Last Night in Jail

Originally posted on April 1, 2014, this blog is a chapter taken out of Rebecca Bender's new book. Join our emailing list to stay connected and hear about its release date .

We got out of the “paddy wagon” and stood in a line, waiting for the door to the jail to open. As we walked into the main booking room, rows of chairs lined an open area like a classroom. On one side sat men in cuffs, and on the other side sat women.

All the men turned to look when the “prostitutes” came in, smiling and winking as if any of us were interested. As we stood in a single file line on the wall facing the rows of chairs, a uniformed officer working that night patted us down. A heavy chain was belted around our waist. Handcuffs fell to each side of the belt and as soon as we were adjusted for fitment, our hands were cuffed to each side. Before we could sit down, we had to walk to the back of the room where the contents of our brown paper bag appeared again. The guard standing behind the plated glass window, documented all our belongings.

We were told to sit, starting in the back row, filling up each seat. The men were seated starting in the front row. They continued to gawk at us, turning around in their seats to stare. The undercover officers that arrested us were long gone, having given us into the custody of the jail, they went back for more busts. The new uniformed officers yelled at the men to face forward.

It was about 1am. The next two hours of booking usually went by faster than the remainder of the night, waiting in the holding tank. Our names were called one at a time to start our rounds through six different stations.

“Rebecca...” The first lady yelled, standing with a clipboard at the front of the room. I stood up cuffed to my waist, still in my brick red pencil skirt, brick red Christian Dior heels and black, low cut Gucci blouse. My $2500 Cartier watch clinks against the metal of the cuffs and I cringed hoping it wouldn't scratch.

She took my blood pressure and asked me a couple of medical history questions.

“Are you allergic to anything?”

“Do you suffer from any ailment?”

My health was great, so the last item on her agenda is the HIV prick test. She took my blood and labeled it with my name for processing. This is not because the LVPD cares about us whatsoever. This is so they could book us with attempted manslaughter if it came back positive.

The next station was mug shots. I stood on a white line facing forward and sideways while the flash goes off without warning. There are no-redo’s and they do not care how you look. I gave my fiercest eyes and flash a smile as if I were auditioning for America’s Next Top Model. This made the officer laugh and won me a bit of favor.

I am asked to sit back down in my row of chairs until everyone is through taking photos. From my experience, I knew that once all of us girls have had our “prick and pic”, we’d move to the next room together and finish the rest of the stations. This was my sixth arrest and little did I know but it would be my last.

As I sat there watching each girl get called, questioned about her medical history and tested for HIV, the time went fast. Suddenly an officer was standing in front of our row of chairs.

“Rebecca,” he looked right at me. “This is the one?” he asked another officer, who nodded to confirm.

“Yes, “ I answered slowly and confused.

“Come with me please.” He held a manila folder in his hands and gestured toward a private room. Girls started whispering. A shot of cold ran down my spine and my stomache turned. What is going on? I made my way toward the room carrying a confident face but trembling inside.

“Go ahead and take a seat.” He said nicely, sitting down. He set the folder on the table that sat perfectly positioned in the center of the concrete walls.

“So how long have you been in Vegas?” he asked.

I looked at him suspiciously. In all of my arrests, I had never been asked questions like these. I had never even seen anyone come in or out of this room. Most of all, what was in the folder?

“You’re in the game, obviously.” He continued to probe. “Do you have a pimp?”

He just crossed the line. Telling on your man was a big no no, THE biggest no no. Pimping and pandering carries a 7-15 year felony sentence. Prostitution is a slap on the wrist, a fine and a night in jail. I’ve heard stories of girls being murdered for telling on their man. If I told on my man, when he got out, he’d come find me. I stay quiet and look at the officer in the eyes.

“Lawyer.” Is all that came out of my mouth. That is the response I’ve been taught to say for years.

“I don’t think you can call your attorney right now.” He says smirking while glancing at his watch.

“I didn’t ask to call him, “ I reply smartly becoming defiant. “However, any further questions you have for me can be directed to him. Are we done here?”

I waited for him to stand. Calm down. Getting mouthy will only make things harder.

I was taken back into the main room. All the girls have had their pictures taken by then and they stood in line at the door big electric door that would lead us to the next room before holding. I got in line behind everyone as directed.

A small room, slightly bigger than a hallway separated us from the next area. It felt like a shower in a locker room, with a drain in the middle and no-slip mats lying on top of concrete. We sat down on a chair one at a time. A female officer gave us a thorough pat down and removed our handcuffs. We had to put our head between our knees while she shook out our hair checking for anything that could be used as a weapon, or contraband. We are asked to open our mouths while she looked inside. Then, depending on what we were wearing, we were assigned either an Orange CCDC shirt or pants.

