I recently had a client that had to spend 96 hours in the Rio Consumes Correctional Center (RCCC), also known as the Branch Jail. While I do my best to keep my clients from having to spend any time behind bars, this was my client's second DUI offense and California law requires those with two DUI convictions spend 4 days in jail as a part of their sentence. I spoke with my client, who I'll call Jon Smith, after his release. This is what he told me about his experience.
In order to be admitted to the jail, he had to bring his papers from his last court date. Upon arrival, Jon had to surrender his possessions and go through a strip search. He was then assigned a barracks color and given clothing and toiletries. The clothing he was given came from bins, sorted by size, and included pants, a t-shirt, underwear, socks, and a pair of Orange Crocs. The toiletries Jon was given included a hygiene kit, a shampoo and conditioner packet, toothpaste, and a finger-toothbrush. In addition, he was given two blankets, a towel, and a mattress. The mattress was 2 inches thick and covered in plastic. If an inmate needs medication, then he is seen when he is booked and the medicine is taken at pill call at the med tent.
After getting his clothing and other items, Jon then waited to be called and set up in the bunk that would be his for the next few days. The barracks, which hold 85 people, have different sections and the guards sit in a “fishbowl” at the center. He was asked if he had any gang affiliations or tattoos that could upset gang members as there will be gang members in the barracks. However, Jon stated that most of the people there were just regular folks, many of whom were in for probation violations and the gang members that were there left him alone. Jon also stated that he didn't see many mentally ill people in the jail.
Once it was his turn, the “house-man” –an inmate who works at the jail –set Jon up in his barracks. Jon's bunk was a metal bed that had no springs and he stated you could feel the metal underneath the mattress. The beds were segregated by race. He was told that if he needed anything, then he should speak with the house-man and the house-man would then speak with the guards about his request. There were no security guards in the barracks, but there were lots of cameras. Jon stated that it's a good idea to keep your hands to yourself and don't take anyone's things without asking.
There was no private bathroom at the jail. The facilities, both urinals and toilets, did not have any stalls. The showers were all in just one room, with 4 or 5 showerheads along the walls. Jon stated that some of the barracks would only allow one person to shower at a time and not everyone chooses to shower. If you want shower shoes, those are available at the commissary. However, according to Jon, because he was only there for 96 hours he could not get commissary. Apparently, commissary orders are placed on Saturday night and given to the inmates on Tuesday, so it would be pointless as he wasn't going to be there long enough. It was possible to borrow shower shoes from other inmates, however.
Inmates get three meals a day. “Chow times” were 5 am for breakfast, 11 am for lunch, and 3:30 pm for dinner. Though the last meal time is in the middle of the afternoon, Jon was told that if he “squired away” any food he could get in trouble. Breakfast consisted of things like fat free milk, an orange, taquitos, steamed mashed potatoes, and oatmeal. Lunch included soup (stew, split pea, chicken stock) and a baloney or egg salad sandwich. Dinner consisted of an entrée, vegetables, fruit, and water. Entrees were things like spaghetti and meatballs, Salisbury steak with mashed potatoes, and turkey burgers. Though the food doesn't sound too bad, Jon stated that it was pretty bland and didn't have any seasoning. However, he said you can make friends by giving them food you don't want.
During the day, Jon stated that inmates can play games such as Monopoly, Dominoes, Uno, and card games. There were two yards, one small and one large. The small yard was next to the barracks and there were phones in it. The phones were segregated by race and the guards controlled when inmates went out into the yards. There were counts done daily and Jon stated that he had to be sitting in his bunk for the count. If the dorm did well, then they got more time in the small yard. When it was time to go in the big yard, one barracks at a time would go. There were things to do there including basketball courts, a track, a baseball field, and workout equipment.
When it was time for Jon to be released, he stated that you are released on time and that if you are having someone pick you up, have that person check in with RCCC. However, he stated that if you don't have a ride from the jail they will transport you to the downtown jail and release you from there.
Ideally, I would prefer it if none of my clients had to spend any time in jail. However, as California does have mandatory minimum sentences, it is sometimes unavoidable. I hope that by sharing what my client experienced, those facing a similar sentence will, at the very least, know what to expect when they arrive at RCCC.