by Comrade Black
I only ever spent one night in a prison cell.
I don’t often talk about it, as it was only 1 night of my life and it wasn’t for any thing interesting or heroic. My experiences in a cell were pretty mild compared to many other peoples, but for some reason I feel like sharing them right now.
I had a warrant out for me for a failure to appear for shoplifting from walmart. Nothing too exciting, although kinda funny as the way I found out I had the warrant was when on Halloween in about 2001. I was in Lloydminster, which is half in saskatewan and half in alberta. I was dressed as a mobster and had hand made a Tommy gun complete with copper barrel and stained oak butt. Some bored cops decided to stop us to check if it was real, and took the opportunity to run our names for something to do. Low and behold a warrant came up for me, only problem was it was an alberta warrant, and I was about 10 feet into saskatwean. So the xcops just told me “you should turn yourself in sometime and get that dealt with.”
A month or two later I turned myself in, to a cop shop in edmonton to get the warrant dealt with. They started by putting me in a room with a phone and phone book to call a lawyer if I wanted. Through the walls I could overhear the cops saying how they could just let me go, but thought it would be more fun to put me through the entire processing to scare me straight. It didn’t really work.
So they took me to the main cop shop n edmonton where I spent the night in the pink cells. not to be confused with the punk cells.
They brought me in to be processed, starting with a strip search. It is in my opinion more a tactic of domination and humiliation than about actually finding contraband up your ass. I was told to strip naked, hand them my cloths, pull up my foreskin, lift my testicles, then turn around, bend over and pull my ass cheeks apart. Standard procedure for failure to appear on shoplifting I am sure.
After this I was taken to a cell. My cell was about seven foot by eight foot square, and about 20 feet tall. The walls were pink and made of cinder block, with a built in cement bench and a steel toilet with no lid. At the very top of the wall was a window that let in some light from outside, the window was impossible to see out of though since it was 15 feet up above the bench.
They took away my over shirt and long john so all I had was jeans and a t-shirt, and it was freezing fucking cold. They must have been afraid I would try to put something in my pocket and steel it while I was there since I was such a notorious thief.
There were 2 doors to the cell, one was a cage, with reinforced bars, the second was a door made of bars. they would close both to ensure you didn’t escape through the holes between, but because neither were solid you could still see out and hear. There wasn’t much to look at, just another cinder block wall in front of the cells, they were like a hall way with each cell beside the other. This way while you couldn’t see any of the other inmates you could still hear them. so you could hear people cry, complain, yell, and the ones high on drugs screaming and talking nonsense to themselves. Fun times.
After about an hour they came to get me for processing. They cuffed me then brought me down the hall to a room to be photographed and finger printed. For shoplifting… After this was over they brought me back to the cell where I remained until about 7am.
They came and cuffed me to walk me through the hallway. There is an underground passage leading from the cop shop to the court house in edmonton, so after I was cuffed I was escorted by 4 cops down the hall to a court room.
A couple things were immediately noticeable – as I kinda stood out. Most the other people awaiting to stand before the judge (were were all in a literal line up) were native. Most of them were there for petty theft, drugs, B&E’s, or fighting. Most of them seemed to be known to the court. I was just some random white kid on a first offense.
When I finally stood before the judge he didn’t even ask me anything. He just looked at my file, and issued me a new court date about a month away. I was then taken back to the cop shop, given my clothing, and released to the 7:30am down town streets of edmonton.
This was a lot of years back now, and I was a very different person then. So my memory could be a bit blurry, but I tell you I remember those pink bricks and blue pricks in a way I will never forget. They intended to scare me into obedience, instead they simply cemented my hatred for their system, for the cops and their prisons. I got off with 6 months of probation, and a bit of humiliation, if my skin wasn’t white I might not have gotten off so easily.
As I write this prison populations in this colonial nation state are at an all time high, with over 15,000 prisoners held by the Canadian state right now; and the population is disproportionately native. As I write this my friend Nyki Kish sits in an Ontario jail serving a life sentence for something she didn’t do – and the fact the cops ‘lost’ the surveillance tapes or that there is no physical evidence doesn’t matter. As I write this my friend Chusia’s dad John Graham sits in a jail in the US where he was illegally extradited for a crime I believe the FBI committed. Again complete with trail that contained no physical evidence where every witness had direct connection to the FBI, RCMP, or BIA. As I write this animal defenders like Rebecca Rubin and Marie Mason and Fran Thompson are serving sentences longer than some of the readers of this blog have been alive. As I write this, more prisons are being built to keep us in.
If this touched you at all, do me a favor and consider writing a post card or a letter to a prisoner. Even if you just say hi, or send them a picture of your dog, or your favorite poem. It will make their day a little more hopeful.