Monday, February 25, 2013

Please may this never happen to me

I've been going to visit prisons and jails since I was a baby law student. They're all very much the same and yet different. The procedures for setting up attorney visits with inmates are all pretty similar. We get special rooms or the entire visiting area to ourselves. Sometimes we are made to have a guard kept near us, sometimes not. Sometimes we're put in rooms that have panic buttons. Sometimes it feels like we've been put somewhere we might never be found again.

It always makes me a tad nervous to be inside the secured area. Once you're inside the sally port, you're a little bit at their mercy. Someone in a control room has the final say on whether you get back outside. Wherever they put you for your visit, you can't leave that spot until a guard or employee escorts you back out. When you get to your visiting area, you almost always have to wait for your client to be brought in. Even if you've set the visit up in advance, you inevitably end up waiting a bit for the client. Time is not of the essence in a lot of prisons and jails. The guards have other things to do and what are you going to do about it, anyway? You're on their turf.

I've always wondered what would happen if I were inside, in the belly of the beast (for some of my visits, I go right into the maximum security cellblocks themselves), when something happened. A disturbance, a missing inmate at count, something that would lead to the facility being put on lockdown. I'd like to believe that the guards would take care of me, keep me safe, get me out as soon as possible. I've also wondered what would happen if my visit coincided with a shift change and the new shift didn't know I was there. Could I just be forgotten about?

I really want to believe that wouldn't happen. But I'm sure this guy wanted to believe it, too. I'm not going to say this is my ultimate nightmare, 'cause there was no physical injury and my deepest fear isn't represented in this scenario. But it's up there. Being trapped somewhere, being unable to get out, no access to food or water. No way to communicate with the outside world (can't take your cell phone into a jail). Four hours in a small room with no sign of anyone coming for me would feel like a very, very long time. I don't think I would take it well. Not at all. I do believe I would be traumatized. And, yes, I think I would consider a lawsuit because I would have some very real emotional injuries.


Legally Fabulous said...

omg that is terrifying.
I had never even considered something could happen before I got to see a client. I always assume I'm with my client and they're going to notice if an inmate is missing, so they would find us together. Great, something else to worry about.

One county jail I had a client in had a policy of giving attorneys a walkie talkie/radio thing with a "panic" button on it. I was there visiting a female client who was probably 5'1" and maybe 105 lbs soaking wet.
The guards looked at me with a straight face and told me to press the button "if she tries anything". I am 5'10" in bare feet and about 190 lbs.
Not to mention I'm a private attorney the client really liked. I just laughed and said "I think I'll be okay."

I'd also like to think it wouldn't happen because guards are more likely to do a better job of keeping an eye on a female attorney. I would probably have a REALLY hard time going on my next jail visit after that happened though. Yikes.

S said...

I, too, choose to believe the female thing helps me out, especially where I visit as my clients are (at least for now) exclusively male. So the guards are more attuned to paying attention when a woman walks in.

I've been in many a visiting room with no panic button of any sort. Never really made me nervous, but now I'll pay more attention.

I'm sure it will never happen to either of us.

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