Another Jailbreak?

I have to admit it. I missed it on the first research go-round. We have an even fifty, now. Five jails, fifty escapes, over 174 years. Those are nice numbers. Let's stick with those.

I am a realist however, and as I finish reviewing things in preparation of the book related to those escapes, I am keeping a keen eye out for any others I may have overlooked. I'll come back and post an update if I find any.

Pay-To-Stay Programs for Rural County Jails

As I input the finishing edits and add in the photos for the Human Squirrel Cage book, there is a growing challenge for counties around the country, specifically with their pay-to-stay programs, some of which were initiated decades ago. Pay-to-stay requires those incarcerated in county jails to foot the bill for their own confinement. It is akin to locking yourself in a low-rent (although not low-quality in most cases) motel. Ironically, jails are sometimes referred to as the "Crowbar Motel." The cost per day, depending on the county and the amenities provided, can range anywhere from $25 to $155+ y. Yeah. That last one is not a typo. Opting-in for a private jail stay to avoid the overcrowding and reduce the risk to your life, or checking into a hoosegow in a urban jail, will set you back as much per day as a nice vacation hotel room or a cabin in the mountains might. The only catch is, inmates don't get to check out whenever they want to keep the cost of their board bill down. Only the 'hotel manager' (judge) can shorten your stay and the concierge (the sheriff) has to unlock your door from the outside.

The controversy over pay-to-stay programs - several lawsuits have been filed - is over their constitutionality when an inmates is arrested for failure to pay. Inmates leaving county facilities owing large debts many of whom have no hope of paying that debt, may be arrested for violating their probation. Making regular payments toward one's board bill is a condition of probation in many counties. Once rearrested and locked up, their debt begins to multiply, locking them into an endless cycle. Pay-to-stay programs are, in theory and in practice, a good way for counties to recover some of the funds needed to keep their jails clean, safe, and well maintained, but the recovery rate of funds slows as the average economic status of the defendants, many of whom are declared indigent and in need of a public defender, declines.

Returning a defendant to jail for non-payment of debt is believed to violate the United States Supreme Court's previous decision (1835, I think) making debtors prisons illegal. That's a rather over-simplified summary, but you get the gist of the under-girding argument. Being poor isn't a crime.

The only other option to incarceration may be . . . night court! I wonder how much the savings counties would realize by offering  misdemeanor and non-violent defendants the right to a super-speedy trial. In our county's past, defendants didn't languish in the county pokey too long. They were arraigned within hours, plead guilty or not guilty, and either made bail or were remanded. Of course, bail, court costs, and fines were cheaper then, too. Perhaps electronic alternatives are the answer.

Today, we have Smartwatches and the ability to monitor a person's whereabouts without locking them behind bars. This might be a less expensive option that bail bondsmen or counties could offer. Of course, there's computers, tracking software, and some costs associated with such a program. Everything costs something. Nothing is free. The upside is, no jail time for defendants waiting trial. What would be the chances of getting a night judge, a set of public defenders, and a nighttime prosecutor to take on the evening and swing shifts? Would it be more than housing multiple prisoners, feeding, clothing, and providing them medical care? In the past, in our county, the court was in session on Saturdays. It's a thought.

So, what is the answer? I don't know. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the courts. In the meantime, avoid jail, or have a job before you go in so you can apply for work release and keep earning, and paying your bill, as you go so once you're out everything is paid, and you are free indeed.

Printed The Rough Draft For Editing

I wrote the concluding paragraphs to the final chapter of The Human Squirrel Cage today. It felt pretty good. Tonight, I printed out a very rough draft. The final copy will be 350-360 pages or so, I think. A lot will depend on how much space the photographs use. The photos I don't use in the book will be printed and put on display at the book signings, whenever those happen. I will post the dates, times, and locations once they're set up. Lord willing, the first one will be in mid to late April, but I'm not promising anything. I have tried, three times, to finish this book and I have mentioned an anticipated date each time only to see it slip from my fingers. Lord willing, it will be in April. Let's leave it at that.

Before the book can be uploaded for publication, there's a lot of tweaking to do. The photos, as I mentioned, need to be inserted, and there are a couple of questions to be answered. The final six chapters have to be reread and fleshed out. The whole book needs a serious look-see and in order to view it more objectively I'll have to set it aside for a day or so. I hope to begin that process soon.

It's been several years since I began working on this project consistently. I have been collecting data for it even before I began drafting the outline, and climbing over hurdles, some large and some small. There were times when I didn't think I would find what I needed, and then, voila, pull a thread and new information becomes known. I've had a lot of input along the way from a lot of sources. I've rewritten the acknowledgement page three times. I hope I didn't miss anyone. The notes for the book are over 470 pages, not including two spreadsheets, a host of unincorporated PDF files, and some last-minute articles that have yet to be abstracted for the notebook. I'll try to finalize the notes as I work through the editing phase. I'm actually looking forward to that. I didn't print the notes out this time, as I did with the information on the Rasco book. It was simply too massive. And it has been quite a chore to whittle down those notes into a manageable narrative.

The next nonfiction book will be a shorter companion book to The Human Squirrel Cage. It deals with the escapes and attempted escapes from the jails of Nodaway County.That book will be titled Thanks For The Hospitality . . . But We've Gotta Go. That title seemed to fit the subject matter. Sort of something you might say when checking out of the Crowbar Motel without paying your bill in full.

Nodaway County has had five jails over the last 174 years. Did you know that? The one we have now isn't exactly a spring chicken anymore. It will celebrate it's thirty-second birthday in 2019. Dave McClain, who was the sheriff of Nodaway County at that time, and who is now the sheriff of Holt County, was one of only two sheriffs to be in office when an old jail was razed and a second one erected. He shares that honor with James Anderson, who took office in 1882. He was the first sheriff to live in the residence of the Human Squirrel Cage. He also has the distinction of being the sheriff in office when the only gun battle known to take place at the jail occurred. He and his brother were trying to keep a mob of "fifty masked men" from taking Omaha Charley from his cell in the rotary cellblock.

There are some other firsts related to the Human Squirrel Cage, but you'll have to read the book to learn about those. I don't want to spoil things. There are also some myths that have been debunked.

That's all for now. It's time to click play on an audiobook and start working on some other things. I usually work until my eyelids are too heavy to keep open. Perhaps I can finish a couple more tasks before the sun rises. Lord willing, of course.