Brooklyn Jail Nightmare: One Woman's Story
Let's say you have an unpaid summons for having your dog off its leash that was dismissed, but never recorded properly in the system. Let's also say that circumstances lead you to make a questionable choice and go through a subway turnstile without paying. Here's what happened to a person with the dog issue who went through the turnstile. The art professor at a respected Manhattan-based institution and Brooklyn resident that relates this was locked up for more than 24 hours on a Saturday nearly two weeks ago. She wrote GL because she was horrified at the conditions at the Brooklyn Central Booking on Schermerhorn Street between Smith and Boerum Place. (It is next to the Brooklyn Detention Center and basically across the street from the 75 Smith condo and future Smith Hotel.) Here is her story:
[Photo courtesy of Property Shark]
I was going to see a student in Manhattan. I went to the Nevins Street 4/5 station. The Metrocard machine did not take my ATM card and was not accepting bills! No one was in the booth, but the place was lit up and seemingly occupied. I thought that was odd. So, I decided to pass through turnstile. I heard someone on the platform below, a cop was there with the token booth worker! I wondered if this was a ticket quota trap.The contrast between the ugliness inside and privilege outside will be even stronger if the city goes ahead with plans to reopen the bigger jail complex and add luxe condos and retail.
He was just going to let me go when he punched in my info and it came up that there was a warrant out for my arrest. A squad car was called. They cuffed me and brought me to the precinct in the Hoyt Jay station where they found that my warrant was for an unpaid off leash summons. I had tried to pay the summons, but they had dismissed everyone at the Schermerhorn sc court that day because of a Building Dept. hearing that had backed up the whole day. Obviously, the dismissal was not processed through the system.
So, I was locked up for three hours in a cell. No matter how absurd my case was, when they begin the process of inquiry or arrest, they cannot reverse it. After 3 hours of paperwork and sitting in a precinct cell, no water etc....no working phone in precinct office(?), they asked me if i had drugs on me! The only thing i had was a New Yorker and almonds. They brought me over to Central Booking. Same thing--cuffs and car. Central Booking is appalling. The cell is 12 x 24 foot, no windows, open toilet, 3 gym mats on the flloor covered with dirt, half eaten sandwiches, an old pair of pants, spilled old milk, a small bench running the length of the room that was barely wide enough to sit on. Greasy walls, florescent lights 24 hours, noise, screaming, a pay phone, 6 woman were in there when i went in. It was "a slow night" and in the cell across the way there were 8 woman. By the end of the night , they had put in 8 more woman in my cell. We were sleeping on top of each other on the floor. If you look up on the wall, about 9 feet up, there are signs that say don't expect to be out before 24 hours, water available upon request, meal time hours (that's when they throw boxes of cereal through the bars) and sanitary pads available upon request. 24 hours before you can even hope to be out of there!!!!!
There was a 16 year old girl that had been in there for 2 and a half days, she had been taken in because one of the men that had been in a car with her (been pulled over for a broken headlight) had a gun on him. She was young, clueless, frantic and couldn't stop crying. There is no available water. The prison guards crank the radio up in the hall so we couldn't sleep. (A lot of the women in there are crack addicts, so they were throwing up and getting sick.) They occasionally come by to toss some frosted flakes or bologna sandwiches into the cells. You cannot ask anyone a question about anything because there is no one to ask. I have long arms, so I stuck my arm out of the cell and reached to the sink out side of the cell to get some water--no one wanted any because of were it came from--plus it took me 5 calls to the guard to get cups. Needless to say the guards are assholes. Everyone pees and throws up in the open.
They cleared out the cell across from us because there were mice in there. I slept with my head facing the toilet. I couldn't breath because the disinfectant smell was so strong but nothing was clean. At 9 in the morning my lawyer came in. He commented that this facility was worse than the men's Tombs in Manhattan. My case was about 10 cases away from being heard. That would be 6 hours later and there was nothing to do but wait.
There seemed to be a giant amount of racial profiling going on -- alot of woman in the cell were just picked up wrongly and booked for supposed violations. (Open bottle of alcohol.) It seemed that they wanted to put as many black folk in the system as possible. I grew up in brooklyn in the 70s . My dad grew up here. I am not a naive, knucklehead from a transferred suburban bubble. This "pick up anyone for anything and process them for it" as my lawyer informed me, was a Guiliani mandate. It is racist. It has divided this city and it is making this place a plasticized suburb that I don't think I have the heart to remain in. It is disturbing to watch these rich kids prance around Smith Street, when 2 blocks away, there is a cell where you are held without communication, water, food and logic. The judge threw my case out in 2 seconds and was visibly irritated that i was locked up for a day for an offleash summons.
When I left the building 25 hours later, I realized that just one block away, there are $3 million townhouses. PS: the 16 year old that was in the cell for 2 and a half days...her case was also dismissed.
[Photo courtesy of Property Shark]