Here’s my two cents - don’t break the law

Jail Open House is April 22 from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. Informational meetings are April 20 at the Featherlite Center, Cresco, and April 25 at Riceville City Hall. Both start at 7 p.m


[Editor’s note: With Howard County Jail, the oldest working jail in the state of Iowa, having an open house on Saturday from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m., I thought it would perhaps drum up some interest to have someone in the office be an inmate for a few hours. And since Nate Troy looks better in orange . . . ]
CRESCO - On Jan. 12, 1995, I was working as a sports editor at a weekly newspaper in South Dakota when the news editor gave me a piece of advice about photography. He said, “Shoot as many photos as you can at games. Film is cheap, and there’s no law against taking dozens of sports pictures.”
Last Tuesday, I learned my former co-worker was wrong. In my pursuit of trying to take great sports photos, I had crossed the line. I flew too close to the sun on the wings of my Canon EOS Rebel camera and got burned.
 There is a law against taking too many photos, and I paid the ultimate price. I was arrested for excessive photography and placed in the Howard County Jail. (It was actually a ‘mock’ arrest, but I went through the same process a real criminal would go through if he or she was arrested).
At approximately 10:30 a.m. on April 11, Sheriff Mike Miner and Deputy Milan Grubl came into the Times Plain Dealer office and placed me under arrest for taking too many photos. Sheriff Miner patted me down and put me in handcuffs, with my hands behind my back. 
Then Sheriff Miner and Deputy Grubl led me out the back door of the office and put me in the back seat of the Sheriff’s car. Even though I knew this wasn’t an official arrest, it was still kind of an embarrassing situation because I didn’t want anyone in town to see me like this.
[One thing I noticed about them taking Nate from the car to jail is that it was open space. If a suspect was strong enough, he or she could possibly get loose and run. Or an accomplice could potentially help the suspect escape. 
The proposed jail will have a Sally Port, which is basically a garage with an automatic door. The suspect stays inside the car until the outside door is closed. He/she is then escorted into the booking room, which is its only function.
The current booking room septuples as a visitation area, attorney visitation, storage, commissary storage, entry to Sheriff Miner’s office and entry to the laundry room.]
Once we got to the booking room, I was ordered to empty my pockets, take off my belt and take off my wedding ring. I didn’t really mind taking stuff out of my pockets or slipping off my belt, but taking off my wedding ring was somewhat difficult — literally and figuratively. 
It was literally tough to get the ring off because of my pudgy fingers. It was figuratively tough because I didn’t really want to take off the ring. Sara and I have been married almost 11 years, and I always think of her when I look at my ring. I know that sounds corny, but it’s true. 
After answering a few dozen questions from Communications Officer/Jailer Rita Roberts, including a few personal questions I won’t list here, I was told I could make one phone call. 
 Roberts took my mug shot before  Grubl took my fingerprints. Then I was ordered to change into the mandatory orange jump suit and plastic flip flops that prisoners wear. 
I was then placed in the holding cell, and the door was closed behind me. I was spending the “night” in jail.
Even though I knew this wasn’t a real arrest, the magnitude of what this situation means was not lost on me. The sound of that jail door closing on you is a terrible feeling, no matter who you are. 
[The current jail has bars. They are no longer incorporated into modern facilities as it is much easier for an inmate to hang himself or herself if a piece of clothing can be tied around a bar.
The proposed jail will be made of cement block and shatter-resistant glass.]
The jail itself reminded me of something I might see in an old west TV show from the early 1900s with the bars on the door and the window. To say the least, I’m glad I am up to date on my tetanus shots. 
A few minutes later (or the next day for a real inmate), I was momentarily released from the cell to meet with Magistrate Joe Haskovec. He informed me of my rights as someone who had been arrested.
Haskovec said, “Taking too many photos is a felony in the state of Iowa.”  He told me I could be charged with up to five years in prison and that fines start at $7,500. I was held without bond for 10 days until my court date.
I was then led upstairs to a different cell as I carried a plastic tub containing a towel, a blanket, a toothbrush, a comb and a washcloth.
[The cell itself was built for four inmates, but is now just double occupancy. There is a duplicate cell next door, allowing the upstairs to house up to four inmates. 
The recreation area, or bull pen, contains a metal table and chairs, as well as a shower that is rusting out along the edges. The stainless steel toilet is in the common area, which should be a deterrent itself in breaking the law. The jail is certainly no Taj Mahal, but the inmates are able to play board games, read and watch cable television.]
The only good part of the entire experience happened next — lunch. I was given a meal of chicken parmesan, peas, a roll, Jell-O and a cup of milk. I was released shortly afterwards. 
Before I left, Roberts told me what she tells everyone who goes through the jail, “I hope I never see you again.”
Although I knew the experience was just a mock simulation of what happens when someone is arrested, it was still a humbling experience. I can only imagine the embarrassment of a guy calling his wife or parents or guardian and telling them that he was arrested. I can also understand how humiliating it feels to be placed in the back of a squad car and driven to the Sheriff’s office.
If there’s one thing I learned, it’s that you might as well just obey the law. Life is much easier and simpler if you do.
[And it’s cheaper. Going to jail costs money. Howard County charges each inmate $35 per day for feeding and housing him or her. For Nate’s 10-day stay, it would have cost the county $483.30 for water, electricity, heating and meals. This does not include employee costs.
If Howard County did not have a jail, he would have been taken to Winneshiek County, which would have cost  $50 per day plus two trips to Decorah and back to Cresco, at a cost of $167.20. That total cost for sending him to Decorah would be $667.20. In the future the cost will only increase. But if Nate was a troublesome inmate, it would cost $75 per day at another facility.
Besides the open house this weekend, two more informational meetings are being held before the bond referendum goes to a special vote on May 2. They are April 20 at the Featherlite Center, Cresco, and April 25 at Riceville City Hall. Both start at 7 p.m.]

Cresco Times

Phone: 563-547-3601
Fax: 563-547-4602

Cresco TPD
214 N. Elm Street
Cresco, IA 52136

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