Struggles With Shackles


Chapter 14: Struggles With Shackles

By Monday morning I’d lost a good chunk of my sanity to insomnia, and most of the rest of it to withdrawal. I was barely hanging on. I’d spent over fifty hours in jail for slapping Dick; more than enough punishment to fit the crime in my mind, what I had left of it anyway. I figured for 50 hours I could have introduced a frying pan to the center of his face.  I discovered over the weekend I would need to pace my enthusiasm for freedom if I wanted to preserve any air of reason. I had to keep myself occupied. The only way I figured I could stay busy in jail was to read. By Monday morning my bunk was besieged with torn and dirty paperbacks. I hadn’t read past page five in one of them.

Occasionally I’d engage Ceily, but I couldn’t handle her high energy for long so mostly I kept to myself in my cell and avoided looking out the window onto downtown and Eliot Bay in the background. I figured I just had to be released by no later than 8 p.m. That seemed more than a reasonable amount of time to see the judge, have my bail set and paid, and get through whatever procedures were necessary to get my stuff back so I could get the hell out of there.

I decided a little message to the heavens was in order. “Dear God, please don’t allow me to spend another night here. Have the judge set my bail. Dad will pay it and then I can leave. I’ve paid for my crime, right? RIGHT?!” I felt attached to an invisible IV drip of diluted hope.  Dad and I had talked once on Saturday afternoon. We agreed it was only logical that I would see the judge sometime early Monday and until then he couldn’t do anything to help me. I said I’d call after my court appearance.

I’d solved the dilemma of not wearing used underwear by placing a clean maxi-pad in the crotch of my pants. I had to roll the top of my pants down pretty far to bring the crotch up, but it worked. On Sunday I finally decided to take a shower because we’d been given clean uniforms that morning.

“Don’t forget to wash your nasty feet!!” Ceily boomed as I walked toward the shower.

My shoeless feet had been brought up by several inmates. “Why aren’t you wearing socks or shoes?” They’d asked over the course of the weekend.

“Because they’ve been worn by other people and they’re dirty.” I answered.

“But they’ve been washed. The floor is dirty.”

“But the socks and shoes have other people’s residual foot stink in them which makes them dirtier than the floor which gets mopped every night. Since people wear socks and shoes in here their foot sweat and toe jam doesn’t get on the floor. So I’ve decided the floor is cleaner.” I explained, patiently.

“Oh.” They replied, thoughtfully.

“Don’t your feet get cold?”

“Sometimes.” End of discussion. Until the next person asked.

I had to swallow my modesty in the shower. I knew no one could see below my neck, but that everyone, including the guards, male and female, could see above it unnerved the hell out of me. I propped up the game board on the ledge for added privacy. It didn’t offer a lot, but since I couldn’t see anyone above it I pretended no one could see me either. I cannot explain how I found a tiny sliver of freedom in the shower, but I did as long as my eyes were closed and I didn’t face the guard station. The water drowned out most of the voices outside the shower and it massaged away some of my anguish. I learned that showers offered a kind of freedom or escape.

I was first to shower on Monday morning. My hair was still wet and I was in the middle of brushing my teeth when a female guard entered the Block looking for me.


Thank you, God!

“It’s Place.” I said, spitting out the toothpaste.

“Come with me.”

 I immediately walked towards her holding my toothbrush in one hand and my towel in the other.

“Leave that stuff.” She said.

“GOOD LUCK, GIRL!” I heard from behind me.


“Don’t fucking come back, bitch!” Someone else yelled. Other’s laughed. I refused to turn around.  A male cop met us next to the guard stage. I was handcuffed and asked to provide my social security number to prove my identity. Once I cleared myself we walked outside the main room where I lined up against a wall next to five or six other women. Two male cops guarded the hallway in front of us.

“Where are your shoes?” One of them asked me.

“I don’t have any.”

“What do you mean you don’t have any?”

“I didn’t want shoes when I first got here.”  Everyone looked at me, thoughtfully.

“Well, you need shoes. You can’t see the judge without shoes on.” He warned.

Good to know.

“Then I’d like some shoes, please.”

“What’s your name?” The cop asked.

