I’m not sure how common this is in other states, but in California they push DUI offenders (as well as other petty criminals) to trade in a more threatening and time-consuming jail sentence for day-time “SWAP” / volunteer work.
Although I received my DUI in August and quasi-plea bargain in November, today was my first of 5 days to do this “volunteer work.” To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. When I arrived this morning at 8am and saw hundreds of men gathered at the location I was headed, I thought I was going to be the only female in a crowd of mostly gangbanger men. The area is ripe with gang violence, and plenty of the men had tattoos that looked like they might be gang-related. Ok, so I was a little nervous about spending a few days with these men, even if it was under police supervision cleaning up the side of the road.
Today, I can’t even describe what normal SWAP duty is like. They were overwhelmed by the number of people that showed up for SWAP duty that they ran out of projects to have people work on. A good 50-100 of us were left behind in the jail parking garage, where we were not allowed out, but also had nothing to do. And having nothing to do (we weren’t allowed to bring anything with us besides lunch, a watter bottle, and ID) was a good bit of kind torture to the criminals. The worst of it was how cold it got in the garage, even as it warmed up outside with the sun, only small rays broke through the barred windows. At one point my hands started to turn blue.
We had to stay there from 8am to 4pm. At 8am, everyone lined up and it took a good hour-and-a-half for them to process the masses of about 400-500 people. It wasn’t very clear what was going on until they finally brought out chairs for the remainder of us and all the buses had left. So we wouldn’t be picking up garbage on the side of the road, we’d be in jail, albeit an extra-cold jail with nothing to do. I think jail at least lets you have books and writing equipment. It was an extremely long, cold, boring day, and I get to get up to do it all again tomorrow, not to mention next Saturday and Sunday, and the Saturday after that.
I had more of a post written here but WordPress ate it, so I’ll have to write part 2 tomorrow after I get back from day 2. Maybe I’ll actually get to go out to the field to pick up trash and “work” — the fresh air would be much better than being trapped in a frigid parking garage with nothing to do all day long.