Friday, July 21, 2006

Jail visits - A Gripe

I have a gripe. I just got out of jail a few hours ago. Well, let me be more specific than that. I was visiting a client of mine, who is being held on $100,000 bail, in jail. This particular client calls to find out when I'm going to visit, collect, daily. His sister also calls at least five times per day, on average, his friend, and his father, also call anywhere from 5-10 times a day.

This is not uncommon. People in jail are somewhat cut off from contact with the outside world, and bored, so they tend to obsess about small details about their life, their case, and use their collect calls to call their family members, who then suggest that the client call me, and then the family members have to call to relay the entire conversation. My response to the call is then spread among family members, and then I get return calls from each famliy member, to make sure that the information they got from [sister/brother/spouse/parent] was correct.

In this particular case, I barely had time to review the police report, and upon reviewing it, I noted an issue that I intend to raise in a motion. If granted, this case could be dismissed. However, there's no way I can get this motion researched, written, served on the DA's office, filed with the court, and be prepared to argue it before the court and opposing counsel within the client's 10 day speedy trial right, especially with the constant interruptions, and constant requests for jail visits.

The first time I visited this client in jail, he asked me to promise to visit him again when he had the police report. I mailed him a copy for his review, along with my comments. Today, he said that he forgot the report back in his cell. "Oh, and I had like 100 questions to ask you -- I wrote them down -- but, dude, I forgot that in my cell also. Can you visit me again tomorrow?"

Clients, and their families and loved ones, don't realize that, although attorneys can visit 24 hours a day, (and believe me, I have), jail visits are not an easy, or quick, procedure. In Orange County, jail visits require that you find, and pay for parking, walk several blocks, and then fill out an information card. Assuming that the client is not (a) being fed, a process which requires lockdown and release of one section at a time, taking two hours total for each feeding; (b) seeing a doctor or medical personnel, which can also take hours; (c) in protective custody, it usually takes almost an hour just to sit down in front of the client. In Riverside or San Bernardino counties, and in some jails in Los Angeles, attorneys are led through a metal detector and lockers area, searched, are required to submit photo ID and our bar card for a background check, and then issued official identification to wear, a process that can take some time. And, in state prison, because they do visiting days based upon race (yes, based upon race, and it's legal), if you visit on the wrong day, you could be waiting for a long time along with the thousand or so people also trying to see people with the same ethnic background as your client, whatever that may be.

It can be frustrating, and I am not proposing a solution. As mentioned in my first sentence, this is just a gripe, and I felt I had to get it off my chest.

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