“Jennifer Place.”

“PACE?” He yelled.

“No, PLACE – like, I’m ready to get the fuck out of this place.” I smiled.

He twitched out a tiny grin and then stomped around the corner. I heard him tell someone to bring up a pair of shoes.

Breathe, Jennifer. I’d caught myself holding my breath. I felt like I was on a colossal rollercoaster ride. I can’t stand roller-coasters. God, I wanted to get off the ride and out of the amusement park. Ten minutes passed before another cop showed up.

“WHO NEEDS THESE?” He barked, holding up a pair of red rubber flip-flops.

“Me! I need those!” I blurted.

He looked at my feet as he handed me the shoes.  “Nice tats.” He complimented.

“Yes, I think so too.” I agreed.

“YOU ALL HAVE COURT APPOINTMENTS THIS MORNING TO SEE THE JUDGE. LET‘S GO LADIES!” He barked as he walked back to the cops guarding the hallway.

Right ON! Let’s GO!

I pushed my feet into the flip-flops and followed everyone down the hallway. I was fidgety and had hardly slept at all the previous night. The end of this nightmare seemed to be fast approaching and I was ready to wake up.  We passed through several long hallways until we finally reached the same reception area I’d been in the night I arrived. The room looked smaller. It was jam-packed full of people. Someone was in the human cage in the corner. On the night I arrived I hadn‘t noticed the shackles attached to the wall above the bench. Several men sat handcuffed to them. The table where the cop and I sat together as he took inventory of my things had been relieved of its two chairs. I assumed the table was bolted to the floor. No available weapons for anyone.

“Line up here!” Someone yelled. All the activity and noise in the room distracted me and my attention faltered; I don’t know what the hell was going on.

“OVER HERE!” The same voice bellowed. I could tell the voice was directed at me. I quickly moved in with the other women and lined up near the wall between the set of double doors and the cage.

“Stand BEHIND the red line, ladies!” A male officer commanded. I looked to the floor and took a couple steps back.

Everyone was talking loudly and laughing. They all seemed to know each other. The men knew the women, the cops knew the men, and the women knew the cops. Everyone looked way too happy and comfortable. It was craziness.

“Arms out, feet together!” A female cop yelled.

I looked to the women around me. They were all standing up straight and stretching their arms out in front of them. I wondered if we were all about to be searched or something. It turned out to be – or something.

“Arms out, feet together!” A male officer barked at me. I imitated the other women and watched in horror as my cuffs were removed and replaced with cuffs attached to a waist chain. It got worse. The cop shackled my feet. Everyone was getting waist chains and shackles. I couldn‘t believe it. Was this really necessary just to make a court appearance? But that thought lost value as my attention was drawn to the shackle around my right ankle. It was way too tight.

“Excuse me, you clicked it together too tight.” I said to the cop who’d moved on to the woman next to me. He did nothing to indicate he’d heard me, but I felt certain he had because I knew how to make myself heard. I also felt certain that cops need to have impeccable hearing to be considered for the job. Maybe I just needed to wait until he finished locking the woman to herself and then he would address me. But no, when he finished with her he walked back to a small group of police in the middle of the room.

I don’t think so.

“Hello?!” I yelled at him. I knew he heard me because several male inmates were harassing him on my behalf about my shackles. I watched an older male officer lean towards him and say something after making eye contact with me. The woman next to me said, “Let it go.”

“HELLO?!” I yelled again, louder, ignoring her. I wasn’t about to let it go. The cop snapped his head in my direction. “HEY!” He boomed at me. The room quieted, but I didn’t flinch. I was flinched out. I was pissed off, tired, still detoxing and not in the mood to fuck with some ego driven punk who got off on locking leg shackles too tightly.

“You clicked my right ankle cuff too tight.” I said, evenly.

Several men and women inmates started yelling that the cuffs and shackles are always put on too tight because cops are a bunch of sadistic, masochistic assholes. I ignored them and continued glaring at the cop.

“They’re fine.” He said.

“No, they’re not. If they were I‘d be talking to someone else about something else.” I countered.

The same older male cop who’d said something earlier to the evil cop leaned toward him and said  something else. They both looked at me and the jerk finally relented.

