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September 10, 2012

No Free Lunch in Calhoun County Jail

jail.JPGNo Free Lunch

In Calhoun County Jail

My phone rang late one recent evening.

“Jim? It’s Tommy,” the voice on the line said. 

“Where ya been, Tommy?,” I asked the guy, who I knew casually from several years ago, when helping raise money for the new Alano Club (12-step addiction recovery) facility on Territorial Road.

“Been in the (Calhoun County) Jail ... 87 days,” Tommy said. “Can you do me a favor? Drive me over to Meijer’s tonight to buy groceries?”

Tommy, in his ‘50s, lives with his parents, who are in their 80s and in poor health. 

Tommy is a chronic alcoholic, to the point where he's “disabled” by his alcoholism, and collects $900 a month in Social Security Disability.

So I drive out, pick Tommy up at his parents’ house, and we stop by the McDonalds on S.W. Capital before heading to Meijer’s on B Drive to get his groceries, and then back to Horrock’s, for some hot chili sauce he has a post partum craving for.

On the ride, and over a soft drink at the McDonalds, I learned a lot about life in the Calhoun County Jail, where, Tommy said, “Everyone but the illegal immigrants pay for every fu*ck*n thing they give us.”

It was hard to work up much sympathy.

But, evidently, Tommy was pretty much on target about the Jail and the money thing.

The Jail charged him $37 for every night he spent in the place, he claimed.

He complained he'd paid for a new pair of underpants ("or ya had to sleep naked on your bunk"), his toothbrush, for having his blood pressure checked, for a couple of aspirins, and extra for some condiments to put on his two hot dogs and four pieces of bread daily fare, which consisted mostly of grits, oatmeal, bread, Kool-Aid, and the hot dogs.

Tommy said he was only in the Jail for a few days before catching an antibiotic resistant staph infection that left him with blisters and boils, also common in hospitals and nursing homes.

Reveille was at 5:30, then breakfast, then two hours to sleep back in the Jail “pod” which houses about 48 inmates on two floors, two inmates to a cell.

After lunch, more sleep or reading religious (only) materials, dinner, followed by taps and lights out around 9.

About 600 inmates are in the Calhoun County jail at any one time, Tommy said.

"I met rapists and murderers in there, but mostly guys who owe lots of child support.  And heroin addicts.  Heroin's big," he told me.

“What’d you learn from the experience?,” I inquired, as we carried the groceries up the steps into his parents’ house about 9 p.m.

“Just I never wanna to go back,” Tommy said.

I started to pull out of the driveway to leave, backed up, and said: “Tommy, DON’T drink. Get to a (12-step) meeting. Call if you need a ride or wanna talk.”

Tommy doesn’t have any chances left, before spending time in a state prison. Or much time before dying from his alcoholism, if he continues to drink.

I’ll help him when I can.  If he starts helping himself.

You can’t make a person stop drinking.
Note: I continued to take Tommy to the grocery store about once a week for a month, since neither of his parents drive. Then, he started calling me at night, drunk.  The last time, about three weeks ago, he was incoherent and said he'd just falled down the stairs to his basement bedroom and that there were spiders  and rats crawling in his hair.  I called 911 and later learned two County sherriff officers and an ambulance forced his admittal to a local hospital. “Tommy’s” name  and a few details have been changed.

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