Who Are Your Lifelines?

A Cautionary Tale

One night I woke around 2:30am, slightly disoriented. I was sitting on the couch, the TV was on. After a moment I remembered having started watching a movie.

Then my phone rang. The recorded message announced that somebody was calling from the Sheriff of Maricopa's Center for Pre-Trial Cruelty. The computer played the inmate's recorded name - it was my imaginary passenger, the one I told you all about before. We had one minute to speak, then the recorded voice would offer to take my credit card number to pay phone-ransom.

The bail was only $300 - he asked me to get him out. The minute ran out, and I was not inclined to pay for more time. I figured he was probably better off in the Arpaio Gulag than on the street. A bondswoman called the next day, as a courtesy call on the prisoner's behalf, and provided more information about the bail process. Bailing out that passenger was not high on my list of things I wanted to do.

But I did go to visit, a few days later.

Poll: How many lifelines can you recite from memory?

Visiting Jail

The imaginary passenger kept calling. He'd change his recorded name to plea with me to help him. I found time to visit a few days after that first call from jail. The regulars let me know about visitation procedures. I had to put a few quarters in a locker to hold my car keys. A woman told me about the pen prohibition, but I took a writing implement with me anyways.

My passenger was shackled to the table, dressed in prison attire. He was exasperated, and exhausted. At his booking, the medical screening found that his blood sugar was through the roof - 500mg/dL (he'd become a type 1 diabetic as an adult). On the street he was unmedicated, and kept his blood sugar level high with soda products. Prison Medical decided he needed a daily time-release insulin injection. He didn't like them (as they probably caused hypoglycemia on the jail's starvation diet), but refusing them resulted in being sent to solitary confinement. The only foods worth eating were the oranges.

He'd called me because he remembered my phone number. I asked who I could call on his behalf. He gave some names, and said all the contact information was in his Google Voice account.

"Are you an attorney?" The guard had seen my prohibited pen, and threatened to kick me out. I had already written down my passenger's gmail password, so I put the pen away.

I asked him about his time in Africa installing telecom equipment, but that didn't bring up happy memories: the government had killed everyone he'd trained. I tried to pull up a positive memory. This one was recent: pushing a cart down the street with his girlfriend. He was desperate to know how she was. She was used to living on the street, so I figured she was probably fine, but I didn't know.

After the allotted time was up I went home, and contacted the passenger's childhood friend who supposedly had plenty of money. That fellow was not interested in doing anything more to help his hopeless friend. I think I txt'd a few more people. The phone calls with the 3-second messages continued.

All of my passengers who've been to the Arpaio Gulag agree that it's a horrible place, and I'm a softie. $300 bail was not in my budget, but I figured I'd get it back, and decided to get my passenger out.

After waiting in line at the jail's bail window for what seemed like an hour, I learned that they do not take cash. Another woman also had cash - we both rushed to the nearby post office to buy money orders. My passenger was released about 8 hours later, around 2am. I picked him up in the taxi, and took him somewhere - he was distraught, focused on tracking down his girlfriend.

Bail Revocation

Within two weeks I received a mailed notice that my passenger had missed his court date, and that a bail revocation hearing had been scheduled (in 3-4 weeks).

The first case was a woman in prison attire who'd self-surrendered. I don't remember if she got any of her bail back. Another hearing had been started the week before. It was continued because the fugitive's mother needed a translator. `Mom' and several friends of the accused had posted $50,000+ in collateral with a bail bondsman to get the young man out of jail. The attorney for the bond company said they figured the fugitive had fled to Mexico, and that there was no point in trying to track him down. The mother needed her van to support herself, and was asking for the judge to refund the van-collateral. A young male friend of the fugitive had posted his 2003-ish Mercedes as collateral, and also claimed hardship. The friends who had posted a piece of property were present last week, but didn't come back for Round 2. The entire value of their property was forfeited. The judge did an impromptu financial interview with mom and the friend, and gave back most of their collateral value.

