Several times in the past few months, I’ve talked with people, both clients and other acquaintances, with some odd misconceptions of what it’s like to serve a short jail sentence. And here, I’m talking about nothing more severe than a month or two in the county jail. Prison, of course, is a complete different creature. Some of the questions about jail were born of fear. Some were born of idle curiosity.
Now, a little disclaimer: For all that I’ve been inside the local jails in El Paso, Teller, Douglas, and Pueblo Counties many, many times, I’ve never actually served a jail sentence. Sure, I’ve been visiting when an emergency within the jail has kept me locked up an hour or two more than I expected, but I never had any doubt that the deputies would release me, eventually. I’ve never spent a night in a jail bunk, rather than my own bed.
In writing this blog, I called the jail and asked if someone could direct me to a FAQ sheet. Apparently, there wasn’t one of the kind I was seeking. However, Sgt. Gregory White, a Public Information Officer with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office was kind enough to answer some basic questions about the Criminal Justice Center, our local jail. His answers to the following questions I can confirm through my own second-hand experience:
What does an inmate’s schedule consist of?
In the general population, unless an inmate is on some kind of disciplinary lockdown, he or she does have time during the day to exercise, play cards, read, watch television, or engage in similar activities.
What food does an inmate eat?
The jail serves “institutional food” three times a day: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Lunch is a sack lunch with a sandwich, fruit or something similar, and a drink, typically juice. Breakfast and dinner are hot meals. Most of the food is pretty bland, and there’s not much choice. Meals need to be easy to prepare for up to 1,500 inmates. Inmates prepare all the food. [And sometimes they squash the sandwiches, although of course that’s me talking and not Sgt. White.]
What supplemental items can be bought through the commissary?
If inmates have money on their books, either because someone puts money on their books or because they come in with money, commissary is available once a week. Food items, such as ramen noodles or candy, can be purchased, as can writing materials, socks, underwear and like items.