Talking to People as They Get Released from OC Jail at Midnight

By Gustavo Arellano
OC Weekly

Santa Ana Bail Bond Store News

At 12:05 every morning, Santa Ana Central Jail releases its first inmates of the day from the Intake and Release Center out to the gates that open up to W. Sixth Street, to free bed space for incoming prisoners.
“As soon as midnight hits we can kick them out the door,” Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Jeffrey Hallock said. “We can release them.”

Reasonable enough, right? But let’s all agree midnight isn’t exactly the best time for someone to leave jail. So the Weekly visited on two consecutive nights to interview folks who were just leaving jail and get their thoughts on their new-found freedom

The first person we interviewed was a woman who requested anonymity. She seemed startled when approached by the Weekly, but after identifying ourselves, she loosened her arms from a tight fold and agreed to speak.

Although she denies it herself, the inmate was detained for domestic violence. For two days, she wondered about the state of her children.

“What was really hard was not knowing what the hell’s going on,” the woman said. To comfort herself and try to make the two days go by quickly, she slept the majority of the time in her cell.

There are three things you can do for free in jail, she said: sleep, watch television or read. She also had the choice to call a relative or friend, but they’re collect calls. To avoid any extra costs, the female inmate decided to wait upon release to hear about her family.

After her sentence was served, the guards informed her at about 8:30 p.m. that it was time to leave. At that time, deputies are up and running, counting every head and making sure the person whose name is on the paperwork from court, is indeed the correct person.

The time it took from the call of freedom to the time she walked out of the gates of jail: three hours.

“We waited too long to get our clothes, we waited too long for everything,” the inmate said.

Upon getting released, she said that most people want to contact someone to pick them up at that ungodly hour. Luckily, her phone hadn’t died from the time she was detained, so she was able to call someone. But she still understands the hardship that inmates who don’t have a cell phone (at least one that isn’t out of battery) go through after being released.

“[A charged cell phone] is our life line,” the former inmate said. “I didn’t know any number but my parent’s number–that is it. I didn’t know my kid’s number–nothing.” She held up her phone as if she was holding Wonka’s Golden Ticket in her hand.

After answering a few questions, she walked away, determined to fight in court and get full custody of her kids. Just because she was in jail, doesn’t mean she isn’t sane, she said.

It’s 1:25 a.m. Abel Betancourt is released. As I drank my hot coffee, he approached to ask if I had a phone he could use to call his mom to pick him up. After speaking to his mom, they agreed he’d walk a block down to meet her after she was done fully waking up.

Age 19, Betancourt was detained for burglary. After serving about a week, he was done with his jail time. His release, though, was a surprise for himself and his mother.

“You go to court and they totally fuck you over,” Betancourt said. “They tell you your charges and that’s it. You have to wait for another hearing. They keep adding time and then you never really finish your time.”

His worry was whether or not his mother was going to answer his phone call. It’s late at night or so early in the morning when inmates get released, and people are usually, understandably sleeping at that time.

After not seeing anyone released out the jail gates for an hour, I call it a night.

At 12:05 every morning, Santa Ana Central Jail releases its first inmates of the day from the Intake and Release Center out to the gates that open up to W. Sixth Street, to free bed space for incoming prisoners.
“As soon as midnight hits we can kick them out the door,” Orange County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson Jeffrey Hallock said. “We can release them.”

Reasonable enough, right? But let’s all agree midnight isn’t exactly the best time for someone to leave jail. So the Weekly visited on two consecutive nights to interview folks who were just leaving jail and get their thoughts on their new-found freedom

The first person we interviewed was a woman who requested anonymity. She seemed startled when approached by the Weekly, but after identifying ourselves, she loosened her arms from a tight fold and agreed to speak.

Although she denies it herself, the inmate was detained for domestic violence. For two days, she wondered about the state of her children.

“What was really hard was not knowing what the hell’s going on,” the woman said. To comfort herself and try to make the two days go by quickly, she slept the majority of the time in her cell.

There are three things you can do for free in jail, she said: sleep, watch television or read. She also had the choice to call a relative or friend, but they’re collect calls. To avoid any extra costs, the female inmate decided to wait upon release to hear about her family.

After her sentence was served, the guards informed her at about 8:30 p.m. that it was time to leave. At that time, deputies are up and running, counting every head and making sure the person whose name is on the paperwork from court, is indeed the correct person.

The time it took from the call of freedom to the time she walked out of the gates of jail: three hours.

“We waited too long to get our clothes, we waited too long for everything,” the inmate said.

Upon getting released, she said that most people want to contact someone to pick them up at that ungodly hour. Luckily, her phone hadn’t died from the time she was detained, so she was able to call someone. But she still understands the hardship that inmates who don’t have a cell phone (at least one that isn’t out of battery) go through after being released.

“[A charged cell phone] is our life line,” the former inmate said. “I didn’t know any number but my parent’s number–that is it. I didn’t know my kid’s number–nothing.” She held up her phone as if she was holding Wonka’s Golden Ticket in her hand.

After answering a few questions, she walked away, determined to fight in court and get full custody of her kids. Just because she was in jail, doesn’t mean she isn’t sane, she said.

It’s 1:25 a.m. Abel Betancourt is released. As I drank my hot coffee, he approached to ask if I had a phone he could use to call his mom to pick him up. After speaking to his mom, they agreed he’d walk a block down to meet her after she was done fully waking up.

Age 19, Betancourt was detained for burglary. After serving about a week, he was done with his jail time. His release, though, was a surprise for himself and his mother.

“You go to court and they totally fuck you over,” Betancourt said. “They tell you your charges and that’s it. You have to wait for another hearing. They keep adding time and then you never really finish your time.”

His worry was whether or not his mother was going to answer his phone call. It’s late at night or so early in the morning when inmates get released, and people are usually, understandably sleeping at that time.

After not seeing anyone released out the jail gates for an hour, I call it a night.