Hating the Holidays While Facing the Iniquity of the US Criminal Justice System

Carol Burt
12 min readDec 28, 2019

The poor are punished before they are found guilty.

Photo by Guido Coppa

I hate the holidays. I’ve hated them consistently since becoming an adult. This year, I hate them even more because my daughter spent Christmas in the county jail and will spend New Years’ there, too. She’s an addict with severe personality disorders and belongs in jail like a baby belongs in a cage. But that’s where she is and where she is likely to stay since she’s held by a bond of $10,000.

Jails and prisons are where our society has decided to put addicts who use illegal drugs to self-medicate their mental problems. That’s where we put nonviolent people who are only hurting themselves and are doing so because they need help and there little help to be found.

There was a time in my life when I didn’t have a single friend or relative who had been in jail. No member of my family or extended family had ever been arrested. Personally, I’ve not even had a traffic ticket.

As a former police officer, it’s ironic how little I knew about jails. I’d never visited a person in jail. I’d only come to jails to bring someone in through “the bay,” a secure drive-in garage with a door that shuts behind the police car so people in custody can be removed from the car without a chance to escape. From the bay, they’re escorted in a back door to the booking, or processing area.

Until six years ago I had never been to the front desk or “reception” area of the local jail, even though I had brought people who had been arrested to jail.

It is extremely different on the other side of the criminal justice system and doesn’t remotely resemble the way I perceived it as a law enforcement officer. It is more life-shattering and cruel than I realized. It victimizes people who are non-violent offenders and already compromised; and if I were working as law enforcement officer today I would have serious misgivings about locking up people for nonviolent crimes. (Driving while intoxicated, by the way, is a violent crime to me since I’ve responded to many auto accidents where innocent people, often children, die in hideously violent ways because some jerk wanted to get drunk and drive).

Carol Burt

Former print journalist, former mayor, retired law enforcement officer. Writing about politics and government along with random personal essays.