” I said “okay” and hung up, and then thought to myself, “I don’t think I can just use the phone whenever, can I?”
When I first entered the prison, to the right was a large holding cell with around 20-30 people in orange jumpsuits. They were constantly yelling, talking shit, being rowdy. I just hoped I could avoid being put in there. Nope. The guard told everyone in the waiting area that we had to go into the holding cell because of a shift change. Me and a couple other guys told the guard that we had to make phone calls to confirm our bail. Too bad.
I’ll just say this. I am not looking for sympathy in the least. I know the law and I know that I broke it. I’m well aware of the consequences, but being innocent until proven guilty is a fallacy and being treated like some dumb animal is frustrating and unnecessary.
Once in the holding cell, there are two phones. One is broken, the other is on its last leg. Also if I hadn’t memorized the bail bond company’s number, I would have been screwed. I looked around and now there were around 40 people in this cell, on the floor, pacing, sleeping, and talking. Two guys kept talking shit to one guy who just talked shit back. The wino from earlier was whining the whole time, “why am I still here?” Jesus, someone was about to get hit.The argument escalated and since I was standing near the scuffle, I scooted my way across the bars before anything went down.
I had been freezing since I entered the place and somehow this holding cell was 10 degrees colder. I stared at that damn blue phone for what must have been an hour trying to think of someone, anyone with a landline. BOOM! Out of nowhere my aunt’s home number from ten years ago popped in my head. Did this number still work?
Dialing. The phone goes through this whole thing about how you may be recorded, the receiving party has to accept the charges, whatever. It rings and rings, then “click” – a robot voice thanks you for using the service. I looked at the phone wondering if that was it when I finally hear my aunt’s voice, “Hello?”
I told her the whole deal about jail and bail. My aunt told me she’d take care of it and that I should try back in 30 minutes. After people saw that I got through to someone on the phone, everyone asked me to call my aunt and get her to try their families cell phones. I felt bad, but there was no way I was going to do that. I said that she left the house as soon as I talked to her. I let 45 minutes go by before I tried her again.
This time the phone call wouldn’t go through. I’d later find out that my aunt would try to answer the calls but that it would disconnect each time. I tried three times and gave up. I looked at the clock and saw it was now 9 a.m. I started to wonder how long the process was once bail was met. Then an officer came to the door and started calling names. I noticed the names were all guys who were still wearing their street clothes. Fuck. I hoped they wouldn’t call my name. I figured once I put on the jump suit it wouldn’t be coming off till Monday morning.
After the officer carted off the first 10 guys, another officer came and gathered another 10 guys in orange jump suits and cuffed them all together. I assumed they would be leaving for the main part of the prison. That was the last fucking thing I wanted to experience. Another officer came back and started reading names and I knew I was fucked. Somehow the names were called and the people went, but I stayed.
At 11:30 AM a guard came and called three names, the first was this tall African guy wearing a sweater from the 80s, I’m not sure how I hadn’t noticed him before, then it was the wino, then it was me. Hell yes! Wait. What if we’re not leaving? What if we get jump suits? The guard brought us through a door, where he said we would pick up our property. Yes! I was getting out of jail.
On the outside, the wino was met by his attorney in a green Jaguar. The African disappeared like the mist from the night I was apprehended. I had no idea where I was, but I knew it wasn’t the kind of neighborhood I’d like to relax in. My iPhone became a lamp with a genie inside it. “Dude, come get me right now,” I said to my friend over the phone.
Jesus, I hoped my car wasn’t towed. Still there! Unfortunately, the driver’s side window had been left down with laptop and wallet inside while it rained all night. Sitting in my wet driver’s seat I realized It could be worse. I could still be in O.P.P.