January 24, 2018, pound pound pound (the sound jerks me awake), and I lay there frozen for a moment in time. It has been 16 long days awaiting this moment anxiously. EVERYONE knows that knock. I knew before the door opened that it was the cops and a detective.
My ex is at the door. Before opening he has checked and verified my suspicions. He looks at me and says “are you ready?” Tears well up in my eyes but I don’t blink, I will them away. He opens the door.
I hear him talking to them, something about an arrest warrant and looking for Felicia. He opens the door and allows them to step into the house. I’m laying under the blanket semi-nude, uncomfortable with the whole situation. The detective and I talk for a few moments. She had the men step outside and allowed me to get dressed, and to say goodbye to my ex.
Trying my hardest to keep on a poker face, keeping the mindset of “you do the crime, you woman up and do the time.” The detective walked me out to the front porch. To not embarrass me in front of the neighbors, she let me walk out to the cruiser #155 without handcuffs (she later said it was because I cooperated throughout the investigation).
We arrive at the cruiser, she reads me my rights, pats me down, and then my arms go behind my back, slap, that unfamiliar cold metal slapping my wrists. (Reality sets in, I fucked up). The male officer opens the door and I struggle to get in, never having done this before.
The last time I was in a cop car, 9th grade caught skipping school with my then best friends Buffy and Grapeape, no handcuffs were involved. This was extremely different.
I get in and sit in an awkward position. The officer buckles me in, slams the door shut, and I drop my head. It’s finally over.
The two male officers take their seats in the front. We sit in the cruiser for about ten minutes. The cop in the passenger seat is asking me several identity questions. I tell myself not to look back, but as we pull off, I turn my head long enough to see something that has continuously haunted my thoughts (my ex children’s father shaking hands with the detective). I couldn’t cry. I felt nothing. I went numb. But I knew I had to be brave and courageous because this was the beginning of a path, a life that I knew nothing about and needed to pay attention.
We pull up behind the police headquarters. The male officer that was driving opened the door and unbuckled me. I step out. The detective is standing there, grabs my arm and we start walking to the back door of the building.
Walking thorough several doors, in each a different room, something else was taking place (cops & detectives presented their I.D.’s, signing in, securing their guns in a lock and key box, etc). At this point the detective has gone a different way. I’m walking with two male officers when we finally reach “booking”. Having never been arrested, they said it would take a little longer to process me in.
Some lady behind a glass window takes pictures of me (front, left side, right side), and has me sign some papers. Then came the messy “fingerprint” process. More like handprint: every finger, the sides of your hands, your palm up to your wrist covered in ink, and applied several times for different copies of paper marked for each specific print. Next was height, weight, eye color, hair color … everything was so repetitive. They allow me to semi-wash my hands.
We go out the door again and walk down a long hallway to a set of rooms with cameras. I see the detective sitting in a small room with a man that I later discover is another detective and her witness to this process.
My hands start sweating. I immediately have to pee. I tell the cop and he steps in and tells the detective, since she’s the only female present. She takes me into the restroom. I sit down to pee and all of a sudden I CAN’T. She’s staring at me, waiting. I was trying but nothing was happening. My bladder is shy (what can I say?). The detective says, “Felicia, you better get used to this because you will never pee in private again until the day you’re released.” After about 3 minutes I manage to pee, wipe, flush, wash hands. All with the handcuffs on, but in the front this time.
The detective and I walk into the room. I sign the statement and Miranda rights paper. All done in 5 minutes. She verified my previous statement of my side of the story and it was over. She thanks me for my cooperation, tells me she will request a low bond (lies. That has nothing to do with her). The detective then goes about her day. The officer that was driving switches my cuffs again, putting my arms back behind my back. We head back to the cruiser again and ride off into the sunrise to the county jail.
Upon arrival most of what just happened in the booking process is repeated. Except now I’m sitting in a room with ten females that should only hold four people tops. The smell, UGH (mildew basement is a close semblance). They bring us a cold tray of food around 10:30AM, saying’ it’s lunch.’
