Last week, I sat in a courtroom – so far as I can tell, the only courtroom – in Corcoran, California, waiting for my case to be called.
Corcoran is apparently a small, scared, little hick town full of frightened citizens. I came to this conclusion because of the little man who sat near the front of the courtroom, next to his court-appointed attorney who was, with loud, booming voice, questioning a woman who looked like a deer caught in the headlights. I realized later she held this look because, like so many officers of the state – she was apparently a guard at the local prison – she was trying to make sure the answers she gave to the defense attorney’s probing questions did not help his client, or hurt (what turned out to be) her case.
The man sitting next to the defense attorney was himself somewhat diminutive, hunched over a little in the manner of those who are attempting to keep their shackles from hurting where the wrists are unnaturally bound to the waist. Immediately behind him – so close that I wasn’t sure if one of the officers was just a naturally happy guy, or if his crotch was rubbing the shoulder of the prisoner – stood two guards, each of which was clearly larger and more heavily armed than the prisoner.
And, of course, unshackled.
Fortunately, the defense attorney was oblivious to the existence of his client. Any attempt to confer with him with any confidentiality would have been impossible given the proximity of the guards.
Approximately ten feet from these two, another armed deputy rested against a podium.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the courtroom (which is to say, in this tiny place, possibly twenty feet – thirty at most – from where the prisoner sat) and situated somewhat between the judge and the shackled prisoner, stood another guard.
“Wow! That’s a lot of security!,” I thought. So overdone was it as to be humorous and I considered snapping a photo on my iPhone and uploading it to Twitter.
That is, until I noticed another deputy near the back of the courtroom, off to my left.
As the questioning progressed, it became readily apparent why so much security was needed. The poor woman testifying was explaining how she was merely trying to do her job running surprise security checks at the prison when she peered through the window to the small man’s cell and discovered him sitting on his bunk, masturbating.
Apparently, if you take a man and lock him up, away from women, he will try to find some other way to gratify his natural urges.
All of this would seem to have little to do with California’s budgetary crisis. Five armed deputies, any one of whom probably makes more money than me, guarding a small courtroom in an obviously frightened-to-death little hick town in the middle of nowhere? That’s just necessary security. Having a prosecutor charge a prisoner with a new crime for masturbating in his cell (why? will his new sentence run after his current sentence? [no]) doesn’t cost anything, either. The county’s contract defender? Minimal cost. Hardly worth worrying about.
But if this is the level of security needed to protect us against one tiny man whose hands, when not cuffed, are obviously busy at other things, it’s no wonder Sheriff Margaret Mims in Fresno feels the need to shut down half the jail due to budget cuts. It’s no wonder California’s education budget needs to be cut. Who can argue that we need to fund treatment and redirection programs for youthful offenders? And food stamps to keep poor people from starving to death? Give me a break.
After hearing this story, can you imagine how many officers it takes to watch a couple hundred horny inmates?
Obviously, we’re going to have to cut a few more social programs.