Yes Virginia, there is a Wilco

Anyone who has lived in Central Texas and had any inkling of breaking the law has heard the warnings:  Don't get caught in Williamson County.  Come on vacation, leave on probation.  DON'T GET ARRESTED IN WILCO!  Well let me tell you ladies and gentlemen, it's all true.  The combination of entitled people and a lust for power and money combine to make a situation that is borderline (but not quite) criminal.  Allow me to tell my tale and be warned it's a lllooonnnggg one.  

I was arrested Tuesday night a block and a half from my home around 11 pm.  The officer made a u-turn in an intersection to track me down because the light illuminating my rear license plate was out. Not a brake light or head light, the light over my license plate.  I had a five-year old warrant for a speeding ticket.  I never received any correspondence about it and have actually been arrested since then, albeit in Travis County.  

Despite being a block and a half from my house, the officer wouldn't let me get my car home to the driveway, necessitating a tow.  Because I didn't have anyone "close by" (five minutes) to come get the car, it had to be towed.  I was also never given any information about where the car was taken to, I had to find that out on my own.  

The officer didn't read me my Miranda rights.  He also didn't seat belt me into the back of the car.  I almost wished there was an accident until I saw that his speedometer was pushing 80, over the speed limit himself.  I was painfully knocked against the door and the hard plastic seat several times, as it's difficult to hold your balance with your arms restrained behind you.  

Once I was in the waiting area in jail, it very quickly became apparent that there was no night judge so I was in for a while.  At least they had the one television on Fox so I got to watch "King of the Hill" and "Family Guy" reruns.  Those were the only high points.  It took over an hour for me to get a pair of croc-type shoes and those were given to me by a trustee inmate, none of the officers noticed I was barefoot.  

Now for a timeline dear readers:

11:30 pm Tuesday:  Intake.

2:15 am Wednesday:  Property was inventoried and collected.  I asked to be able to text my boss that I couldn't make a conference call the next morning and was refused, I was only allowed to get his number from my phone.

3:00 am:  We were placed into the holding cells for the night.  I was in a room roughly 12 feet wide and 15 feet deep.  There were 14 of us in there and only enough bench space for ten.  So yes, four of us were forced to lay/sit/sleep on the floor.  

5:00 am:  Lights on.  Door was kicked open, blankets were confiscated and the heat turned back on.  

6:00 am:  Breakfast.  Two slabs of cornbread, a puddle of malt o meal and a glob that looked vaguely like sausage gravy.  To drink was coffee or a four ounce container of juice that was frozen nearly solid.  One of the guys in the cell with me ate and spent the rest of the day vomiting.

9:00 am:  Magistrate begins seeing prisoners.  

10:00 am:  I was booked.  Yes, if you are scoring at home, it was ten and a half hours before I was even photographed and officially booked with what I was in for.  Other people appeared before the judge WITHOUT being booked.  

12:45 pm:  I appear before the magistrate.  He sees that I am not technically charged with a crime, just a fine.  An officer asks if I have the money to pay for it there with me.  

(But oh wait, when they confiscate your property, if you have any cash, they will confiscate it and write you a check for the exact amount later.  So even if I had money, it wouldn't have done me any good.  And you must pay with cashier's check or money order.  Shouldn't the officer, I don't know, know this little detail?)

12:50 pm:  I call a bail bondsmen and ask the fastest way to get out.  He agrees to come pay the fine.

1:30 pm:  Bail bondsmen calls me over to the window and shows me the receipt for my fine being paid.  At this point, I am clean and just need to be processed out.  

4:00 pm:  I call the bondsmen again and he advises me the payment is not showing in the system.  I ask an officer and she advises "these things take some time."

4:45 pm:  I am fingerprinted.  Again, after I have been booked and seen the magistrate, NOW I am printed.  And the woman doing it couldn't deal with the high tech, ink-free scanner, so I got all disgustingly inked all over my hands.  

5:30 pm:  I am given my property back.  The sheet lists the times in military time, so it was 0215 when it was confiscated and 1730 when I got it back.  I comment to the officer that if I was in Travis county I could have been arrested and released twice.  A second officer overhears and looks me right in the eye and with a straight face says "Hey, we have a reputation to uphold."  

What reputation, that you guys are incompetent asses?

5:45 pm:  The officer who told me my payment takes a while notes all the people in the waiting area and asks if "we can clear some of these people out."  When another officer investigates, she discovers there are 19 people just waiting to be walked out and two who are injured and can't be in the cell.  The "clearing out" removes five people into the holding cells.

6:00 pm:  Six people are allowed to leave.  I am not one of them because they can't release so many at one time.

6:30 pm:  I am released.  Five hours after my fine was paid.

My fine was $255 dollars.  I spent nineteen sleepless, foodless hours in jail to pay.  The lunch of mystery meat tacos and cake with red glop on it and dinner of some meat pasta looked as appetizing as breakfast.  I was previously arrested in Travis county on a Saturday night when the computers were down and was out in seven hours.  I also had that fine waived for time served in jail.  No such thing in Williamson County.  

At one point I saw 15 officers on the floor.  Five were intaking new people because that is how the jail gets paid of course.  The other ten were seemingly doing nothing but eating and talking.  And everything was technically legal.

It's already embarrassing and annoying enough to get arrested.  Everyone knows the authorities just want your money and will get it in the end.  And I know jail isn't supposed to be fun.  But Williamson county thinks you need extra large doses of aggravation and irritation to teach you a lesson.

So yes Virginia, there is a Wilco.  And yes, it's rife with institutional arrogance, greed, apathy and complete disregard for anything.

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