This night, I was given a shirt, which I put over my black blouse. Other girls who are wearing very short skirts get pants. Our shoes and jewelry were taken and written on our sheet again. We’re all issued brown jail sandals, which look like something Scarface would have wore by the pool in the hit Mobster movie.

After the female officer is done checking my hair and mouth, I approached the counter as told. Another lady wass counting all the change at the bottom of my purse,

“$5.72. Sign here.” I scanned over the document list to make sure my watch and shoes are listed.

“Can I get some socks please?” I asked while signing my paper.

“None left.” The lady behind the counter replied without even looking up.

I couldn't tell whether she just dislikes girls like me or if she is annoyed having to count $5.72 in quarters, nickels and dimes. I was equally as annoyed. I loved having loose change in my purse, it was a quick and easy to pay a cashier without having to break a hundred dollar bill. When I left here, I knew they would not give my exact money back. All my change just went into their cash drawer and I will more than likely get a five dollar bill when I leave and seventy-two cents in change.

I stood up and waited by a double-sided plexi-glass door. The officer pressed the intercom button and I’m let through. Inside the next room, chairs again are lined up like the previous class style setting; men on the left and women on the right. At the front of the room is a wall of telephones that we were allowed to use one at a time after we finished the full six stations. But, there was no standing up front waiting in line. Around the perimeter of the room are cubicles for our next set of questions.

As women, we are instructed to cross our hands over our chest anytime we need to get up to walk either to a cubicle or to the phones. This must be to conceal anything from the men who continued to gawk at us, but I never could understand why; as if the full orange jail shirt didnt cover enough.

As soon as I sat down, my name is called. At the first station I was asked a series of questions: Name, address, phone number, employer, etc. I was taught to give “them” completely fictional information other than my name. At first I was concerned I would miss a court date or something. My pimp assured me that the attorney would give us all the details about court appearnaces and that we did not want the police knowing where we lived. He was right, the attorney always kept me up to speed on any information.

Unless someone would come pay my five hundred dollar bail, I am “released on own recognizance” or O.R.’d as we called it. The lady across the desk explained all of this to me again and handed me a pice of paper with details of my arrest, inmate number and false contact info I had just given her. I moved to the next cubicle like speed dating.

“Are you involved in any gangs?” The next officer goes over a checklist of questions they are supposed to ask in order to place us in the appropriate holding tank.

“No.” I reply knowing that we’ll go through all of these questions quickly.

“Are you a lesbian?”

“No.”

“Do you feel like killing yourself or others?”

“No.”

Onto station three... A nurse pricked me for Tuberculosis and we wait minutes to see if my skin rises. “Those bruises on your wrists look like finger prints.” She pointed out without a break in her routine. “Are you being hurt at home?” She looked up to watch my response. I’m startled by her awareness, no one has noticed yet. My bruises were faint and I had covered them up with make-up before I left. 'The concealer must have worn off' I think to myself.

“No.” I say looking at my forearms. I am sure she knew better, but she also knows that if I do not want to talk, that pressuring me will not help either. Little did she know that underneath my clothes were fist prints from my pimp. Two on my thigh and one on my side from when he punched me yesterday.

My skin where the TB test was administered did not rise and so I am sent to the final station: finger printing. I stood in front of what looked like an ATM machine. But, instead of a pin pad, it has a small touch pad. The next officer guided my hand and fingers across the delicate surface. My prints showed up instantly on the monitor. Little red dots scanned across the fingerprints. Like something you would see on the TV show CSI, my name and inmate number appear showing a match.

“Not your first arrest, huh?” the officer smiled kindly.

“My sixth.” I replied sweetly removing my right hand and preparing my left in the proper position. We went through the process a second time and he took the paper I’ve been circling the stations with and marked the name and inmate number with a check to ensure it matched the one on the screen.

“Alright, you’re all done. Go ahead and take a seat. You can use the phone now too, when it's free.”

“Thank you.” I crossed my arms across my chest and walk the long way behind the men and around to the phone. Girls who are attention seeking and disobedient always try to walk in front of the men to the phones and get yelled at by the officers. Not me. I know this sort of behavior makes the officers think less of us. The officers in the jail treated me with a bit of respect me as they watched my demeanor and behavior. They spoke to me kindly and without belittlement. It hadn't always been this way, I learned over the course of time what got me better treatment in jail.

I pick up the phone and dial “my man.”

“You locked up?” Kevin says after just a few rings. He must have known something had happened since he hadn’t heard from me in awhile. I usually checked in every couple hours. 

“Ya,” I say sounding disappointed.

“Well, try to get some rest. I’ll see you tomorrow.” He paused, “you alright?”

