You’ve Been Found Guilty: Now What Happens?

So, you’ve been tried and convicted for a crime and now you’re ready to do your time. Well, it’s not like you had a say in the matter, but the day has arrived, nonetheless. And that day arrived a lot sooner than you’d preferred. Time simply would not slow down, no matter how hard or how often you prayed that it would.

You knew the evidence was stacked heavily against you, but you were still a bit shocked when the jury found you guilty. Your mind was still racing when sheriff’s deputies (that’s who takes you into custody after court) handcuffed you and led you to a section of the courthouse you’d never seen. Who knew there were jail cells back there?

Now you’re sitting in a not-so-clean holding cell with a dozen or so other people of various criminal backgrounds, waiting for someone to transport you to the county jail. Soon, you hear voices and the sound of chains rattling. Deputies call you out one at a time and begin shackling you—handcuffs attached to a chain around your waist, and leg irons that dig into the tender flesh at your ankles. You’re surprised at how quickly the soreness set in.

The transportation officers pack each of you into a very full van and then padlock the door from the outside. The benches in the back of the transport vehicle are crammed with men of all sizes and shapes. All skin colors and a variety of languages. Some were there because they’d been caught with illegal narcotics, while others were guilty of rape or murder, or both. The air is thick, and stale—gas fumes, stinky feet and flesh that hasn’t seen soap or water in many days. Not a good time for your claustrophobia to act up. Your gag reflexes either.

The fat man wedged in beside you, the guy who smells like a high school locker room times ten, had just been found guilty of using a machete to hack his mother to death. You couldn’t help but notice the foamy white stuff gathered at the corners of his mouth, and the crusty nuggets piled up over his tear ducts and lower eyelids. A blue scorpion tattoo on his neck wiggled a little with each beat of the now convicted killer’s heart. You soon find yourself passing the time by watching and counting the number of times his carotid arteries pushed against the inked arachnid, like counting ceiling tiles in a doctor’s office while waiting to say “ah” and hoping to get a prescription that’ll calm your shattered nerves.

The driver made a sharp right-hand turn, slamming the wild-eyed, unshaven rapist against your shoulder and bare left arm. His slimy sweat transferred to your skin, feeling like it was burning your exposed flesh. But the chains prevented you from wiping it away. You’ve never felt more filthy in your entire life.

You arrive at the jail where you and the others are herded into a large room. Then you’re told to remove all your clothing. A long line of naked men standing before both male and female officers. The stench of body odor is overwhelming. The embarrassment is worse.

“Hold up your arms. Spread your fingers. Turn around. Bend over. Spread your buttocks. Squat. Cough. Next.”

A female deputy, a woman who’d somehow managed to squeeze a rather “wide load” set of buttocks into a pair of size-too-small khaki pants, issues you a set of jail clothing—an orange jump suit big enough for two inmates, a dingy gray t-shirt that used to be white, a pair of threadbare yellowish-gray boxers, and a pair white socks that wouldn’t stay up no matter how many times you tugged. At the moment, though, while exposed for all the world to see, you gladly put on your brand new, many-times-used outfit.

Deputies yell for your group to hurry, and a few weren’t completely dressed before everyone is herded down a concrete corridor to another large room where you’ll learn the rules and regulations of the jail. It’s orientation time, and you’d better pay attention. The rules you’re about to hear are important. They’re for your safety. By the way, if you don’t follow the rules you’ll find yourself staying behind bars a little longer than you’d expected.

Now, please sit quietly and watch your orientation video, courtesy of the Chatham County Georgia Sheriff’s Department.

Welcome to jail.

9 thoughts on “You’ve Been Found Guilty: Now What Happens?

  • Nike Chillemi

    This has convinced me, totally. I’ll be good! I’ll be good, I promise.

  • Marti Colvin

    Wow, very interesting. Is it the same for a women’s facility? No flowers?

  • Holly McClure

    Oh lord, help me never to break a law.

  • SZ

    Scared straight !

  • Ron Estrada

    Thanks, Lee. I’m sure you’ve mentioned this before, but say I’m arrested at a murder scene and obviously guilty. Will I go right to the county jail or does the local city or township hold me for a while? I want to lock up my protag for murder in a small northern Michigan town but want to make sure my timeline is correct.

  • Sarah

    One correction, Lee: As the video indicates, the county jail is for people who are awaiting trial (or who have been convicted of a misdemeanor). If you’ve been convicted of a felony, you will go into the state prison system, which is a whole lot less warm and friendly.

  • Lee Lofland

    Sarah, not necessarily so. Normally, the trip to prison is not immediate. The department of corrections doesn’t have transportation officers standing by in every courthouse in the country waiting to whisk people off to prison at the close of each trial.

    Once convicted, prisoners most often wait in county jail until bed space opens up in a state facility. Then, after the prison system determines which institution the felon is to be assigned, sheriff’s deputies transport the prisoners from the county jail to the appropriate facility (DOC officers may also do the transporting). I’ve made many of those trips (delivering inmates to prison from the jail) over the years. Also, due to overcrowding in some facilities, inmates may serve all or part of their felony sentences in a county jail. It’s not the norm, but it happens. In those cases, the state pays the jail to hold the inmate.

    Even people convicted in federal courts often remain in county jails (under contract with the federal government) until bed space opens up in a federal facility. Of course, the nature of the offense could be cause to make other arrangements. Many people convicted in federal court are allowed to self-surrender to the facility where they’re eventually assigned. And, they may not have to report to prison for weeks or months. Sure, dangerous criminals who’ve been charged with federal crimes (terrorists, etc.) may be held in federal prisons while awaiting trial. However, that’s not standard procedure for all federal prisoners, who are under the watch of the U.S. Marshals.

    Also, many inmates prefer state prison over county jail. In prison, there’s normally more freedom and more opportunities for education, treatment, recreation, less overcrowding (maybe), medical care, etc.

  • G. Miki Hayden

    Somewhat like the subway then? A number of years back MWA member Judge Andy Peck took some of us up to the Big House at Sing Sing. That was fun. For us. Noisy as hell, too. The slam of the metal gates, for one thing–which is why they call a prison “the slammer.”

  • Patti Phillips

    My mother took mandatory high school field trips to the local county jail and then to a gas chamber (the mode of execution at that time). She told me the trips were the best deterrent for a life of crime.

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