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human & civil rights | prisons & prisoners

Cruel and Unusual Punishment for Walking Barefoot

Firsthand account from Graham Lawrence of Being in Cottage Grove, OR jail for walking barefoot. Somebody say lawsuit?
Friday, Jan 13 (fateful day) at 11 am Ben and I entered the library barefoot, sat at the computers; no action. Moved to an armchair, reading the newspaper, feet prominently extended; action.
On the principle of "only one sacrificial goat at a time, no point making the bastards rich if it goes badly", Ben put on shoes under protest and attempted to engage them in dialogue; as usual, to no avail. Woman comes up to me and says "You must leave. You're not allowed here in bare feet" and I reply "This is a public place and I am a member of the public". She leaves and calls the police. Police arrive and confer with librarians for several minutes; then:-
"You leave right now, or you will be arrested"
"If you saw me walking barefoot on the street, would you arrest me for that?"
"That's different"
"They are both public places, so what is the difference?"
(Loses temper) "That's it, we're taking you in"
"If you feel like that about it, give me the citation and I'll gladly leave. That's what I came down here to get"
"No citation, you're going to jail" Second cop starts putting handcuffs on me.
"I see, you're doing this for the pleasure of it. This is what you choose to do". No response.

3 cops, 2 massive vehicles and an arsenal take one ancient menace to society to jail. Small jail, 8-10 cells, but state of the art, in theory. Computer controlled entrance, which does work, computerized fingerprint process, which does not. It takes photographs, but refuses to accept them, so each one must be done 3 times, then the operator can compel the system to accept one of them. And they take far more prints now than they used to. For each hand: each digit individually (5); all 5 digits together (6); palm of hand (7); entire hand (8); and outer edge of hand (9) times 2 hands times 3 shots apiece = 54 separate photos.
"Under the circumstances, perhaps you should print my feet too". He is not amused.

And so to my cell, and to discover the true iniquity of the arresting pig. This is Friday midday, I'm the only prisoner in the jail, and the judge does arraignments once a week on, naturally, Thursday. So I get more than 6 days in solitary, no exercise yard, no work release, no fresh air, not even a glimpse of the outside world. I worried about the possibility of getting a spiteful judge if I should lose, gave no mind to the possibility of a spiteful cop.

In my cell I can walk 3 steps diagonally, turn around, 3 steps back, etc. I'm accustomed to walking 4 miles every day through the woods, meaning, I get very twitchy if I can't do that. Fortunately, I find if I take 4 short steps instead of 3 normal, the back and forth process becomes symmetrical, and I can do it on automatic. So each morning I walk back and forth, back and forth, in a trance for one hour.

And the food, 18 meals in which I saw just one green vegetable and no fruit, unless you count applesauce tarted up with sugar and cinnamon. And mystery meat, but are you sure its really meat, and not TVP or some even more doubtful acronym. And supposed mashed potatoes, imbued with some eerie translucent quality, only ever seen before in biology lab, Pure Food Starch.

The first such meal, Friday lunch, I refused with disgust, Friday dinner I ate with distaste, Saturday I ate all 3 with indifference, Sunday I gobbled greedily, Monday I was licking the dishes, Tuesday I barked and turned in circles before sleeping. Man to dog in four days; some exotic food additive, perhaps? Nah, purely a matter of calories, just enough to sustain a 98 pound weakling who does nothing more strenuous than take a dump. For the rest of us, each "meal" a blessed relief for one hour from ever gnawing hunger chewing at one's entrails.

Guys my age are prone to constipation on a fiber-less diet. My normal diet is 85% fruit, so normally I go twice a day, never constipated. In jail I didn't shit for 5 days, so I determined I was going to go, whether I wanted to or not. Several minutes straining produced... one deer pellet. Several minutes more produced an object the size, shape and no doubt consistency of a charcoal briquet.

And that's how they treat "presumed innocent..". So, in Cottage Grove, be sure to commit your "villainies" on Wednesday evenings.

To the arraignment, and another bad sign. Prison "sandals" are brought to me, "you must wear these, judge's orders". And will I be forced to wear shoes at my trial, and will that be tantamount to being forced to wear a placard on my chest saying "Dear jury, I don't believe a word I'm telling you about barefootedness. For proof, look at my feet".

Charged with Criminal Trespass 2, a grade C misdemeanor, hastily downgraded to a violation when I ask for a court appointed attorney. Violators don't get free attorneys. OTOH, they don't get jailed and don't have to cough up $600 bail that I don't have

Trial on April 11th, 9:00 am, supporters welcome.