“Yep, I’m fine.” I did my best to sound cheerful so he wouldn't get upset.

“Ok, Poke. Call me later if you get bored.” I could hear his faint laugh through the phone.

“You know I will.” I laughed back.

I think about my nickname: Poc, pronounced Poke. Kevin gave all his girls nicknames if they made it a year with him. I remember when he started calling me that, it felt special; as if I wanted to be there and stick it out with the family. The term of endearment he chose stood for Pocahontas, because I was Choctaw and looked like her.

I sat back down in my seat and tried to close my eyes. There was no way anyone could sleep in this place. It was loud and uncomfortable. I didn't worry for even one second about my daughter. I knew Kevin has it handled. That was part of what our live-in nanny, Cecelia did. She woke up every morning and got my daughter ready for school. Because my daughter thought I worked nights in a casino, she was use to me sleeping while Cecelia got her breakfast, did her hair and walked her to the bus stop. I’d hopefully be out of jail before she came home from school and she wouldn't even have an inkling of what had happened.

Cecelia is from Chihuahua, Mexico and speaks no English. Our pimp only hired non-English speaking help because it was easier to keep them at bay of what was really going on. He also made sure to “take care” of my daughter, keeping up a family facade in front of her would make me feel guilty to leave the only family she ever had. He knew that and would play that card often if he could tell I was wanting to try to leave.

At 4am the officers finally took all of women into the holding tank. The single file march to the cell turns my stomach. Looking into each holding tank cell always made me rethink what I was doing with my life, even if the feeling and thoughts were fleeting. Women who looked hardened sat solitary on benches staring at us as we passed. Gang members grouped together in other cells making kissy faces when we walked by.

One man was brought from around the corner in what looked a wheel chair on the ground. His hands and legs were cuffed to it and a net bag was placed over his face. He was attempting to kick and scream and spit and wail his body in violatile motions, but the restraints were too much for him. “You stupid pigs!” He screamed as we stood still against the wall waiting for the group of four officers to pass by with him. One officer walked in front of them, taking backward steps while holding a video camera. I assumed that was to keep the incident on camera for evidence of their response.

We reached our holding tank- all eight of us locked up for soliciting prostitution, or in my case disturbing the peace. One concrete bench hugged three walls. A television was in a clear plastic case and was mounted to the ceiling playing the old 1990’s movie, “Space Jam.” On the fourth wall of our square tank, next to the door is the toilet and phone. A small wais-high barrier wall blocked anyone looking in, or walking by, from seeing us do our business.

A handful of women were already in the same holding tank. They were clearly not “working girls.” One woman was nearly 50 years old and looked homeless with unkempt hair and dirty socks and jeans. Another was an overweight black woman with cornrows, mid forties and clearly intoxicated: probably in on a DUI. The third woman was white, looked maybe mid-thirties with red shoulder length hair. It was hard to see her as she curled up in a ball under the bench trying to sleep. She stunk something awful and was having cold sweats while shivering. It was obvious to me that she was kicking heroin.

The tank was cold even with all of us crowded in together. I immediately grab toilet paper and sat in a corner on the bench. This way I can lean my head against a wall to sleep just as if I was sitting in an airplane. I started wrapping my feet with the toilet paper to make socks and slip my sandals back on to keep the mock fabric in place. Last time I was here we ran out of toilet paper and it took hours for the guard to bring any. We couldn’t wipe when using the rest room. I remembered it being so cold I had wished I had wrapped my feet right away, before the toilet paper became such a commodity.

Just as I laid my head against my paper on the wall, which seemed to me to keep a protective barrier from any germs that may have been on the wall, I heard someone vomiting. The heroine junkie under the bench was dry heaving and spitting out green bile right on the floor where she was laying. Her dirty red hair was greasy and sweat was beading up on her forehead. She laid there heaving, her body shaking while everyone stared at her in disgust. The smell from the bile was atrocious,` like rotten eggs and fresh laid linoleum. She pulled out a wadded up piece of dirty tissue that she clutched intensely in one hand and wiped her mouth.

“You sick?” one of the girls asked her looking frightened. The junkie just stayed curled up not responding. “I don’t want to get sick.” Another girl complained standing to pound on the window of the door.

“She isn’t sick, she is detoxing.” I finally speak up after hours of being silent. They all turned and looked at me. I have not engaged in their conversations up until this point. While they sat around the telephones joking about being locked up and swapping war stories; I had kept to myself until now. “So we can’t catch it?” one girl asked.

“No. She’s kicking, she’s a junkie.” I want to lay hands on her and pray, tell her how God can set her free from drug addiction, that I’ve seen it with my own eyes. But preaching the gospel up in the jailhouse is too hypocritical for me and so I sat and remained silent. ©