My first meal in jail consists of a coney dog, coleslaw, fries, and an apple. Cold, hard and dry are the only words of description that come to mind. I ate the fruit. The other girls were asking for the other stuff. I just sat the tray down and let them have at it. They seemed a lot more relaxed than I did. I thought to myself, ‘they’ve had to have done this before.’ Then the questions from the other girls began. Questioning one another about why they were arrested. I played possum to avoid that question. Just listening, I kept thinking, Man these girls will all be gone before I get a bond.
Finally they came to the door. It’s my turn to change into “states”. The state issued uniform required to be worn by all incarcerated individuals. They ask me what size I wear…Why I don’t know, because they went ahead and handed me clothes that were extremely too big and my “sandals” were broken. We then walk into another cell. Two female officers (Biggie and Tiny) are standing there staring at me not saying anything.
Finally Biggie says, “Come on, you know the drill.”
“No. I don’t, I have never been here,” I say.
Then Tiny says, “I’ve seen you here before, don’t fuckin play
“Ma’am, no disrespect but you may want to go check my file, this is my first time ever being arrested or coming to jail”
Biggie gets mad and throws my ‘new clothes’ on the floor near my feet. “Take all your clothes off,” she barks at me, “bra, panties, socks, everything. Put them in this bag except if your bra doesn’t have a wire you can keep it and your panties and socks. But strip everything first.”
I start getting undressed. They are both staring hard, like I was going to pull a bomb out or something. After I’m naked, I’m holding my hands trying to cover my private areas.
“Get the hell over that shit,” Tiny says. “You belong to the state now.” She then says, “Lift your breasts.” I look confused, then I do what she says. Then she says to squat and cough 3 times. I do. Biggie leans down (looking for what, I don’t know). Then Tiny tells me to turn around and do it again, except this time she said to spread my butt cheeks at the same time. I do. When I did…a tear escaped my eyes. I was mortified.
Then Biggie tells me to shake my hair out, open my mouth and she does a cavity check for any foreign objects. Finally I am allowed to get dressed. We walk to the desk to check in my belongings. An Ohio State T-Shirt, black sweatpants and a pair of brown Ugg boots.
I get pointed to the nurse. I answer a couple medical questions similar to a doctor’s office visit. They check my hair for head lice. Draw blood to check for anything you could have that’s contagious (AIDS, Hep A, etc.). When I finish with the nurse I get pointed to the phone. Another officer tells me I got 5 minutes.
He tells me which phone to pick up. I call my ex. He tells me he’s with my mom trying to figure everything out. He said he would get money on the phone a.s.a.p., and that him and Mom would be at my first visit and will be in court, too. He tells me to keep my head up. I love you’s and we disconnect. I don’t think I’ve ever heard so many lies in one call.
Then I go back to the holding cell with the same 10 girls. About 3 hours pass by. An officer comes to the door and starts calling out names. I hear mine, stand up and walk out. As we step into the hallway, they hand us each a 2×4 tote, tell us to grab a mat as thin as your average chapter book, and walk us to a tank/dorm (1 south 7) where I was placed.
I walk in and see about 35 women eyeballing me and the few others that walked in with me. I find a place near the wall to lay my mat on the floor. The tank was to hold twenty people, but was now housing forty. I open the tote and discover the contents: A wool blanket, 1 sheet, 1 towel, 1 washcloth, a mini toothbrush, toothpaste, a pocket comb, spoon, and a tiny bar of deodorant). I thought, Damn this is what its come down to huh. I made my bed. I immediately laid down. I didn’t mingle with the other girls. I didn’t want them to know me or to ask questions.
I fall asleep. I slept for the first 2 days straight. Didn’t eat nor drink anything. Didn’t try to call anyone. I didn’t care about anything. Friday I got called to go to court for arraignment…
Slam goes the gavel…
Felicia (Ohio Reformatory for Women) (OH)