SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- What prompts someone to pay $20 to go behind bars voluntarily, get a lousy night's sleep and, worst of all, be denied coffee?
I'm still asking myself that question as the brand new Springfield Jail gets ready for the real thing: Real inmates.
Tuesday night was the last of five nights for the public to sign up and volunteer to get locked up. We were incarceration guinea pigs for Capt. Richard Golden and the rest of the jail staff.
The Hilton this is not.
Everything is clean and new, but very spartan.
I was thrown in with the guys in Pod-D. Right off the bat, they put you to work. You grab your bed sheet and blanket kit, find your cell and make your bed.
The cell is double bunked; the beds are made of metal and the pad's not terrible but it's plenty hard.
What's unique is the bathroom system: the latrine and sink are one unit.
There's no lid for the privy, so at least inmates won't argue about keeping the lid up or down.
The food is -- well, let's say it's not like Mama makes. For dinner, we had meal #117-62: 450 calories of pure pleasure called a Hot Roast Beef Sandwich.
Probably one of the highlights was the demonstration of the restraint chair, a special tool used on unruly inmates. This contraption looked rather painful, but I wanted to get a first hand look.
Corrections Officer Oakerman placed me in handcuffs and had me sit in the chair, arms behind my back in a recessed part of the chair-back. My feet were strapped in, then straps resembling vehicle seat belts were attached. I was not moving in any way shape or form ... ouch.
At night, 11:30 was lights down time and time to turn in. Note, I didn't say lights out. A 5 watt bulb is left on overhead in the cell and the pod pretty much stays fully lit.
Trying to sleep was a definite challenge. Chief Jerry Smith told us during orientation, "Once the doors close, the atmosphere will change." He was right. I never got a claustrophobic feeling in there, but it was chilling, ominous.
One of the best parts of the jail experience was talking to and getting to know some of my cellmates. We weren't allowed to fraternize with the women inmates inside, but as we left the jail this morning, I talked to Sandra McMillin of Springfield
She used to work for the Michigan prison system and told me, "I wanted to see what's new in the security system, compared to what was there when I worked inside the walls, 15 years ago."
Those are some random observations of my Springfield Jail experience. Besides the lack of sleep, it was definitely a rewarding look behind the scenes of the new jail.