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They Don't Cut Hair In Jail, Do They? by John Nelson




It was February 6th, 1986 just two days after my 19th birthday. I had just graduated for high school the previous year. I was in college, but in the rebellious teen state of mind still. You know when you really don't give a damm. You really hate life, yourself and the world so much for some reason. I don't know why this happens for some people so much worse than others at this age. Hormones life's realities all at once??


My family life had not been great. My father was an alcoholic and had run out on my brother and I. He still had visit and some control though. I really was not a bad kid deep down, but I was bitter, angry and frustrated in my youth. I looked the part. I wore beat up old clothes I'd find at thrift stores. I'd wear those awful checkered plad pants popular in the late 60s and early seventies. In the eighties you could still find these easily at second hand shops. Some were polyester. I thought the looked kind of punk. T-shirts and always Converse high tops. My hair was always a just down the neck over the ears length.It was a mop I had trimmed myself only for about 3 years. I barely combed this light brown masterpiece of a mop.


I had a few friends still from high school. It was one of those transition periods in life when you leave high school people go their separate ways. I had two or three pot smoking, drinking buddies left. With working and college it seemed hard to find time for that stuff much anymore though.


One Tuesday morning around 10 in the morning I was driving home from the beach in this very beat up 1965 Cadillac I had. The car was great. Hubcaps gone, a window broken out, dents and all. It was just the thing cops notice. It was like some former status symbol just gone wrong. The car would soon be listed in a police report as a deadly weapon. Yeah it really said weapon: light blue 1965 cadillac. I laughed when I saw that.


I was driving down the main four lane road in Huntington Beach , Ca. I saw a large back up of cars ahead. What was this at 10 in the morning? As I got closer I saw police directing traffic around an accident scene. It looked like tow trucks were clearing the cars away. As I got up to the cops they started yelling something at me. I didn't know if they said stop or go. I really had no intention of causing a problem. I had that look like trouble look to me. The beat up car, clothes, hair, etc.
Then it happened they started yelling f.. u, f..u. They banged on the side of my car with their clubs yelling for me to pull over. It all happened so fast I really couldn't tell you what even happened to this day.


I was arrested and taken to a small local police station, finger printed, and booked for assault on a police officer. Never having attempted to hit one with that old car at all. What had happened if you can believe it was one officer bent down to pick up something on the ground. The other one thought I'd run him over. It was the word of a 19 year old against theirs. It was too late and they'd radioed in "man down." They basically built their case on a bunch of lies.


I was in the local police jail just about a day. The way it works is you go there first, then if the bail is high or you're staying longer you are transported to jail, then if it's real serious prison. They fed me one meal here and treated me real bad. I was there only victim in the small jail at the moment. It wouldn't be long before I taken to the huge Orange County Jail. This is where things got really interesting.


I was immediately put into a large holding cell with nearly 40 people. I was confused and frustrated. Now I really didn't give a damm. They were mostly around 19 to thirty year old men. All just laying on the floor, most half asleep. I wondered where they all came from or did to be put in here. A weird thing was some of these guys were using the stomachs or legs of each other as pillows to sleep. It only had a hard concrete floor bars, and one open toilet and one water fountain type thing.


They all seemed sleepy, calm and quiet. Not what I'd seen in movies. This was the 80's just before things got more tense though. I spoke to no one and just sat up against one wall in the corner. Soon a Mexican kid came over and started talking to me. He asked if he could put his head on my legs so he could sleep. Ok I said. As he lay there sleeping I noticed he was about my age. He had long dark brown hair and was a good looking kid. I was very tired and had not slept in days. I dozed off and fell asleep also.


Hey, hey man wake up! This kid who had used my legs as a pillow was waking me up. I had no idea how long I'd slept or even what day it was. They're moving us dude. I looked and the room was nearly empty now. Every one was lined up in a long cold stark institional hall. This kid stayed with me. He would wind up my only friend in this 2 week jail experience. My last name was Nelson, his Nieto. Alphabetically we'd wind up in the same cell with 6 other men. In the hall we spent hours sitting there again. My new little friend who I later found out was named Hector fell asleep again. I was awake and watching now. After resting and sleeping I was now angry. What did I really do to get in here!!?? How long would I be ? Did my family know where I was. No on tells you a thing in jail.


All of the sudden I notice this young tall jailer picking people out and having then come with him. Oohh! He is just picking people with real long hair. Oh no. He had 10 young guys mostly shoulder left hair lined up following him. Some people with hair over their ears were skipped over. I didn't want to make eye contact. He got closer and closer. "You!" he said to me line up! Then he saw my new friend Hector sleeping next to me. You could see his long brown mop laying partly on the floor and partly on me thighs. Wake him up and bring him too. Hector, Hector wake up. What, what he said. I said we got to go. He had no idea where he was going, but I did. We were headed to the BARBER!!


About 15 of us walked and walked the long corridors until arriving at the BARBER!! I didn't know they cut your hair in jail. Oh great, not a haircut on top of everything else! Poor Hector just kept asked me where we were going. I told him the barber. He just said no I don't want a haircut, over and over. Somehow I just couldn't picture him without that long dark hair. Maybe just trims I thought. It wasn't the Army.

We got to a room with 5 or so barber chairs. Two barbers working though. The leader/jailer said sit down along here. A long metal bench along the wall. Two barbers in their 40's were there. They looked hard and mean. You, and you he said to two of us long haired guys. Then we all knew we were doomed. One of them said just a trim. The barber laughed. He said we don't do those here. Then he took the clippers with no guard and shaved the guys head. One after the other we were all skinned bald. I was amazed at the transformations. Five very small mirrors so we couldn't really see ourselves. Hector looked like a brown ball with ears on it now.


We were taken back to the long hall and got lots of humiliating laughs. It wasn't fair. Why just the longest guys hair cut?? And why so bald? Time went by and we were officially booked and put into large cells with 4 pairs of bunks. Hector and I wound up in the same room, not same bunk though. Maybe our last names. I never really knew why?? He made this whole nightmare easier for me. My father refused to pay the bail. He thought I should stay in jail to learn a lesson. Yeah it did, but this experience even 30 years later would leave some scars.






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