“Lights On” outside the Santa Ana Jail
Be the cause volunteers, Tim, Varuna, Ann, Maudhvi, Kat, Sukh, Mindy, Gianna, Christine, and I, hooked up with Pete and Jacinda from the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Orange County to help out with a program called Lights On.
The St. Vincent De Paul Society of OC has been doing this for months now. Inmates are released from the county jail without much consideration or compassion. Often they were met by drug dealers and pimps. There are times that women are propositioned for sex by taxi drivers in exchange for a ride home. Sometimes the person is let out in a paper suit in the cold of the night if they had no clothes at the time they were arrested or the System lost their pocessions. I believe one hope is that if we acknowledge people being processed out as People, the revolving door system that has become of our jails will stop it’s really messed up cycle. Ann made a good point when comparing our penal system toAustrailia’s that the US system is pretty harsh compared to other “well-to-do” nations. Our politicians make a living on blindly being “tough on crime”– and it’s a damn shame! Our departments of Corrections definitly need reform becaue they are simply about punishment and not rehabiliation. And that has to start by treating people as people, both the COs and the inmates. This idea of crime and punishment is simply not working as it de-humanizes people and is a waste of our tax payer money. Our system of “The Ends Justify The Means, simply is not having it” (OK, I’m done venting…)
Obviously, people coming out of jail after being “processed” will not be in the best of spirits and some people don’t even have anyone to receive them outside. Lights On mans a RV with coffee, doughnuts or other snacks, cigarettes, chairs, clothes, and friendly people to greet these people as they come out. (I had to go back and edit this because I found myself referring to “inmates” instead of people, and what I learned from this experience was that we as a society sometimes lose our humane-ness or another person’s humanity in doling out our labels).
We were there from 11pm Saturday to 4am Sunday. Here are a few stories that I remembered for the purpose of this blog. We had the notion that some people lied about their stories because they were used to being judged and didn’t want to be judged, but that didn’t matter much. It really was hard to just accept the story and try to bring them a little piece of mind while they waited with us under the RV’s porch light.
There was a young mother who was arrested for a DUI, and spent 30 days in the jail. She had taken a prescription drug for migrane head aches that didn’t mix well with her bi-polar medicine. During her 1st 2 days, she had no access to her medicine even as she kept calling her doctor and family. It’s scary to what someone with this condition had to go through. She was separated from her son who is very smart but suffers from extreme ADHD for weeks. She said she was pissed off as she was processed out. She said she was glad this program waited outside.
There was a guy who was released in his underwear. Luckily we found him a pair of pants in the donated clothes. The others that came out with him said that he acted up a lot and it’s likely that our System lost his pants on purpose. Imagine the humiliation.
There was 33 year old lady who looked like she was 17. I couldn’t help worrying about her as she got in a cab with a bunch of thugged out looking guys. They decided to share a cab because cabs are expensive and they were heading the same way.
There was a young lady who kept insisting that she was wrongly accused of shoplifing. She came right at 4am when it was ready for us to roll out. 3 of us went to Seven-11 and took out some cash for the taxi driver. We told her to give a donation to the St Vincent De Paul Society instead of paying us back.
There was a 29 year old guy who was caught with 2 tablets of Ecstacy in his car = 60 days in jail! Another guy was drunk in public while being on probation = 60 days in jail for him too. Neither seemed to say that the 60 days helped them much. What a waste. One of the guys did say that he liked “The Farm” better than regular jail because the windows didn’t have bars and he got to be outside. He said he was dissappointed he didn’t get to garden for but a few days.
There was a bailsbondsman waiting for a client with someone that had posted bail. They were told their client would come out “sometime between 11pm and 3am”. Their client came out close to 4am.
The next day at 9am, I got a call on my cell phone.
“Your number was in my cell phone. Did you Call?”
“I was at the Santa Ana Jail last night and let people use my phone.”
“Was Bruce there?”
“I don’t remember a Bruce being there. Do you want the number for the St Vincent De Paul Society of Orange County, they had a sign in sheet.”
“no thank you. Thanks”. [hang up]
We found out about this much needed program from Fred La Puzza who came to present at Be The Cause’s “Change of Heart Weekend”. Sonali organized much of this event, but was unable to come because of a family emergency. (Send a message to Kevin to see if he’s ok.) If you want to continue this at your communities’ jail, please do.
To find out more about the Lights On program or the Friends Outside program, visit