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WROUGHT-IRON ROUND-UP: Miami-Dade Corrections
Most jails don’t give you the “dime tour,” as ol’ Brooks Hatlen would say. That’s where I come in. I’ve laid my head on the thinnest pillows on the hardest slab bunks in some of the toughest correctional facilities here in the greatest, most prolific prison-building nation in the history of the world. I’m Johnny 99. These are my stories.
My trip to Maricopa County wound up, as things often do, taking a little longer than I might’ve anticipated. Seems that Sheriff Arpaio’s legion of goons didn’t dig my particular vibe, and to prove it, they decided to keep me around for awhile. A few weeks older and forty pounds lighter, I was let out into the harsh Phoenix sunlight, which yes, feels different on the other side of the fence.
Not that I’m one to gripe about my work, but by the time I’d hitched my way to Gallup, I was ready for some rest.
I appropriated myself a 1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera in the parking lot of a Best Western off the Historic 66, just the other side of the New Mexico border. Spent the night up in the mountains breathing in the air and thinking about what might be a nice spot for a week off.
Top of the morning, I lit out for South Florida.
I got to Miami two days later with $27 to my name. It had taken an overnight drive to make it down and across the state. A little light of hotel-caliber funds, I parked on a side road just off I-95, rolled down the window, and laid back to catch a few Z’s.
I woke up and saw a hulk of humanity stuffed into a khaki shirt, brandishing a flashlight in the daylight hours.
“You lost, son?”
“This your car?”
And with that, vacation was over.
STAFF AND AMBIENCE — I wasn’t in any kind of mood to be booked on auto theft charges, but the staff wasted no time in making me feel right at home. I was tossed into a cozy holding cell with plenty of company within 90-minutes of being awoken from my morning nap.
Miami is filled to the brim with drug addicts, of course, and you will find no thicker concentration of junkies and speed freaks in the city than at Miami-Dade Corrections. The air is ripe with tweak-spiked B.O., and every eye is open wide. I’d guess on around thirty heads at any given time while in the holding tank, but there was a lot of shuffling in and out.
At one point, a heated debate broke as to whether the Miami Kings held any type of superior edge over the Latin Syndicate, which was settled quickly when a twitching crackhead vomited onto the back of the Syndicate spokesman’s leg. Officers broke up the resulting melee, and order was restored. Grade: B+
ACCOMODATIONS — The nearly forty-year-old North Dade Detention Center shows, tells, and smells of its age at every turn. It is a rotting facility. There is an omnipresent odor of sewage in every space that I entered, and I saw standing water (or something) in both the holding cell and the main jail.
The main jail is beyond the normal metrics of “overcrowding.” After being booked in, there were twenty-four souls in the my cell including yours truly. I doubt that it was originally designed to hold more than eight. While certainly not as hot as my previous address in Maricopa County, the overwhelming balmy stickiness is worse, and I found myself to be much more aware of it in Dade.
There was a nice mix of offenses in my cell. My own auto theft case was complemented by a pair of stick-up men, one hailing from Texas and the other from somewheres up around Jacksonville. There was another guy, kept to himself in the corner, who we all took for a pedophile, but never bothered talking to him to find out. The loudest in the group was an alleged rapist who was working his defense out verbally for all to hear. “How the fuck I’ma rape a bitch with a cast on my hand, huh?” The appropriate methodology to which a pair of DUI’s quickly filled him in on, for his future reference. Grade: A.
CUISINE — The shits were a common occurence among my brethren in lock-up. Not that you get five-star service in most joints, but there seems to be a special effort put into the aging of sandwich meat. I’d guess that most of the food products in the jail were stored in the hot sun of the receiving dock. If you sit around long enough, your sandwich will crawl to you.
I saw four guys hauled away with stomach cramps. Two of them came back. Grade: A+.
CUSTOMER SERVICE — While Miami-Dade doesn’t sport the all-star squad of super-guard that you might see tossing bunks at Maricopa, they do have a staff that is ready to react to anything you throw at them.
I’m usually quick to test the patience of the duty officer on my floor. Mouthing off to the duty officer gives you an immediate feel for the overall attitude of a facility toward its inmates. I’d like to tell you I came up with something witty for the occasion, but the fact is that they dropped me so fast and completely that I remember nothing of the exchange. All I remember is motioning the guy over. Next thing, I was waking up with my head leaning against the post of the bunk nearest the cell door, and a lot of amused shitheads chuckling all around me.
So know when you head in, a Miami-Dade Corrections Officer will serve you up a mouthful of your own shattered teeth on a moment’s notice, and that’s no horseshit. Grade: A+.
THE LAST WORD – One thing about Dade, it’s no way to spend a fucking vacation, for sure and for certain. On the basis of sheer malicious intent on behalf of the staff, I’d give it the edge over Maricopa. The misery of Maricopa is a vision, a thing of design. You could unleash the Dade staff at two-cell lock-up in the smallest shit-kicking town in the Midwest, and you’d end up with similar conditions in very little time.
Overall Grade: A.