“I’ll check it in a minute.” He walked to the desk and pretended to busy himself with paperwork. I wondered about the mind games cops played with inmates. I wondered if this guy was really watching me out of the corner of his eye hoping I’d get distracted by something so he wouldn’t have to come adjust my shackle. I never liked to lose games and I knew if I took my eyes off him it would mean I’d given up the issue and he’d win. I wanted to win. I stared a hole through the side of his face until he looked at me again. I smiled. He walked over, kneeled down on his heels, slipped a couple fingers up my shackles and smiled at me.

“Feels just right.” He smiled. He was sorta cute, but it was wasted on his character.

“It’s too tight. It‘s distracting me from being able to enjoy the overall experience of being chained to myself.” I smiled back.

He grabbed the hem of my right pant leg from beneath the shackle and tugged, hard. The bottom of my pant leg unwrinkled and smoothed out between the shackle and my ankle. The tug worked so well he’d pulled the right side of my pants down diagonally across my ass. That was his intention and I could see by the satisfied look on his face that he knew exactly what he’d done. Of course, no one could see that my pants were crooked due to the length of my shirt, but I was mortified all the same. I couldn’t adjust my pants in the back due to the placement of my cuffs and the chain around my waist. I wanted to kick the guy, but I couldn’t do that either. He stood up and we glared at each other for a moment. He towered a good foot and a half over me and I refused to look down.

“Better?” He asked, pointedly.

“Sweet ass job.” Did I win or lose? Both. Neither.

“Hoist my pants up, will ya?” I asked the woman next to me, nodding my heads backwards to indicate my crooked pants. While she manhandled my backside I noticed the cop, and the guy who spoke to him earlier, watching me. I returned a stoic gaze and tried to recover modestly against the wall until a short wait later the double doors were opened from the outside and we, the women, were told to walk out to the garage. Thoughtless to the limited freedom of my legs I attempted to take a normal step forward and immediately tipped straight over. I couldn’t even put my arms out to brace for my fall because they were cuffed to my waist. It was nothing less than a sweeping act of benevolence by the Universe to place an officer right next to me at that moment. I hadn’t even noticed him and he grabbed my elbow as I tipped forward.

“You have to take SHORT steps. Baby steps.” He explained.

I was too panicked to look at him. Several people around me yelled, “BABY STEPS, BABY!“ I was absolutely mortified and completely traumatized. The words, “WALK LIKE A GEISHA!” lit up like fireworks in my head and I had to watch my feet as I followed the women outside.

A long, light gray bus with barred windows sat parked outside the doors in a garage so long it resembled a tunnel. A long line of male inmates had lined up against a cement wall and about eight cops paced back and forth in front of them. As we walked towards the bus the air filled with whistles and cat-calls. All of the woman, about ten total, boarded the bus ahead of me. Within 30 seconds they were all inside.

My turn.

As I approached the bottom stair to the bus I stepped up and forward with my right leg and immediately started to tip over again. My leg stopped severely short of the step and my body followed my mind, not my leg. The same guard caught my elbow again.

“Get closer to the bus. This is the biggest step.” He stated.

I shuffled closer and tried again. My leg halted and hung a foot from the step. I put it back down, shuffled forward, tried again and started giggling. This was absurd and I could only imagine how ridiculous I must look. I still wasn’t quite there, but I was close enough that I just leaned forward on the tiptoes of my left foot until my right foot dropped onto the step. Now I needed to bring my left leg up and forward, but when I tried to reach the side of the bus for support my arm stopped short; it was chained to my waist and had a reach of maybe a foot.

“Why the hell don’t you guys just hog tie us and throw us into the back of a truck? This would be fucking hilarious if I weren’t so pathetic.” I said to the guard next to me. He laughed and told me to pull my other leg forward. He was still holding my elbow and I did as he said. If he hadn’t been there I’d probably have fallen over backwards. With both feet finally on the bottom step the guard pushed me forward gently and I was able to climb the last three steps on my own as clapping and cheers erupted behind me.


My memoir, Saturation, is currently on sale in paperback.  Read several posts down for details or email me at .


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