My brief experience in the Schuyler County Jail, December 3rd, 2014
by Judy Leaf
Judy Leaf, 67, of Ithaca, was arrested on November 18 and, after refusing to pay her fine, was sentenced on December 3 to serve one day in jail. Because it was 9 P.M. at the time she was taken from court and because she was released shortly after midnight the next morning her entire time in custody was spent being booked at—and then released from– the Schuyler County Jail.
I was sentenced to one day in jail, which turned out to be just a few hours.
After judge sentenced me, I waited for transportation to the jail with five other inmates who had likewise declined to the pay the fine for trespassing. We were all seated at the table outside the courtroom. At about 9 P.M., a parade of six officers entered the room all carrying handcuffs. It seemed like overkill to have taxpayers paying for six officers to cuff six peaceful protesters, but that’s what we had. Due to my rotator cuff injury, I asked if my hands could be cuffed in front rather than behind, and the officer obliged.
Generally, the officers seemed respectful and professional. They were grumpy about the bright video lights outside. We were taken in the sheriff’s van to the Schuyler County Jail in Watkins Glen about five minutes away. When I thanked an officer for helping me out of the van, he seemed surprised and said, “You’re welcome!”
The three men were put in the holding tank. And we three women were taken for booking in two small adjoining rooms. There was discussion about what to do with me. Although I was not told directly, it became clear to me that, with only a one-day sentence, I would not be sent to a women’s facility with the other two women, who had received longer sentences.
Eventually, my coat was taken by a female officer, but I was never made to change out of my clothes as the other women were. I had brought two medications with me, and I was assured that they were being locked in an office and would be returned to me. They were.
My booking took place in fits and starts. I was first taken into an interior room and asked a series of questions as an officer filled out the booking form on the computer. He also fingerprinted me. Then I was taken away to wait. Then I was taken to another room where the same questions were asked by another officer who, it would appear, was filling out the same booking form. My mug shot was taken. At about midnight, it became evident that I was to be released very soon. The officers scrambled to give me my suicide interview the few minutes before I was released.
Some short time after midnight I was allowed to make a phone call and was very relieved to find that my friend had stayed in Watkins Glen on a hunch that I’d be released in the middle of the night. Shortly thereafter my things were returned and I was free to leave. I found my friend and another We Are Seneca Lake supporter waiting outside the door—with french fries.
My overall impression is that sheriff’s officers were overwhelmed but getting used to the civil disobedience drill. I was very consciously peaceful, respectful, and cooperative. By and large, the officers always acted in a professional and courteous manner toward me. One newly transferred female officer asked me what all these trespass arrests were about. I was happy to tell her.