Jail Cells

By Rosalie Tirella

Worcester Police Chief Steve Sargent

I’d like to talk about jail cells and America. This 60-year-old broad – with asthma! – was in several of them Wednesday. I want to talk about my jail cells, how even in the best of circumstances – when the police do their job in humane ways and treat you with respect – your jail cell dehumanizes you, makes you feel trapped, makes you feral, makes you feel the wild terror of a caged animal – a tiger at the zoo, a little grey mouse in the pet store window. An unnatural state for living creatures who crave sunlight and love. My jail cells frightened me …set my heart to beating two and three fold times faster. They made me look and find deep deep deep inside me the strength in myself…faith in me. Rose.

All my jail cells in Worcester, in the Worcester police department headquarters, in the Worcester courthouse that day, in our America, were clean and properly COVID sanitized. My jail cell sinks shone, my toilets worked, my ankle shackles on not too tight, my handcuffs readjusted so they wouldn’t hurt my wrists…BUT ALL THE TIME I WANTED TO BE FREE!! Never in my life did I love freedom more! To be at the end cell of my cell block craving freedom and to see a human face! I felt panicked and alone in those spare clean sanitized jail cells in Worcester with their pale yellow walls. Sometimes they were gray. Always no windows. No people to see come and go. No smiles to reassure you…I put my face against tbe dark one-way window between me and the police officers …to see them! To connect with the human race! I put my chained wrists through the slot in my jail cell door and thought about the many Black and brown kids and poor men and women who came before me and put their handcuffed hands through that slot …in trepidation? in anger? in wild mad panic?? And I felt sad for myself, Worcester, my country. I saw all the angry confused boys and men and girls and women who came before me – TERRIFIED – just like me – degraded, just like me. Thank you, America.

I sat still but filled with epiphany, holding my knowledge gently, sitting on the long cement block bench in my jail cell. I saw how my predecessors, fat, skinny, flat faced, sharp featured…I felt how they, human beings, reacted to this thing-a-fication of human beings, courtesy of America’s criminal “justice” system. I understood why prisoners – even the “innocent” ones – took their lives in such circumstances and why my scarf was taken away and asked WAS I WEARING A BRA? The system knows what crimes it perpetrates. I thought of ALL the deaths, heart attacks, broken bones, tears, curses that happened in these jail cells that went unreported, that never saw the light of day, that we the people never knew about – or mourned. When there were good cops just doing their jobs in a humane way! Never mind the abusers, the assaulters, the racists, the men and women cops on messed up power trips. The “bad apple” cops who maim and torture and have killed in jail cells. “Bad apples” … Such a cute name for such deadly deeds! For breaking souls and spirits and bodies and minds and families outside those small jail cells.

America, Worcester, we need to reform this sick, broken system.