The other night I watched my client as an officer told her he would have to put her in a segregation unit for the night (which involves being handcuffed). She protested at first but he explained the reason and she got up from her chair and placed her hands behind her back. “Okay, I got it,” she said. He walked out of the room and she followed him, hands still poised behind her back, and turned to present her waiting wrists to the other officers who held the handcuffs. There are many sad things about her life but somehow this gesture was the saddest to me, her casual familiarity with preparing her own hands to be cuffed before anyone asked her to.
One of the stranger sights on a segregation unit is an Italian-American having an animated conversation while in handcuffs. One hand will gesture freely while the other follows limply behind.
A while ago I was walking to meet my client in the non-contact office (like you see in movies; two little boxes with plexiglass between). He was sticking his hands through the little slot in the door to let the officers un-cuff him. His wrists, pudgy from his antipsychotic medication, suddenly reminded me of Lily’s pudgy baby wrists that I pull sleeves over every day. His mother used to pull his sleeves over his arms, I thought. She cared for him like I care for Lily. Of all the thousands of ways we are all human together, I had never noticed this one before. Every person in the jail once was so young and helpless that someone helped them pull their sleeves over their arms.