"You go to print it. It didn't save," said the officer, his face as shiny with sweat by now as his glossy black shoes. "I'm going to have to write this whole thing again. And it's aggravating. I know I didn't do nothing wrong. There's nobody can tell me this is convenient or easy." He looks at the clock, his face drawn tight. "I'm going to be here till 9, 10, 11 o'clock."
And indeed he was, said booking officers the next night. Such a case is a real exception, said other officers; but there can be shorter waits, caused by backlogs at booking windows during busy times, waits to use computers and hunt-and-peck typing. If you know how to use the system, officials said, it's easy: The average arrest requires only 60 words of typing and allows officers to copy the narrative for multiple suspects quickly.
"Some people are afraid like I was at first to come down and give it a chance," said officer Wayne Bolt, who works with Adkins. "It's just like driving a car. The more you come down here, the easier it is."
Northern District Officer Billy Jones, 25, who types rapidly and is familiar with computers, summed up a prevailing view: "It's hit or miss."
In the midst of the antiseptic equipment, the people who make Central Booking go still must deal with the all-too-human tragedy, malevolence and hopelessness found on the wrong side of the law.
The phones ring constantly, with endless questions about the status of the people inside. "Before people used to call hospitals to find people," correctional Lt. Lawrence O'Brien said with a sigh after bidding a caller goodbye. "Now they call here."
Down the hall in an entrance way, a woman with close-cropped hair laughed maniacally, her arms miniwindmills in their own private orbit. A wiry, gray-haired man who looks close to 50 banged a slow, thunderous beat against the door of his holding cell, bellowing demands that continued for an hour.
Down the long corridor, correctional officers have shoehorned three to six prisoners into each of the five court commissioner booths in an effort to keep the pipeline moving.
The new booths already are scarred with graffiti.
Still more inmates wait in adjacent holding cells. One of them urinates against the door, sending a stinking puddle into the hallway. Whether the prisoner does this because he cannot get to a toilet, is intoxicated or merely angry, is hard to know. And the correctional officer who brings a new load of suspects along the corridor doesn't ask. He simply steps around it.
Pub Date: 10/19/96