Vinson: Jailhouse brawl? Or something else??

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A few months back, I went to a local jail to visit a good friend, at that time incarcerated for a driving infraction. It had been several years since I had visited anyone at this particular jail, so I had to re-acclimate to the current protocol for those visiting inmates.

The last time I’d visited someone at this jail—which was years ago—visitors and inmates could visit face-to-face in an open-space area, with a deputy/jailer monitoring the situation, of course.

However, due to increased attempts at exchanging contraband, weapons, and more egregious acts of violence (husband assaulting, and seriously injuring, a wife who just told the husband she’s filing for divorce, for example), this jail, as have most others, had updated security measures regarding visitation.

As of my first visit to my friend at this jail, February 2014, here how visitation was (and still is) set up: Once inside the jailhouse, I had to sign in on a “log” book. Next, I told the lady/secretary working in the front office, behind the Plexiglas window, the name of the inmate I wished to visit. The secretary then called a jailer to “bring up” the inmate out of his pod for visitation, which had been pre-scheduled, by the way.

After making the call, the secretary pointed straight ahead and instructed me to walk “that-a-way,” take the “second door on the right,” and go to “phone-D.”

As I walked past the “first door” on the right, I noticed several people sitting in seats and talking on telephones—it then loomed obvious to me how visitation now worked: Via telephonic hook-up, the visitor and inmate could talk, while being able to see each other’s face on a desktop-size computer screen.

As I entered the second door on the right—as instructed by the secretary at the front desk—there was only one lady in the visitation room, sitting at the first phone, talking to whom I took to be her boyfriend or husband. Around 6 ft. tall and 200 lbs., tattoos up-and-down both arms and on her neck, she was visibly angry and loudly using some cuss words that would make even hardcore types blush!

After entering the visitation room, I walked past the large woman doing the cussing, and, again, as instructed by the lady up front, went to “phone-D,” which was the last phone/slot in the visitation room.

The seat on which the visitor sits, while talking to an inmate, is a hard, round seat, similar in appearance to a round stool one would sit on at the counter of an old-timey soda shop. The biggest difference, though, the seat in this jailhouse visitation room was small—about 10 inches in diameter—with no back.

So, I casually plopped down on the small round seat with no back . . . and the next thing I knew: My butt landed on the concrete floor, pivoting me backwards, the back of my head hitting the concrete wall behind me, making a “cracking” sound, and addling me in the process!

As I rubbed the back of my head, and weakly rolled around on the floor, the large, tattooed woman jumped up from her phone, ran to me, and bent over to offer assistance, holding me by the arm.

About that time, a deputy walked by and assumed there was a “brawl” in progress! Reaching for his can of mace, he told us to “break it up!” I quickly told the deputy that I’d accidentally slid off the back of my seat and cracked my head against the wall, and the lady merely was trying to help.

The deputy realized such was the case, and proceeded to ask if I was “okay.” I replied “yes,” and he left the visitation room.

For me, it was good lesson in human perception: On first glance, it appeared that, indeed, there was brawl taking place inside the jailhouse visitation room, and, further—and even more embarrassingly—I was getting “whupped” by a woman!

Lesson learned: Don’t be too quick to assume and pass judgment.

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Mike Vinson
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