I admit now that I have a criminal record of sorts. I was on my way to Texas A&M from NJ when one of the local gendarmes in a small southern town noted my NJ plates and decided to stop me. He ignored my explanations and decided to jail me for the night until the police offices opened. It seems that he believed that I was one of those northern agitators planning to stir up the blacks in the area.
Back to my account. It was just as well that I was jailed as I was looking for a place to spend the night and I saved at least $10 for lodging and $1 for breakfast. I was given my own cell as I was the only white there at the time. I saw how others lived, three to a cell with a single cot and a place to swat on a concrete divider or pee into a slow moving “stream” intended to carry ones wastes away. I had similar facilities, but was in the first single cell on the line. The next cell up seemed to be intended for a regular or a local and had an actual commode, a comfortable cot and some books and magazines on an end table.
The people in the other cells were harassed all the time and were called degrading names. When breakfast was served in the morning, I got eggs, bacon and grits (a foul southern concoction). The other prisoners got only grits.
After breakfast, I was escorted to the Chief (this guy could have been type cast as a law enforcement officer in the ‘Dukes of Hazard’). He questioned me about why I was in town and once he learned that I was a Texas boy, only transferred to NJ because that was where my Dad found a job worthy of a PhD. I was out of there as soon as he checked with Texas A&M for my student status. I was allowed to use the police showers while he performed that check.
The lesson I learned that day, er night, was that criminals are not born, they are annealed by the system. That lesson was worth more than the $11.
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