The three of us piled into the red Honda CRV and headed to the destination programmed into the Waze app. Traffic wasn’t heavy, and the route was simple. We knew we were getting close when the plethora of bail bond businesses appeared. The razor wire atop the tall chain link fence, more than anything, emphasized the stark seriousness of the place. I knew my son was in there somewhere and my heart shriveled in my chest as I imagined what it might be like inside those walls. We were hopeful that he would walk out those doors today and we would be reunited.
We found Courtroom D and remarked at the amazing lack of privacy here in this county, as every defendant was listed by name, along with the official numbers of the statutes and the various dates of warrants, etc.
Believing that it is infinitely better to arrive early than late, we slipped into the courtroom during the 8:30-10:00 session, the one prior to the one we were there for. We watched client after client stand before the judge and we got a sense of her tendency to be lenient. We saw this as a good sign. As amateur legal counsel, we knew exactly the outcome we were hoping for.
Finally, the last defendant for the session finished up and exited the side door to pay his fines. Next would be those defendants currently being held in jail. The first man who walked into the courtroom in handcuffs and shackled feet was a tall, Caucasian man with a large swastika tattooed on one entire side of his bald head. We were horrified and clung to each other, willing ourselves to remain calm. We sat through the majority of the thirty defendants for that session before they called my son’s name.
Between the swastika-clad man, and my son, there were many criminals representing even more crimes. Domestic violence, a son who had damaged his parents home in anger, multiple women– mothers– in for drug offenses. It wasn’t hard to see which of those people in orange jumpsuits had some things going for them, and which ones were really striking out in the game of life.
The world, or at least the court, boasts a preponderance of people who can’t get to court or community service or probation appointments because they have no transportation; lots of people who if they have a job, it’s at McDonald’s for the past three weeks. Quite a number who have been busy helping their sick grandmother. Many who really just want a chance, your honor, to get everything going in the right direction.
We noticed one thing that was consistent among almost all the prisoners brought in from the jail. As soon as they entered the courtroom, their eyes scanned the spectator section for a familiar face. Some found one. Many did not. When their charges were read, our hearts broke. Young people who had stolen from their parents. Men who had abused their women. Druggies in every configuration possible of detox, recent user just waiting to get out and find their next fix, or at least giving lip service to the idea of rehab.
Our outcome was as positive as we had hoped, but there would still be over three more hours before a very broken-hearted young man would wait behind that thick, steel door waiting for it to eject him out of that dark, sad place. While we waited for him, a very angry probation officer swooped in and met with her incarcerated client within earshot. “Just who the HELL do you think you are telling the [somebody important person] that you were too busy to meet with him?”
Further waiting ensued as we jumped through hoops to prove we had brought a medication for our son (which he did not receive while there over the weekend) and then waited while the nurse went and looked again, finally finding it after a good twenty minutes.
Although this jail stay over the weekend was for something in the far distant past that just now caught up with us, it is now part of our present.
I am reminded of what the man said to me in another courtroom awhile back: this stuff just never leaves you alone. I think it can, though, if you somehow finally find a way to leave the stuff alone.
Boy, if parental and other adult resolve was all it took, our son would be in such great shape! But, alas, it’s not our journey, although we are part of it. Many times today, I began to feel the intensity of the wave, and I imagined myself atop the wave, on my surfboard, being a part of it without being crushed by it. One thing he’s certainly not lacking is a supportive, involved, resourceful family! Of course, we also have unhealthy communication patterns, tendencies toward co-dependency, and plenty of other foibles. Just a heaping healing helping of perfect imperfection. Another step on the journey of life.