What One Day in Jail at the
Self Surrender Center Taught Me
By Edgar Rider
For those of us who have never been through the jail experience it is a confusing situation. However, this is a situation you don’t want to become an expert at.
But what exactly is the process? Where do you go?
If you have ever had a warrant for arrest issued for you, you may not know how the process works. As a kid you probably heard people say if you get in trouble and especially have a warrant better turn yourself in.
So do you walk into a precinct and say ‘Here I am. I am turning myself in.” Is this the process to take care of the warrant? Do you walk to the nearest jail and tell them you are ready to do the time?
The answer is no! In most cases, there is a whole process. It depends on what your conviction is. If you have a lawyer contact them and they will help you pick a court date. Or else call the court and they will give you specific instructions.
They might quash the warrant which means they will overturn it or set it aside. But only if you take care of it by agreeing to pay fines, classes and even jail time.
In my case it was a combination of all three. I was arrested for a DUI and went through two trials and it did not end in my favor. I was convicted and sentenced to one day in jail 9 days suspended if I completed a program and paid fines.
The Appeal process ended and I was not aware that an arrest warrant was issued on a Failure to Appear.
An officer pulled to the side of me after I crossed the street between the intersection and not the crosswalk. One moment of jay walking and I paid a heavy price. The police officer told me I had a warrant. He handcuffed me and threw me into the back of a car. He drove me to a parking lot and called it in. “Can someone take him to jail.”
No one answered. “I am going to have to let you go.” He let me out and took the handcuffs off and told me to take care of it.
I went to three different jails to turn myself in. They said, “that is not the correct way, sir.”
I had to go back to court and get a confinement order. This tells you the date and time you are going to turn yourself into the Self Surrender Center.
Where to go and how it works is something that is unfamiliar to most of us unless you have been there before.
I arrived early and waited out in front of the gates to get it over with. A cab driver walked up to me and told me the procedure. Two guards met me in front of the gate at 2pm. They looked at my paperwork and said we can’t read the date. The Officer said I had to go back to court and get a legible date.
It was a good thing that they didn’t take me because no cell phones were allowed. Once I read the sign, I buried my cell phone out front. I was relieved they didn’t take me and quickly unburied it. The cab driver saw me and shook his head. Cab drivers hover around the area like vultures because Lyft and Uber won’t go near the jail.
I went back to court, got a new date and this time they let me in. Another guy was there and explained to me what would happen through the rest of the process. They placed us in a holding room.
I asked the other guy how long he was there - 45 days, he said. He had a DUI and a Domestic Violence charge. He asked me how long I was there. I told him 1 day - he laughed as he saw how scared I was.
We each took turns being checked over by a doctor making sure we probably didn’t keel over in the cell. We were then fingerprinted and got a mugshot taken.
“What is wrong with that guy?” One guy in an orange correctional uniform from another cell commented about me.
We stayed in another room for a few hours and were moved when women were given our cell. Then we stayed in another room. I tried to sleep on the hard concrete benches stretching out long ways in a fetal position but to no avail.
Different people were let in and we all sat staring at the wall.
We were brought dinner which consisted of a roll of bread, peanut butter in a sealed baggy, an apple and some wafer cookies. I wanted to try jail food because I heard it was terrible. Got to try everything while I am here, I thought to myself. They did not supply us with knives of course, so we couldn’t use plastic knives because we might obviously try to stab each other in the throats. I tried to break apart the bag with my teeth and rip it open with my bear hands. It took a while but finally it opened and peanut butter went all over me. It looked like watered down peanut butter with some form of liquid seeping from the bag. I rubbed and smushed the peanut butter over the bread. I took a bite. It was confirmed based on this experience that prison food is in fact disgusting. Wonder if that is part of the plan…
The other guy disappeared and came back wearing an orange prison outfit.
Hours and hours went by as each of us picked different spots to space out at floor, ceiling or adjoining walls. He was taken at the end of the night in to another cell. There must have been 30 of us. Guys were changing out of their orange shirt, orange pants, orange socks and orange underwear. The nightmare just got worse!
I was grateful for my one day stay that meant I never had to change clothes.
One guy next to me said, “I wonder what my dealer thinks about this.” He looked like he was about 20 years old and told us he had been there multiple times.
I thought to myself that might be the problem - you are more worried about your dealer’s feelings than being incarcerated.
Our names were called one by one.
We were called to a line and asked a series of questions.
Some of the people were given back belongings, phones, etc. I waited patiently and finally some of the other people in the jail opened the doors outside.
I looked at the clock, wondering what time it was.
We were let out at 3am early in the morning on 35th Ave and Lower Buckeye. It was 13 hours of my life I can’t get back. Somehow all of the people in the jail exited out of a door adjacent to the Self Surrender Center.
I remember some haunting words from some of the people in the cell saying “Whatever you do, don’t walk down 35th Ave.’
I took a chance and walked, with cab drivers coming up asking if I needed a ride.
Every few feet I looked behind me and all other ways around me. I started running down the road. It was a scary area.
I made it to my safe haven of 35th Ave and Van Buren. Usually a horrendous place filled with dealers, hookers and other sketchy people. But compared with the Lower Buckeye wasteland this area felt like a sanctuary or even an oasis.
Even a one day stay in jail was enough. I knew that I would do everything within my power to never step foot there again. The freedom to walk around even aimlessly at times seems too ideal to want to take a chance on it. After all, Uber and Lyft are available in every other area, and after a few drinks the consequences are not worth the risks.
Edgar Rider has been working in education for over ten years first as a Substitute Teacher and then as a Para Educator in Arizona. He also worked in a shelter as a Child Advocate. He has published articles on educational topics such as Growth Mindset, Substitute Teaching, Autism, Time Management in a classroom and how to use an Environmental Theatre space. He is also known as Eddie on the Eddie and Freddie show.