10 March 2005

Visits at the Detention Center

I call earlier today and arrange to go to visit three clients at the juvenile detention center at 6:30 p.m. I drive out to the middle of nowhere to Beaumont Juvenile Detention and after driving forever down a two lane country road I finally get there at 6:15.

I leave most of the stuff from my pockets out in the car because this place has gotten pretty squirrelly about what I can take in on other times. I walk up to the gate and get buzzed through. Then I go in the front door, empty my pockets, walk through the metal detector, and get a pat down from the male guard. I drop off my keys and driver's license at one window and then walk over to the main control room and wait and wait and wait until someone finally comes over and asks whom I am there to see. Then I wait some more until the guard finally tells me that I can go through.

I get buzzed through two doors and, after I wait a little longer, I'm directed to a room across the hall. The room is set up to be a holding room for kids going into (or coming out of) the medical office but it's also set up so that the doors on both sides lock and there is a large window through which the control room can watch everything that goes on in the room.

My first client is brought to the room almost immediately. He's basically what would be a "trustee" if this were an adult prison so they just let him walk up and buzz him in. We have our meeting and then they just buzz him out (doors in jails, detention centers, and prisons buzz when opened remotely), leaving me in the room by myself.

I stand in the room for waiting for the next client. At one point a group of kids is escorted past the room and one of the kids starts telling the guard that I'm his attorney but they won't let him stop. As they walk by one of his fellow detainees says "That's your attorney? You're gonna be found guilty." I look over at the kid through the window and he shoots me a huge grin and starts laughing. Then they are shooed down the hall by the guard.

So I wait some more. Meanwhile, I try to decipher the gang graffiti written on the door. The most interesting are a couple Stars of David with two pitchforks at the top, and two lines at the bottom with three dots around each line. Unlike the stereotypical version, neither had a "G" or "D" on it. One had roman numerals for 7 on the left, 6 in the middle, an 3 on the right, all upside down. The second actually had the numbers 7, 6, and 3 (rightside up); it also had a 360 above it and what looked like 2#14 below it (somewhat scratched out).

Finishing with the door, I wait even longer. After more waiting the guard calls me on the intercom and tells me that she is trying to get a guard to go get my second client out of "behavioral management" (solitary). She also tells me that it will be a while before they can get my third client to me because head count has just started. I wait some more. Across the hall from the room I'm in there is a group of at least 10 guards just sitting there. Eventually, they seem to start some sort of training but that ends when, all of the sudden, about 8 guards scramble out of the room and run full tilt down the hall (I have no idea where they were going but it must have been dang important).

After a minute or so, two guards come back. They look over at me and one of the guards goes over to the control room and talks to the guard there for a second. Then he comes over, opens the door with his key, and asks whom I am waiting for. I tell him and he looks around the room and gets an embarrassed look on his face. He tells me that he is going to get someone from medical to clean the room I'm in (someone had eaten their supper in the room and left the styrofoam trays, napkins, and leftovers strewn under the bolted down chairs). He then opens the door to the medical office and tells them that "there's an attorney in there waiting for his client and you need to clean your area." The nurse then gets a kid who is waiting in the other medical holding area and has him clean the room.

The guard then tells another guard to go get my second client from behavioral management and bring him to see me. When he gets to the room he is in handcuffs but not the full body lockup (waist chain with cuffs attached and leg chains). This indicates to me that this kid isn't nearly as bad as most of the kids I've dealt with who are being held in behavioral management. We sit and talk about his case for a while and then a guard comes to return him to his cell.

Again, I wait. When the guard left he didn't close the door so it would lock. One of the counselors comes over to the room and starts talking to me about a kid whom I have been appointed to the day before. I don't have the kid's paperwork yet and didn't even know that I was appointed. She tells me that's okay, she sees that I am visiting clients today so she knows I'll come back to visit this kid. Then she tells me that she's never actually seen an attorney come to visit any of the kids at the detention center before the court date (personally, I know they do come if for no other reason then the fact that we compare stories out of this place with one another).

Then I wait some more. Finally, my last client is brought to the room. We discuss his charges until we're both satisfied. Then I hit the intercom button to get let out but the guard in the control room doesn't even look up. After a few seconds my client steps up to the glass and starts hitting it and yelling at the guard that she needs to let me out. She doesn't look up. A little worried that my client might get himself in trouble I hit the intercom button again and she still doesn't look up. Just then another guard walks by and my client yells to him that they need to let me out. The guard then goes and gets the control room to let me out of the room.

I walk over to the exit and again stand there waiting. I wave a couple times trying to get the attention of the guard in the control room without any luck. Finally, a couple of guards come by and let me out into the lobby area with their keys. I get my keys and ID back and head out to the gate where, miraculously, I am buzzed through right away. Then I jump back into the car and drive 45 minutes back to my office.

And thus ends another enthralling visit to a juvenile detention center.

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