The revolving door of jail

I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about a young man I met last July who had just been released from Twin Towers.

I’m considering this a Divine prompt, because I couldn’t shake that memory upon awaking.  After a couple hours of pretty darn good detective work, I managed to locate his mother up in Northern California and we had a long chat.  Let’s call him Reggie and I am going to use his life story to better understand the meth epidemic that is ravaging our community.

I met Reggie on Tuesday afternoon, July 30 at about 4:30 p.m.  The reason I can be so specific is that I was at Union Station planning to take the Red Line back to Hollywood, but I had a 4 p.m. conference call, and I did not want to take it on the train.  I bought two pieces of pizzas and found a quiet table in the outdoor plaza and took the call.

With one slice of pizza consumed, I noticed a young man walking toward me.  He had a big clear plastic bag with his belongings, and he seemed a bit dazed.  His clothes were not clean and his hair was unkempt.  I motioned to him and showed him my second piece of pizza.  “Are you hungry?” I mouthed at him.  Yes!  I encouraged him to sit at an adjacent table and asked him to wait so I could talk with him.

Its about a twenty minutes walk from Twin Towers to Union Station

Here is what I found out. I have told this story over and over again as an example of multiple things that go wrong when we discharge people from custody with no support.

I learned that he had been in jail for some time, but he was not forthcoming on why.   I did not press, because I was more interested in what he was going to do next.   He struck me as very kind and respectful, and seemed a bit overwhelmed by his circumstances.

“What is your plan?”  I asked.

“I don’t know,”  he said.  “I don’t have any money and my cell phone is gone.”

After decades on Hollywood Blvd, I rarely give money away, but in this case, it seemed important.  I handed him $20.    “Where are you going to sleep tonite?” I wondered.

“I’m thinking I will go to 6th and Alameda.  There is a place I go there.”

“Then what?”

“Well, I have to be in Long Beach on Monday for my probation appointment.  And I have to re-apply for my social security because it stops when you are in jail.”

Wait.  What?  This guy has been released from jail with not a dime in his pocket.  His cell phone was stolen.  He has no place to sleep.  His benefits have been stopped and he has to figure out how to get them re-instated.  And, somehow he has to travel all the way to Long Beach to keep his probation appointment!  How is that humanly possible?  I gave him another $20.

He saw my iPhone on the table.  “Do you think I could call my grandma?  I have a bank account – its overdrawn by $63 but maybe she could deposit some money for me?”

“Of course you can use my phone!”  And this is where his manners impressed me.  He said I should dial and hold it up for him so he wouldn’t have to touch my phone.

I think he reached him mom on that call and I could hear the weariness in her voice, as if this was the hundredth time she had received this call.    “Reggie, where are you now?”

“I just got out of jail mom.  I really need some help with some money.”

The reason I could find her this morning, after donning my True Detective hat, was because Reggie had a crumpled deposit slip in his wallet that I photographed and sent to her, so she could make a deposit.  I had the image of the slip, I had her email, and once I spent an hour sleuthing ATT phone records, I could find that phone number from July 30, 2019.

Additionally,  I went onto the L.A. Sheriff’s Department inmate locator just to see what I could find out about Reggie, since he is likely out there homeless again.  I’m going to need some help deciphering some of the code sections, but this is the framework for his story since I saw him that day:

Arrested 7/15/19 for a felony in Long Beach.Released 7/30/19 at 2:36 p.m. (I saw him at about 4:15 p.m.)
Arrested 9/4/19 for a misdemeanor in Long Beach.Released 9/5/19.
Arrested 11/9/19 for a misdemeanor in Long Beach.Released 12/12/19.
Arrested 12/20/19 for a felony in Long Beach.Released 1/15/20.
Arrested 5/21/20 for a felony in Long BeachReleased (not sure when) and he has a court appearance scheduled for 6/19/20.

Now in my next blog, I will share more about Reggie’s life as I had a long talk with his mother. And I will share my impressions about the revolving door that is L.A. County Twin Towers which releases people who struggle with mental illness and perhaps the most debilitating addiction out there – methamphetamine – back to the streets, only to slip back into the abyss. The cycle begins again. Against this background, I also have a story of hope to share, since if there was no hope, this blog would not exist.

10 thoughts on “The revolving door of jail”

  1. Kerry
    My daughter has had issues with addiction and low self esteem most of her life.
    Long story short, she met a man recently released from serving most of his adult life in a different prisons for felony crimes. He was brought up very poor in New York and my daughter grew up in a very good place in Orange County.
    We welcomed him into our home, fed him, gave him clothes, helped find a job ( not easy for a felon) and a car,
    They were married and had a baby and his life has turned around 180 degrees. LA has great resources for felons out of prison… not so much for Orange County.
    That man is the father of my first grandson and I am so glad he came into our lives.
    You know me
    We worked in Hollywood together
    I am very supportive of the work you do.
    You are an angel.

    1. Linda – wow, what a story of redemption! It is so encouraging to hear this and speaks to the importance of supporting people when they are released. Congratulations on your grandson. I hope I get to see you again one of these days. Thank you for following this blog!

  2. This is my brother. I haven’t seen him since 2007. I just want people to know, this is a real person with real family. Thank you for your kind ❤️

    1. Sonya, that does break my heart. I feel the heaviness from family members I talk to who feel so helpless about how to help their loved ones. I am committed to seeing this through – whatever this is. But it has to be different for people like your brother.

  3. Thank you for your interest and energy in trying to find another path for our sons and daughters who suffer from mental illness and wide up in jail and/or on the streets.

  4. I am sure in some way this is going to sound ignorant, but I don’t understand. I picked a client up last year at Twin Towers, being released to my care, and while waiting for about 2.5 hours at the release center I had an opportunity to see the people and process. There is a bank of workstations that have “social services” support staff working right there, numbers to call, literature, etc. If people are released and just quickly leave the building, then maybe they see a social worker before they walk out the door of release? This just doesn’t make sense to me. I get e-blasts from programs (MediCal ones) that are looking for referrals, and I get calls from families and people that need the services. What is it going to take to match these two entities together? Super frustrating.

    1. Lynda, that is helpful information for me. I would like to see that for myself…and I’ll have to wait now until it is safe to go back into TTCF. And, now, with COVID, it does beg the question if those social workers and services are even there for folks? I intend to keep researching this.

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