Monday, 2 July 2007

Chapter 30 - The Watch House

“If it's illegal to rock and roll, throw my ass in jail!”
Kurt Cobain

August 5th 2000 6:30pm

They transferred me from the Valley Cop Shop to be processed at the Roma street watch-house. The cops were flippant and seemed to find me amusing, though I wasn’t sure why. They asked me some questions took my clothes and gave me a set of prison browns which included a brown t shirt, shorts, track pants and jumper. They were all synthetic.

“Have you ever tried to kill yourself Dave?”

I hesitated, “Oh yeah a few times” I would later regret my honesty.

“Oh yeah how long ago was that?”

“Few years back”


“I am also a vegetarian can you supply suitable food?”

“Oh sure you’ll get whatever you want” the cop smirked. These guys were nothing like the warm likeable characters you see on Blue Heelers.

I was then lead through a series of locked doors into the large holding cells (see diagram). I was locked in a cell with a couple of other guys, one of whom was a pomy backpacker who had got busted for drunk and disorderly.

“I was havin a few lagers with the lads, you know nothin too wild and we left this pub and we was havin a laugh you know, bollocking around and then this…….”. My entry interrupted his story.

“G’day mate”

“How are you doin.”

His fresh tan and casual attire marked him as a tourist, he seemed hyped and somewhat excited by his experience.

After having a chat to them for a while, a cop came and got me and told me that I was to be transferred to a different holding cell.

They took me to the observation wing, because I had admitted that I had previously tried to kill myself. Apparently it is a policy in the watch house, it allows them to observe the prisoner and make a judgement as to whether they are mentally stable. However, it was a humiliating process, I had to strip and instead of browns I was given a white nightie that was laced up at the back and locked in a padded cell with one other inmate. It was another example of being punished for having a problem, this punishment was delivered under the guise of care.

I was escorted to the observation cell by a tall solid young cop dressed in blue overalls and boots, wearing glasses. He looked like Clark Kent. Before I was locked in the cell I said to the guard

“Hey do u have anything I can read”

“No, just get into your cell”

“What about those national geographic books on the floor there” I pointed to some magazines lying on the floor outside an adjacent cell. This was an example of the disdain with which I was treated, it was a small thing, but it reverberated through my soul.

“Yeah all right, just hurry up” the cop said impatiently.

Lying on the thin foam mattress dressed only in a white gown and undies, I looked over to the other side of the cell to see a figure curled up on the floor in much the same garb as me. Silent and still, I wondered what had he done? Why was he here?

I spent the night in my cell reading crusty old national geographic mags and watching Creflo J Dollar preaching. At this moment I watched the tele-evangalist do his thing and I could not help wishing that God would help me and release me from bondage. Creflo implored his audience to “Repent and ask for God’s forgiveness, the lord loves you but you must seek his love, so come on right now, stand with me and ask god for forgiveness, oh dear lord please…..”

I stood with him and prayed, prayed because deep down I was afraid, afraid of what the future held, afraid of being in gaol.

In the morning my room mate awoke bleary eyed, looked over at me and went straight back to sleep.

A little while later they brought in our breakfast.

After breakfast my cell mate introduced himself.

“How ya goin mate, Garys me name, but call me Gaz .” His hair was tangled and matted.

“How ya doin, Gaz, I’m Dave”

“Good ta meet ya Dave, should be outa here soon, get me fuckin browns back instead of this fuckin nighty they give ya.”


After an interrogation by a Doctor, nurse, and coppers, regarding my mental health they decided that it was safe to transfer me to a normal unit.

They asked me things like “Are you sure that you are not having any thoughts of self-harm or suicide?”

“Yes I am fine, a bit disheartened by my surroundings, though who wouldn’t be .”

“Do you feel that you might want to harm yourself in the immediate future?”

“Well that’s hard to say, I mean I might eat poorly, drink too much, and have unsafe sex, but I think they are all off the agenda at the moment., except for the poor eating, the food in here sucks.”

They kept me in custody because of the fines I had not paid, and the federal police warrants. In the morning I was taken from the main watch house cells to the, cells that hold people for the court which is contained in the watch house.

My family did not supply any kind of legal support to me and as a result I was lead into court in browns, handcuffed, standing behind a glass wall. The people in court stared at me disdainfully. I had a public defender who didn’t give a shit and so I had no chance. The magistrate declared I was guilty and so I was convicted and given a criminal charge for the possession of heroin. The penalty was yet another fine, which I had no money to pay so it was straight to gaol for me.

What a contrast this was to my last court appearance. But how absurd it was to be sent to gaol for unpaid fines. That was the only reason I was detained.

