I had to go yesterday to the sheriff's department to get fingerprinted. I had to be fingerprinted because even though I'm a high school teacher, in the state of Oklahoma, I am not able to give state tests because I work for K12 corporation instead of a school district. They finally did give us clearance, a week before testing, but all the teachers must be fingerprinted. So....down to the Roger's county sheriff's department I went.
I've only been in the sheriff's department one time before, when I was getting fingerprinted for the last teaching job I had.....did I mention that the state department of education requires new fingerprinting each for each school you work for? If I was a substitute for four different school systems, I'd have to pay(or the school would have to pay) fifty-eight dollars for each fingerprint check. Seems to be a bit of a deal for the state!
Anyway, as I walked into the office, I noticed several other people in the lobby. Some looked like they didn't want to be there and some looked like they knew what they were doing and were totally at-home in the sheriff's department. I told the lady at the counter that I was there for fingerprinting, she pointed to the man sitting in the waiting room and said 'he'll go in first and then you're next'. I quickly took a seat opposite him. He looked up and smiled at me as if we knew that we didn't belong in the sheriff's office!
I began to people watch as I immersed myself in a game of mobile phone uno. First, there were the two women and little girl. They approached the counter and gave the woman money behind the plexiglass for phone cards for some inmate. They seemed to know what was going on....then they went to a box and poked a bunch of buttons....don't know what that was. The second person was an older man. He brought some phone cards and also offered a couple of books to the lady behind the counter....books the inmates grandmother sent him to read. The last lady was carrying a small little boy, she also knew the ropes for phone cards....she bought one hundred forty dollars worth. Apparently, she buys that many every few weeks!
It struck me as sad that these people, who haven't broken the law, are so tied to that lobby. They are because someone they love did break the law and are now waiting for judgement or serving time for the bad choices. These were wives, girlfriends, children, parents and grandparents. It would easy to say that the boys (most of the inmates there today were boys under twenty-five), had bad parents. It would be easy to blame family or society....but as I get older, I realize that families don't put you in jail.
Bad choices get you put in jail. Many of those people probably did have less-than-perfect homes growing up...but so did many people who shop at the grocery store I shop at, or go to the church I worship at, or live across the street. You can't blame your raising on why you're in jail. It basically boils down to making some bad choices, mostly lazy choices. It's easier to sit around and do drugs than to go out and get a job and go to work everyday. It's easier to rob someone's home than to work hard everyday to earn the money you need to buy stuff.
I'm not blaming the families of those young men sitting in jail, I'm blaming the young men who were too lazy to learn in school, that were too lazy to learn a trade, that were too lazy to so no to friends that introduced them to drugs, that were too lazy to do what they needed to do to stay out of jail. Sure, some have mental problems, learning disabilities, poor families, and things I haven't even thought of....
As I followed the young sheriff back to get fingerprinted, I began to think how sad I would be in my own son made a bad choice and ended up in that place. How would I feel each week coming into the counter and buying phone cards so I could talk to him.....as we walked back through the maze, I began to pray to myself. I prayed for the boys behind bars, I prayed for the families that were effected, I prayed for the people working there. I did run into a former student...she works there, thank goodness! I prayed for my own kids, that they would never make the kind of choices that put them in a place like that!
As I drove away to go pick my daughter from track practice, my son called to check up on me...it seems I had been gone from home too long and he was getting worried! I said a prayer of thanks!