Citizen’s Academy Part IV

True-crime research, novel writing research, and updates.


BLOG POST #230: Have you been inside a jail? Not necessarily a jail cell, but inside a facility? The tour inside my local jail was unnerving.

Years ago, I visited someone in jail. Follow this color line then this color line, and then that color line, sit down at the phone while you wait for the prisoner to be brought to the other side of the glass partition.

Prisoners arrive at the jail via the receiving area. First, you pass through the sally port, a heavy-duty mesh barricade that opens and closes when vehicles enter and exit the receiving area. It’s basically a massive carport that’s both tall and wide.

Inside the processing area, there’s a drunk tank to sober up, safety cells for people who may be a danger to themselves, and an infirmary should someone be ill.

Once someone is booked and moved to a cell, they are segregated based on a variety of criteria (gender – of course, gang affiliation, prejudice, etc.). Maximum security cells are where prisoners are kept isolated for everyone’s safety.

There were large day rooms where the general population could mingle (again separated to minimize conflict), watch TV, or play games for one hour each day. Outdoor “yard time” was limited to three hours per week.

Our tour group of about 30+ went to the circular area with a central guard tower in the center. The guards could see every nook in the day rooms and cells. We couldn’t see the guards due to the level of glass tinting.

As we walked around the tower listening to our tour guide, the inmates on the other side of the glass walls between us stopped what they were doing and became more interested in us.

I felt extremely uncomfortable and a little like a zoo animal. While at the same time, the inmates in the maximum-security cells watched us from the other side of their solid steel doors with just a small pane of security glass to look through.

Several of the men in maximum-security cells became agitated and began pounding their heads against the doors. Because of the level of agitation among the maximum-security inmates, our tour of the cells and day rooms ended abruptly.

Here’s something gross I learned on the tour, the term gassed. You might think of a death penalty which wouldn’t happen at the jail level. I had no idea the often occurring act of being gassed is when an inmate throws bodily fluids at a guard.

As I’ve said in the previous posts about the Citizen’s Academy, you should sign up and go through whatever course is offered in your area. When you do, you’ll now be better prepared for the jail tour than I was.

In case you missed the earlier Citizen’s Academy posts:
Citizen’s Academy Part I
Citizen’s Academy Part II
Citizen’s Academy Part III

What are your thoughts about the jail tour? Join the conversation on the website. We talk about the sensitive subject of crimes occurring at or connected to schools.

Do you know of a school crime you’d like to share? Email me so we can discuss the details.

Wellness wishes to you and your loved ones. Thank you for reading!


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4 thoughts on “Citizen’s Academy Part IV

  1. I have visited a jail twice. Once I took my nephew to visit his father in a county jail. The other time I was picking up a friend who had gotten a DUI after he served a weekend in our county jail. He had finished serving his time.

    The experiences were very different. The first one was more like you described. The second was to pick up someone who had been released, so I saw very little. It appeared to be more low security — no cells in that part of the jail. It was more dormitory style with bunk beds for the inmates. Another person in our family spent time in a state prison and she doesn’t talk much about it.

    • Robin Lyons

      Hi Barbara! Thank you so much for sharing your experience. I visited a relative once in county jail, we communicated through a glass partition using phones, not in person. The tour was on a whole different level. A great experience, that I would do again because I like to be somewhat accurate in writing scenes, but the tour did freak me out.

  2. Thanks for sharing about that trip. It sounds a little scary and creepy. I remember visiting Alcatraz many years ago. It was creepy also and there were no inmates behind the bars.

    • Robin Lyons

      I appreciate your comments, Mark. I did the Alcatraz tour once, yes, that was creepy. Eyes staring at you dials the creepy up a notch or two.

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