One of the jail volunteers and I were talking the other day about what people worry about when they're in jail. She made this observation:
"Men worry about what their women are doing, and with whom. Women worry about their kids."
I'm learning more about the differences between jail and prison as I close in on the third-month mark for this new job. At the jail, I've seen people sometimes less than forty-eight hours after they were arrested. Some of them are still coming down off the drugs that brought them here. A lot of them are overwhelmed by the stories they've heard from people who've been around a while.
Last week, I talked with a man who has been sitting in the jail for two years and is now on his way to prison. (He got arrested, couldn't afford bail, waited for trial, went to trial, waited for sentencing=2 years.) He wanted to know what things would be like when he got to Shelton, the receiving prison for men in the state.
I was able to tell him he'd be in a two-person cell, rather than the 20-person dorm he'd been in for two years. That he'd walk downstairs to the dining hall if he were in unit 1 or 3. Once in unit 4 or 5, he'd be hiking to the dining hall two or three blocks away. He'll be trading in his red two-piece outfit for a grey or orange jumpsuit. And he'll be able to have shoes on his feet once again, not shower shoes.
The yard has real grass, not a concrete slab, and he'll be able to see trees in the distance, even the Olympic Mountains on a clear day. If he's lucky, he might see skydivers landing at the airport next door. He'd get to breathe fresh air, something that doesn't happen at the jail.
His body visibly relaxed as we talked. The jail had become so familiar and what he knew of prison was shaped by scare stories and "Lockdown" on TV. "It will be different," I told him, "but you'll have other things to look forward to, like books, magazines, and newspapers."
He was a little reassured. I hope there's someone at the prison who can catch him as he comes through.