Sheriff Joe, Whatta Ya Know?
Oh and I do know. I know that he’s wrong. I’ve been working on homeless issues for decades. But to give the sheriff credit he did welcome the opportunity to learn more. He said that if I connected him with local homeless providers he’s talk with them. And, he took advantage of our time together to discuss the things that he’s most criticized for – mostly because I asked him how he’d like to be punished for being thought bad by other people. I tried to make the connection that he punishes people based on an assumption of guilt, but he’s not punished the same way, he gets his day in court first.
He tossed the logic of my argument away, but he did stick up for those many things for which he feels he’s most unfairly criticized, “I took away their R-rated movies… I took away their coffee… I have some great religious programs, 500 volunteers… I started a high school in the jail… we have GED programs, Read To Me Mommy, Girl Scouts Behind Bars. I can go on and on. But you don’t think any media will talk about that because they’re nice programs.” The sheriff thinks he’s picked on for ridiculous things, “So I did pink underwear, that’s been very famous. Wanna know why I put them in pink? Because they were stealing the white underwear.”
I didn’t ask him how poor a person would have to be to steal underwear. Clearly the color of the underwear had become more of an issue than the need to steal it. In fact, the sheriff said, “It’s a soothing color.” When I questioned pink being soothing he responded, “Yeah, of course. And yeah, cancer… everyone’s using pink.”
Underscoring his lack of convention the sheriff brought up, “I do understand I have the only female chain gang in the history of the world.” I quipped, “And the only child chain gang too though right?” And this was the saddest answer of all. “Well yeah. I thought I’d take a lot of heat, nobody seemed to care.” It’s sad not for what it says about the sheriff, but for what it says about the rest of us.
The HEAR US Inc.-sponsored EPIC Journey will stop in Austin, TX on Monday, 2/18 (event open to the public, free, 9:30-10:45 a.m., University of TX, Utopia Theater, and Tuesday, 2/19 (UT classes), The 5,000-mile tour concludes in Charleston, SC, College of Charleston, 6 p.m. (event open to the public, free, in room 129 of the School of Sciences and Mathematics Building, corner of Calhoun and Coming Streets).