We were locked in a confined space that held three cells, with two men in each cell. We shared a shower and TV between the six of us.(see figure)

It was 10pm and that means it’s lock down time. All inmates are confined to their cells. My first cell mate was Jack.

“So what are you in for?”

Jack rubs his palm across his forehead and winces well “Well they say that I was committing fraud with my business, I have a company called Rio and we import cigarette lighters, you know the ones they are like mini blow torches and you see them at petrol stations. Oh and we import bongs, you know for smoking marijuana, I don’t like but is very profitable. But anyway they charged me with fraud, but we are fighting the charge you know, we didn’t do anything wrong, it’s the bloody Australian Tax Office, I’m just a business man, not some criminal.”

Our conversation was interrupted by loud banging on the wall from next door and some indecipherable threats. I felt my stomach churn and watched as Jack grimaced. The cell walls were made of what seemed like a fibreglass material.

We continued our conversation and tried to ignore the intermittent banging on the wall, which I thought might portend some horrendous act of violence. Or perhaps the blokes in the adjacent cell could hear our conversation and wanted us to shut up either way I felt disturbed by this minor incident.

“So Jack when did you first come to Australia?”

“I came over here after the Tiananmen Square massacre, I was one of the student organisers, you remember this incident?” I nodded

“Well I came to study in Australia and you may remember the Australian government gave visas to those people who feared persecution if they stayed in China….”

In the morning Jack and I were woken up by a loud voice reading off a list of names. Jack’s name was read out. “All those people we have called upon will be getting transferred to R&R today, grab your stuff and wait at your cell doors.”

Lucky bastard getting out of here, I felt jealous, how much longer would I have to wait in this hole.

Mark was an indigenous bloke he told me that he was married to Ruby Abbott, a relative of the famous artist Albert Namitjira. Mark had long curly dark hair and a full beard, with blazing eyes, set within a worn and weathered face, he was missing a few teeth and when he spoke it was an effort to understand him.

I remembered an incident from years earlier at the Zoo, a club in the valley.

“You wanna play a game wit me, I’m Ruby Abbott, ya eard o me, I’m an artist, cum on sweety ‘ave a game with old Ruby hey, wadya say?” She placed two one dollar coins on the edge of the pool table.

“My shout, cum on darlin, you scared a old women might beat ya, haha.” She grinned broadly

I looked at the dishevelled aboriginal woman before me. She must have been about 45 and she was very drunk. I felt embarrassed to be picked out from my group of friends, and I didn’t want to appear foolish. So I just tried to ignore her hoping she would go away. I regretted that now, now that I realised she was a person of significance.

“How ya goin mate, the names Shane, but me mates call me Nicko,” He smiled a broad smile and extended his hand toward me. He oozed confidence and was keen to let everyone know how important he was. But it felt good to have him in our section his positive energy and never say die attitude lifted everyone’s spirits.

“How do ya get Nicko from Shane?”

“Me last names Nicholls“

“Can you believe these fuckin screws mate, I just wanna make a fuckin call to me fiancé and these cunts just fuck you round no end. But they wont fuckin get to me, I’ll do the fuckin time standing on me head mate.” Nicko kept pacing back and forth.

There is a strong sense of us and them; it creates a sort of camaraderie among us. The cops are on a power trip, they keep you waiting at every turn and look at you with barely disguised contempt.

“Oh yeah I know Peter and Michael Andre they’re old mates of mine you know, shit I been partying those with those boys for years man. You know the wicked E’s, killer speed and good ol Charlie, we did all that shit together.”

Nicko had said “You’ll be laughin once you get to R&R it’s a palace compared to this fuckin shit hole, you get ya own slot, TV, shower, toilet, fucking privacy and some fuckin smokes, jeez I’d kill for a smoke, juz kidding boys” he laughed heartily.

Another one of my cell mates is Mick. I enjoy having a laugh with him he grins readily and wants to be helpful. He has a long mullet style haircut and he is missing a couple of his front teeth. He has been to gaol before and it is no big deal to him.

“We should get a slot together, ay mate..?”

The cops bring in a young bloke, his clear open face looks out of place here.

“Thank fuck, me boss is going to bail me out, got busted DUI last night after going to the pub, just fuckin knocked off from this big job and I have few fines that haven’t been paid. But luckily the boss said that he would cover it and let me pay him back.” He looks

“Must be a good worker hey, he doesn’t want to loose ya”, Mich remarks.

“Yeah spose that’s it”

I listen to his story and wish that it was me, why are people coming for him, yet on-one will come for me. It hurts to feel so rejected, poor me, what a pathetic fool.

Cameras are watching all the time, we get no sunlight trapped in this dark hole. I feel bored, abondoned, starved, cramped and afraid of what is to come.


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