My friend Juliet has finally written up a very long story of a situation that has been going on for a few months now. It involves many of the things I’ve long been writing about — the abuses of the war on drugs, the use of SWAT teams for no good reason, our dehumanizing criminal justice system.
The whole thing started the day after she and her boyfriend Shawn had moved in together. Shawn’s former roommate had a medical marijuana card and, as is allowed by law, had grown marijuana in the basement. He hadn’t lived there for months, but it turns out that the day before all of this he’d been pulled over and had more pot in the car than he was legally allowed to have under the marijuana laws. But he’d never changed the address on his driver’s license, so the police went and got a warrant to search the house.
They sent a SWAT team for that purpose, heavily armed and equipped with a battering ram to break down the door and burst in as though the James Gang was waiting inside. Juliet and Shawn, meanwhile, are sitting on their couch in their underwear, watching TV. But they saw one of the SWAT officers on the front lawn and, rather than letting them break down the door, they opened it and asked them what was going on. They told the officers that the guy they arrested hadn’t lived there for months, but did say that he’d left a few things in the basement in boxes.
A search of the house found a tiny bit of marijuana, not even enough to file a possession charge, and a tiny bit of psychadelic mushrooms, long forgotten in a container in a basement drawer. They took the evidence and left, saying they’d call them if any charges were to be filed. A few weeks later, Juliet was charged — not Shawn, who was on the lease, but Juliet, who had lived there less than 24 hours.
The rest of the story is about how dehumanizing the whole experience was, and how pointless. This is hardly some threat to society that needs to be locked up. She hasn’t done anything that could even remotely harm another person or violate their rights. Yet she is deemed a danger and is forced to face a massive and unjust criminal justice system that yanks her around in every imaginable way. It’s a long story, but all worth reading. A small taste:
I came prepared to convince a judge that I wasn’t a threat to society. I came in a pair of nice slacks I bought from the GAP on Black Friday, a button-up shirt I bought from a Goodwill, but the tag said Banana Republic. But now, I am in a prison uniform and I am not a human being with a job and obligations and loved ones. So I sit at a table with a bunch of other non-humans and try not to cross into that dangerous territory of having lost it.
A woman there tells me she is in there often because she can’t stop doing drugs. She is an old-timer and she tells us we’re doing well as first-timers, who usually cry a lot. I have not cried even once. She tells me if that if I pretend to want to kill myself to get into another pod, I will be kept for an additional two days. She also says that if I want to go outside, I can go into the God-pod with all the Christians, but I’m not ready to pretend. She says that if I want clean underwear, I need money in my commissary, and that needs to be in cash and that means I need to release my debit card to someone else who will get cash from it and bring it back, but I can only have access to a commissary once I’ve been classified which occurs only after I’ve been set a bond or had an arraignment and that can take up to 72 hours. So, here we are and here I am.
It’s now that I begin to wonder if they will really keep me for 72 hours without an arraignment. All the guards are too amazingly busy wandering about and insulting prisoners to answer questions, but I know one thing. And that’s if this takes 72 hours, I will not be able to publish the website I run and maybe my staff won’t get paid and maybe I’ll get fired. So maybe everything is over. Maybe everything I’ve worked for in my life is done. Just like that.
Read the whole thing.