County Jail Time for Dummies

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to the jail in my 23 years of defending criminal cases.  Let’s just say plenty.  But, I don’t know what it’s like to spend time behind bars, as I’m only andoggy in jail “official visitor”.  Lucky for you, a dear friend of mine had the misfortune of being arrested.  He was my neighbor, he was a doctor, and he is a good friend of mine to this day.  Unfortunately, he was recently sentenced to ten years prison.

Now, my buddy has a few things to say about his stay at the Orange County Jail, before he was shipped off to prison.  I’m going to share these things with you, in no particular order, so that you or a loved one may have some idea as to what to expect behind bars.  My friend spent six months in the Orange County Jail, and much of his wisdom can be reduced to one cliched word, “respect”.  Now, this is not the slang term that passes for a greeting, but means virtually nothing.  No, respect is Jail Etiquette 101.

The best way to survive a county jail term is to respect your fellow inmates, and respect the corrections officers.  However, my friend is not suggesting that you wimp out at every confrontation.  There must be a balance between standing up for one’s self when facing a confrontation with another inmate, and respecting all those around you.  How do you walk this fine line?  I have no idea, I’m just telling you what he told me.  My doctor friend turned inmate is slightly over 60 years of age, so he benefited from the age discrimination rules the county jail employs.  The Orange County Jail’s violation code renders punishment to the younger inmate automatically, when the “senior” inmate is over the age of 59.  Punishment for fighting and shenanigans varies, but both fighters are likely to end up in the “Box” or “Shoe” for 30 days.  While in the box, there’s no recreation time, and no commissary.

For those folks in the general population at the county jail, an inmate will carry his blanket, sheet (and pillow if available) and a basic care kit.  The basic care kit is given to you at the Booking and Release Center, or the general population cell, and it consists of white boxers, a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, socks, and a comb.  Every inmate gets a one piece uniform known as the “blues”, and these are changed twice a week.  Linens like your sheet, pillow case are changed once a week, with the blanket changed every six months. 

Inmates can order snacks and such that are off the usual bad food menu.  Commissary orders can be placed once a day, and orders are received once a day, but no inmate can spend more than $75 per week on such items.  Inmates routinely trade commissary items.  Inmates will need to buy shorts, socks, and t-shirts.  Medical visits will also cost $7/visit, these funds come out of your commissary account.    Prescriptions typically cost $5, and this comes out of your commissary as well, though some medications are free.

Visitation at the Orange County Jail is not done in person, it is done via recorded video conference for 45 minutes.  Attorney visits are not recorded, so such visits are a good way to pass along information about a case that you don’t want recorded.

You may be wondering how these guys use the toilet with so many people watching?  Well, in the cells, the inmate will hold up bed sheets as a barrier.

Phone calls are set up through a company called offenderconnect, and run $2.50 per call, for 15 minutes.  The only way for someone to receive a call from an inmate is for that person to set up an account at www.offenderconnect.com.  Calls are recorded, so PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE do not discuss the facts or defenses or ANYTHING about your case.  Look, these calls are reduced to wave files and automatically emailed to the prosecutors.  Don’t hand the prosecutor stuff that can be used against you later, I beg of you!