Jail imprisons both the keepers and the kept.

benjamin hale

Life behind bars affects two types of men. Men who have lead very different lives but have ended up in the same place.

One has been in and out of the system since the age of 14. Raised in a single parent home, his mother was rarely around due to work and he never knew his father. His absent parents lead to trouble in school, and being kicked off the soccer team. He sought what he couldn’t find at home. Love, attention and belonging. Like many youths in his situation he found gang life. This only compounded his problems as he began using drugs and committing crimes. First it was just stealing from local stores, nothing serious. But it escalated quickly. He was most recently found guilty of two accounts of armed robbery and assault, and one account of second-degree murder. He is awaiting his transportation to a nearby prison to serve his time. At the age of 22, this is nothing new to him. He is being held in the infamous 7 West block of the Jail. An area reserved for maximum-security inmates, those dangerous to the Deputies or other inmates as well as those with special health needs. He has been through this dance time and time again yet somehow it does not cease to have an effect on the young man. The initial arrest is always infuriating, both internally and externally. He was mad at the cops for catching him but even more angry at himself for being caught. Then in booking he felt outwardly angry, feeling that the way he was taken down at gunpoint and the use of physical force was wrong. He vents his feelings at Deputies and his outburst is met with handcuffs and an increased number of Deputies escorting him through the booking process and to his isolated cell. During his hearing he felt defeated, he felt that his public defender less than properly represented him and that the judge handed down a severe punishment. In his cell he feels alone. He feels angry. He feels that the world has dealt him a bad hand and he cannot do anything about it.  The jail is loud, inmates are constantly yelling, banging on the walls, the tables and bars. The jail is cold, not only physically, but emotionally as well. The cement floors suck the heat from one’s body. The metal bars and cement blocks are painted a bleak pale cream color that seems to steal the energy from inmates. The walls, floors and ceilings blend together until they are nearly indistinguishable from a distance. The hallways amplify every sound, from a shouting voice to a cup clattering across the ground. The Deputies speak in loud voices to be heard about the constant buzz that echoes through the jail. The inmates yell and argue. Fights break out over the smallest things. These conditions do not just affect the inmates.

The second man is a young Deputy. Just like every other Deputy, he career starts here in the Jail. Working the third shift. Showing up to work at night, entering a dark building, an empty, quiet building. One void of any activity from the second floor on up, or at least that is how it appears from the outside. He goes through three sets of large steel doors to enter the jail. He enters a different world. One where the majority of the people around him would like nothing more to make his job more difficult, to hurt him, to attack him or even kill him. He walks down the same bleak hallways, hears the same endless noise and feels the same cold radiate from the walls, floors and ceilings. His relieves the second shift deputy and takes his place in the seat. He watches the flickering screens. He struggles to keep his mind on task. The inmates are sleeping. Things are quiet, there are no other Deputies in his office. He struggles to keep his mind from wandering to his wife, to his kids. To the missed soccer games, to the arguments and fights he has had with his wife. To the shortness he feels after 14-hour shifts. The lack of energy he feels both physically and emotionally. The jail is his own. Though he is not behind the bars, he feels trapped. He feels a strange connection to the inmates. The jail seems to not only trap those sentenced to time behind bars, but all those who enter its doors.