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Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Thoughts on "Each night, Philly jails release scores of inmates without returning their IDs, cash or phones"

Thank you Pranshu Verma, for your recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer titled:

Click the title to read the full article:

This article highlights one man's exit from the Philadelphia jail system and the consequences of not being given his personal effects upon discharge.  It's very well written.

I'd like to review one of the lines in this article that caught my attention and offer some additional insights:

…But minutes after his release about 10:30 p.m., Garrett realized that his identification, $80 in cash, and other personal belongings were still locked up in the cashier’s office — the place where prison facilities store personal property of inmates until they are released — and he wouldn’t be able to get them until the next morning when the office reopened.

…He wouldn't be able to get them until the next morning when the office reopened…

This gentleman had a home to go to and that's great for him.  The people of the streets of Kensington who are in the addiction phase of their Substance Use Disorder do not have that option. 

Here is how I have described this situation to three Philadelphia Court Judges when I've spoken on behalf of people of the streets:

These men and women are dealing with Substance Use Disorder, an officially recognized condition as described in the DSM-5.  Virtually every illegal act that lands them in jail and the court system has its roots in this medical disorder.  Most are reliant on Medicaid to cover their medical expenses.  If given the slightest opportunity to do so, their Substance Use Disorder will win the battle in demanding that they continue to "take her medicine"[1] even if they absolutely determine to the deepest depth of their soul that they will never again do so.  

To whatever extent this court can serve as their de facto physician in bringing about healing, I urgently and humbly ask that when the time is right, they would be transferred directly to an appropriate care facility that will serve them in a way that is best for them and will truly help them achieve their goals for a new, healthy, normal and productive life. 

In the absence of a predetermined place for these members of our society to go directly from their current incarceration, with the judge having declared them discharged in the morning hours of their day in court, they will be released from their incarceration any time between 7pm and the middle of the night.[2]  They will be provided with a bus token or two for Septa (public transportation) and will have little choice but to return to Kensington.  They will be released without whatever personal effects they had on them when brought to jail.  These items, which include their ID, some degree of cash and occasionally a cell phone will need to be picked up on some future business day between the hours of 9:00am and 1:30pm. 

If they even bother to make this trip back to jail, they will be required to hop on the visitor's bus and return to the same building in which they had been incarcerated.  To make this journey, they must raise the funds[3] for Septa to the jail on State Road, enter the visitor's reception trailer, provide their ID (which they are coming to get) or their jail number which they might not know.  They then wait for the bus along with the folks who are coming to visit loved ones.  This transportation may be a window barred prisoner transport van or a civilian style small bus.  They then enter the same building in which they have been incarcerated, interact with the guards in the room who had just the day before held them captive, go to the cashier's window, identify themselves, get their belongings and then sit in the visitor's waiting room until the next prisoner transport van/civilian style small bus arrives with new visitors and will then be transported back to the parking lot.  This round trip on the jail campus could easily be over an hour.  From there, with their substance use having restarted during the night, they will hop back on public transportation and go back to Kensington.

Between their moment of release and retrieving their personal belongings, upon return to the familiarity of the streets of Kensington, with hunger setting in and the call of Substance Use Disorder screaming for attention, in the case of a lady in this situation, she will have little choice but to succumb to her nightmare of "dating" (the very crime that may have landed her in jail and of which she has just been released) so as to gain a few dollars for food and heroin.

Because it will be too late to find a shelter bed,  they will have to find some step or back ally or piece of sidewalk to consume there first doses of heroin[4] and lay down for this round of homelessness.

Wouldn't it be better to provide personal effects upon release?

[1] This is not a weakness within the person.  It is a recognized pattern for any person who would be in this situation.                 
[2] I have been there to pick up three people upon release from RCF. The earliest was approximately midnight.  The latest was after 2:00am.
[3]Ladies will need to 'date' AKA prostitute themselves to raise the needed funds.
[4] First doses following abstinence from the drug run a much higher risk of causing deadly overdose.

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