Official Blog of the Education Exchange Corps

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Yesterday was the first time I ever had to bail a student out of jail.

Yesterday was the first time I ever had to bail a student out of jail.

I got one of those phone calls on my cell phone – the kind asking me if I will accept it after hearing the name of the caller. I do a lot of prisoner complaint cases, and at first I wondered how a prisoner got hold of my number. But when the name of the caller came across the line, my stomach started doing that unpleasant thing.

I pressed “5” to accept the call. I got out a notebook to take notes. I assumed this would be the last time I talked to my student before I could find a way to get him out (you only get one call, the TV told me), so I tried to be detailed. But I felt limited by the warning message at the beginning of the call telling me that everything would be recorded. I didn’t want my student to incriminate himself. So the call was brief.

My student had been at the county jail overnight. He said he would be transferred to the city jail that day – Friday – and was told he would be staying there over the weekend and perhaps even later into the week because he didn’t have the money to post bail. He was not looking forward to an extended stay. He told me he had been jailed because he had an old charge for riding the MetroLink without a ticket.

I told him I’d look into it. I hung up and called the jail holding my student. The lady there was very helpful, and she verified my student’s story: He was being held for failing to pay a MetroLink ticket. He had two old ones – one in the county, and one in the city. Because of his stay in the jail, his debt to the county was considered fulfilled. But he still owed the city time in jail, so the county would transfer him there later that day. I was told bail was $150, with an additional $20 processing fee.

I drove to the county jail where I promptly got into the wrong line in front of a visitors’ desk positioned right as you get past the metal detectors. A lady in front of me asked me if I was a lawyer. I said yes, at which point she started asking me a very long story-question about whether the government was punishing her as a whistleblower. The line was moving slowly, but thankfully fast enough so that at the end of the story I didn’t have to reveal that I was one of the government lawyers she was so upset about. Instead, we wished each other a nice day.

Like I said, the visitors’ desk was the wrong one. The officer in charge directed me to the end of the hallway to the bail window. I knew from my phone call with the jail that I had to bring cash. I told the officer there who I was looking for. She had to get permission from the city to let him out on bail. After she did, I signed some paperwork and forked over the money.

(This is also when I found out that, at the county jail, inmates are not limited to one call. My student called me maybe five times.)

I asked her how long it will take to get him out. She said it could be “awhile.” As I wandered a bit in the hallway, I asked one of the staff members at the visitors’ desk how long it would take. He said, “Today’s Friday, so probably two to four hours.” I asked if I could leave a note. He said maybe with the lady at the bail window, and he was right. I left my phone number and a place to go if my student needed a phone. I drove back to work.

When I got off the highway downtown, I got a call. My student was free just 20 minutes after I had posted bail.

I turned around, picked him up, and brought him with me. I asked about his life story – I hadn’t seen him in maybe half a year. In just that short time, my student had left the state on a bus, became a homeless but successful street performer, came back home, graduated high school, and was on his way to college at the end of the summer. He was looking for a job, applying to many places, but no one was willing to hire him, maybe because he could not commit to work long-term.

His housing situation is uncertain. He doesn’t have many clothes, and his increasingly dire situation led to some trouble with the police. Not trouble enough to land him in jail. He was in jail solely because of the MetroLink tickets.

He spent a night in jail and was threatened with another several days there because he twice could not pay the $3 admissions fee to ride the rails.

I gave him some money to get food. He hung out for a bit while I worked. As a teacher, I kind of know when a kid is starting to get bored, so I gave him a book on setting up classrooms for differentiated learning and asked for his opinion on a section in chapter 4. He read it within minutes and told me it didn’t make sense. He thought the author’s proposals for dividing children based on ability created a segregated environment and negated the possibility of students with different skill levels helping each other. He thought that creating divisions leads to less cohesiveness, decreased individualism, and a worrisome propensity for “groupthink.” (I am not prettying up his words at all, in case you are wondering.) He reminded me of a principal I once worked with. I thought one day he might grow up to be like her.

I gave him the rest of the cash I took out to pay his bail and jokingly told him to use it for the Metro. He was meeting his girlfriend downtown and, at some point, he disappeared. He doesn’t have a phone, so I’m not sure when I’ll see him again.

This young man, full of promise and intelligence and emotion, feeling manipulated and unappreciated and undervalued, has to find a way to survive for two months so he can make it to college. Instead of getting help, he got jail. He is barely toeing the line between the chance for enormous success and falling into a depressing cycle of poverty. But it seems that poverty is the only one of these two options pulling him toward it, with claws that always drag at those who would try to break away.

This is where we are today in America.

Elad Gross
President and CEO
Education Exchange Corps

1 comment :

  1. You are really kind for helping this student of yours bail out of jail, Elad. Well, based on your story, it seems like he's really a great person, but to happened have financial problem that got him into jail. I'm sure that there's a bright future for him if he will remain determined to succeed. I guess all he needs is a chance to showcase his abilities and be appreciated for it.

    Eliseo Weinstein @ JRs Bail Bond