From SARA GRUSKY
I would like to share some information regarding the treatment of those who have been arrested while protesting Caltrans’ bypass construction. The Willits News on June 28 stated that criminal charges have been filed in two cases and that I received a traffic ticket for being a pedestrian on a roadway during a protest action. While this information is entirely correct, it does fail to include the fact that some of those arrested spent quite a few days in jail. In the example mentioned above, when I was arrested for being a pedestrian on a roadway during a protest, I was kept in jail for three days before I was arraigned for a traffic violation. When four citizens, myself included, were arrested while trying to deliver food and water to Will Parrish in the wick drain derrick we spent another four days in jail.
I do not share this information as a form of complaint. I fully understand that civil disobedience has consequences. In fact, spending time in Mendocino County Jail has been an important, eye-opening experience and I don’t regret it at all. Some of the hardest moments were spent in the overcrowded jail holding cell, which is a 6ft. by 8 ft. room with a concrete floor, fluorescent lights that shine day and night, one metal bench, and a toilet in the center of the room. Because the jail is often overcrowded, many arrestees are spending increasing lengths of time in the holding cell before they are placed in general population. If I add together all the times I was arrested I think I probably spent 3 or 4 days in that holding cell. I had some very deep and emotional conversations with complete strangers in that holding cell. My daughter and I were arrested together on June 22 and we slept side-by-side on the cold concrete floor of that holding cell – well, she slept. I never quite could.
I learned many things while in jail — about the seriousness of drug and alcohol addiction in our county, about the pitfalls of the probation system, and most of all about the depth of generosity and humanity that are possible in situations of great adversity. I found that most of the employees in the County Jail are trying their best to do a decent job when the jail is overcrowded and they are understaffed. I did not meet any hardened “criminals” in jail. I met a lot of people with serious addiction problems – most of whom need love, a good rehabilitation program, and a network of supportive friends and family.
Some of the inmates joked around with us and said we should be protesting the penal system instead of the bypass. They do have a point. There is no doubt that the County Jail is severely overcrowded and has suffered from recent budget cutbacks. Many of the people I met in the jail would be better served in a decent rehabilitation program – which are also lacking, and suffering from budget cuts.