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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (March 2, 1972)
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walls and bars
by Bob Latta
Jail. If you ever violate a law it's on your mind.
It's a possibility. And if it's on your mind it
represents much more than four walls and some bars.
A jail is a theater--a setting where certain roles are
played out. When I went down to the local jail I was
allowed to talk to only a small part of the cast-the
Inspector Euqene R. Henninger took me on a tour
of the facility at the County-City Building and told
me the rules. Henninger is a polite, soft-spoken,
almost timid man. I got the impression that he ran
the jail as if it were a clean Open Door Mission with
security precautions. ,
The inspector, who I suspect was delighted with
his title, has little contact with his inmates.
"I couldn't tell you what many of these men are in
here for. I don't care. A lot of the men have been in
pokeys all over the nation and this is just a routine
for them-another jail," he said "For a few you can
tell that it's a real shock to be here."
As a part of the tour I went through the booking
procedure as if I had been arrested. I was searched
and the booking officer made out an arrest record. ,
My wallet, belt and pocket change were taken and
put in a private locker. Watches are also taken from
the arrested person. .
I was allowed one three-minute phone call. They
recorded wrn I called and the number.
Henninger said that he would make an effort to
contact a parent or guardian if the defendant was
I was then taken to a small room where Sgt.
Marvin Morgan took my picture and my fingerprints.
Morgan, who looked like a gas station attendant in a
Texaco commercial, said that everyone who is
booked has their fingerprints sent to the State Patrol
and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
He said that of every 10 people fingerprinted only
one is convicted of a crime. The State Patrol and the
FBI are then given a follow-up on every case-guilty
or not-guilty. '-' ; .
Only relatives are allowed to see the inmates,ii;;ce
I had no visitors, I was taken to what Henninger
called a "Chinese cell." '
It was just a small unoccupied room with steel
walls and a cement floor. There is one small window
in the door. The only toilet is a drain in the corner.
Opinion analysis by author - 1
Henninger said that he uses "Chinese cells" for
drunks and disorderly prisoners. He remarked that a
week earlier a prisoner had broken the inch-thick
window with the heel of his boot.
Of course there is no alcohol in jail, but it is part
of the atmosphere. It's like a shrine that alcoholics
must visit at least once in their life and many visit on
a regular basis.
Most prisoners stay in four-man cells with bunks, a
toilet and a sink. There are three six-cell units; one
for federal men inmates, one for county-city male
prisoners and one for all women prisoners. There is a
day room accompanying each unit where inmates
read or play cards. A shower is located just off the
Henninger said that he has had as many as 140
prisoners at a time, but that the jail is rarely crowded.
From 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. the inmates are locked in
their cell's. If a keeper is not nearby, screaming is the
only method of summoning one.
A sample supper included a grilled cheese and a
ham salad sandwich, pork and beans, applesauce and
coffee. A registered nurse is on duty at all times.
I was fortunate enough to talk to one person who
recently spent two days in the facility. John A.
Hansen, Jr., 21, decided to see what jail is like instead
of borrowing money to pay a traffic violation fine.
Sometimes, apparently rules play a smaller part in
the jail routine than the inspector indicated. Hansen
said he was not fingerprinted or searched.
He told me about a jail routine called the
"line-up". Three other inmates and Hansen were
chosen by a method unknown to him and taken to a
irectangular room. They stood against one wall which
was marked for height and faced a full-length
two-way mirror. A microphone was suspended in
front of their faces. Hansen was not sure what was on
the other side of the mirror.
He was allowed to bring three books into jail with
him, one of which was about Angela Davis. Hansen
said he got another prisoner interested in that one.
The only subject matter which is taboo in prison
literature is sex.
Of the 15 men in his unit, three were Indians.
Hansen noted that proportion is somewhat out of line
with the makeup of the city's population.
He also noted a tremendous turnover of prisoners
during his short stay in jail.
"The jail is of no use to anyone," he said. "Its
effect reminds me of the ultimate epithet used by
James Henderson's ghetto grade schoolers in The Way
It's Spozed To Be-'Forget You'. The folks here are
the forgotten or the overlooked in the first place. No
one here has money. Essentially, it is dehumanizing
where it should be humanizing. Here society prevents
a relationship where it should seek one."
While I was there I saw several people being
booked. The atmosphere mt casual with the police
occasionally joking with the arrested person.
I had the feeling that most of the people who
work in a jail are there because they could be in
contact with a certain kind of people-earthy,
'The man in here got caught, the man on the
other side of the door didn't." said Henninger. "When
that door closes the jail climate starts. You may lose
your job, your family, your home and your
In a sense, the police represent the rules here. To
the prisoners, rules have a lot of impact but little or
no value. Both parties seem to take the other's
attitude for granted. In this setting a grotesque
theater of life grinds on.
Latta. . . in the "grotesque theater of life
Justice conference begins
The controversial World in Revolution Conference on
Justice in America gets underway Monday. Hinging on its
outcome are possible attempts by both the Legislature and
Board of Regents to cut off the mandatory student fees
supporting such events.
Regent Robert R. Koefoot of Grand Island has threatened
to try to suspend all mandatory student fees if the conference
Still pending in the Legislature is LB 1271, a bill which
would cut off mandatory student fees at state-supported
colleges and universities.
Some members of the ASUN Legislative Liaison Committee
fear the conference might prompt legislative approval of the
From the beginning, conference supporters have contended
it would be idealogically balanced.
Their claims were recently backed unanimously by
members of the Interim Arbitration Board (IA9), a group set
up to review controversial expenditures of student fees.
Conference speakers include liberals Bobby Seale, chairman
of the Black Panther Party, and civil rights attorney William
Kunstier. Conservatives include former Supreme Court Justice
Thomas C, Clark and newspaper columnist James J. Kilpatrick.
Conference organizer Dennis Berkheim said Wednesday that
despite a' two-month delay in planning the conference, all but
one major speaker have signed contracts.
Berkheim said Jerry Rubin, co-founder of the Yippie Party,
has not returned his contract, but has given verbal assurance he
The two-month delay was caused by the Board of Regents
freeze of conference funds in December, and by the wait for
the IAB go-ahead. '-
The ASUN senate scheduled a meeting
Wednesday afternoon but fourteen senators did
not attend. Four of them called in sick.
the 20 senators present couldn't conduct
business because a quorum of 24 was needed to
legislate. According to ASUN President Steve
Fowler, Wednesday was the second time since
September that there hasn't been a quorum.
"A number of senators seem to be losing
interest in working on the senate," Fowler said.
'This ought to give you some idea of what this
body will look like if the new constitution is
approved in the student election," he added.
The new constitution would change the
form of student government to a 15-member
Fowler announced there would not be a
senate meeting next week. Yippie Jerry Rubin
is scheduled to be speaking at the East Campus
Union. Some of the senators want to listen to
his address instead of meeting, the student
ASUN press secretary Michael "0 J." Nelson
said it is traditional for the senate not to meet
during campaign week. Some of the senators
get tempted to make loud noises for the benefit
of the press and the business doesn't get done,
Concerning the dormitory visitation issue,
Fowler said it was "interesting" that the
administration was able to alter its policies.
"It says something about the value of mass
THE DAILY NEBRASKAN
confrontation," he added.
Sen. Steve Christensen said Wednesday that
members appointed to the student court have
not been approved by the senate 30 days prior
to the election as called for in the present
constitution. The senator said he intends to
take the matter before the student court.
"You just can't violate the constitution any
time you wish," he stated.
Fowler said the appointments would have
been made earlier but all the executives were
tditor in chief
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THURSDAY, MARCH 2, 1972
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