When everyone else had left, the judge asked who I was there for. I gave the name and case number. I was then asked if I wanted time to try to get the defendant to self-surrender, or if I wanted to claim hardship. There was no point in asking for time, so I asked for a hardship hearing. There were questions about how I knew the fugitive, income, expenses, etc. The judge decided I could have my bail returned, minus a $100 fee. They mailed a check the next day.

Personhood, Restored. Almost.

The passenger's sister was finally able to get a duplicate birth certificate from the State of California. I picked this up from the friend's office (the one who didn't want to help bail the passenger out of jail). This precious document eventually found its way to my mini storage:

passenger's birth certificate
passenger's birth certificate

The passenger went in & out of contact... He'd get arrested, spend some time in the Gulag, get released, miss court, then get arrested again. Finally he told a judge who was going to release him that he'd just miss his next court date anyways, and declined the offer to be released. A few more weeks passed before he finally had his day in court, and that was it: legal problems solved.

He called me after this month-long stay at the county's resort. He went through some of his junk in my ministorage and grabbed his birth certificate, a USB charger, and a change of clothes. The birth certificate was left in my glovebox for safekeeping.

Going through his stuff at my ministorage

Another passenger around this time works for Central Arizona Shelter Services. She said there is a person at the Shelter who helps people become genuine again, by helping them obtain the documents they need to obtain that crucial plastic identification card. They routinely help people who need birth certificates, documentation of name changes, etc. The shelter even writes a check to the Department of Motor Vehicles to pay for the identification card itself.

I told the imaginary passenger about this service. It's been months, and the birth certificate is still in my glovebox. I wonder if he's still alive - I'd txt his google voice number, but that might be misinterpreted as an invitation to ask me to haul him around again...

Who are Your Lifelines? Do you know their phone numbers?

20 years ago, we had no choice but to remember phone numbers. Now that we have machines to think for us, most people make no effort. Some of my passengers don't even know their own phone number.

If you woke up 'mickeyed up' in jail (Footnote #1) and needed someone to bail you out, who would you call first? Second? Third?

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a known enabler for the mistreatment of the poor, the sick, and those who make mistakes. The Phoenix New Times has extensively documented the peril of the accused under Arpaio's thumbs. Those convicted of crimes are sent to the State's prisons if their sentence is longer than 6 months. These are posh resorts in comparison to the Arpaio Gulag.

If there was any justice in the world, the United Nations would invade Maricopa County to perform a regime-change operation on the Sheriff leadership. But justice is for the wealthy.

If you're coming to Arizona for the Superbowl, the Phoenix Open golf tournament, Major League Baseball's Spring Training, or any of the other events to come, memorizing a few numbers to call might be critical for surviving your visit.

Kuro5hin.org user Repeatible Hairstyle (whom I also visited, when he was in the San Luis Obispo County Jail) points out that "one cannot place a collect call to a cell phone or a VoIP phone". The Maricopa County Gulag uses a company that charges credit cards for phone time instead of the classic system for collect calls, but I will be certain to add some landlines to my mental phonebook.


A pair of ladies were chatting in the cab one trip. One quipped to the other about a coworker who wanted to be cashed out with $20's instead of 100's. She said that $20's are refunded on your release from the Gulag, while $100's go to evidence. iPhones and other phones with non-removable batteries also go to evidence.


1. The linked kuro5hin.org diary is the letter I wrote to the prosecutor for the passenger who fell asleep in my cab one night. That fellow called me the next day and was a little sheepish. He said he was in my cab the night before, that he'd gotten my number from his friend, and... "What happened?" All he knew was that he'd gotten "mickeyed up", and hadn't a clue why he'd woken up in jail. (back to text above)

Tags: Superbowl XLIX, Arizona, Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, Phoenix Open, Spring Training

(Originally posted to Kuro5hin.org on Wed Jan 28, 2015 at 01:46:18 PM EST: Original via Archive.org)

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