Mar. 25, 2017

Who's Your Daddy?

One Saturday morning, while I was working at the jail, I went into the kitchen to get some ice. Several of the inmates, about six of them, were there eating their breakfast. Since they worked in the kitchen, they were allowed to eat their meals there after all the trays had been passed out to the different cell blocks.

It was a slow, lazy, Saturday. No one seemed to be in a hurry for anything. Occasionally, the inmates would address me whenever I entered the kitchen so it was not out of the ordinary for them to ask me questions or even joke around with me.

While talking to the kitchen supervisor one of the inmates asked me what I was doing there on a Saturday. “I work here,” I answered. “What are you doing here?”

“I work here too,” he replied laughing.

“Uh-huh, but when I finish work, I can go home to my house. Why can’t you go home to your house?”

He took another bite of food and answered, “Because I’m in jail.”

All of the others nodded their heads in agreement as I asked, “But, why are you in jail?”

“Child support.”

He then went on to give me a song and dance about how he had been laid off at the Steel Mill. His ex-wife was still gouging him for $800 a month child support for four children and he couldn’t pay it anymore since he’d lost his job when the mill closed down.

As he told me all of this I thought of when he first came to jail. He was bragging about shelling out $46,000 cash for his Cadillac El Dorado just weeks before his incarceration. I didn’t say anything. Instead I asked the guy sitting next to him about his reasons for being jailed.

“Same thing; child support.” He, too, gave me a sob story about why he couldn’t own up to his responsibility.

The third and fourth inmate, agreed, they were there for reasons of delinquent child support and offered up a reason as to why they couldn’t pay for their children, either.

When I got to Ulysses, he didn’t wait for the question, he just spouted out, “I’m not gonna lie. I flat out ain’t gonna pay da bitch!”

His admission was so candid it caused a giggle to escape. “Why not, Ulysses? Aren’t they your kids too?”

“Yeah! Day be mines but she spends all dat money on her drug habit and I can’t afford her habit and mines too. Dats why we not together no mo. Someone’s drugs had to go. I choose hers.”

Malcolm, the last inmate, stood to take his empty plate to the sink. Of all of the inmates in the kitchen that day, he was probably the most articulate and well spoken. “Do you want to know why I’m here?” he asked, rinsing his plate.

“Sure, Malcolm. Why are you here?”

“Child support,” he answered simply and then included, “But I don’t have any children. I’ve been sterile my whole life.”

“Oh,” I said, thinking I understood. “You took responsibility for some woman’s child and now she is wanting you to continue with child support payments?”

“Nope. It’s not mine. I never met her or her little girl and they both agreed and explained that to the judge whenever we went to court.”

“What happened?” I asked.

Malcolm returned to his place at the table and continued his story. “They came and picked me up at work and I tried to tell the officer then that they had the wrong guy. When we went to court and my case was called, I stood up and the woman looked at me, then looked at the judge and said, ‘Who is that?’ Even the little girl said I wasn’t her daddy. There’s another gentleman out there who shares my name and date of birth.

“The judge ordered a DNA test at my expense even though they both told him they did not know me and never met me before in their lives. The test came back last Monday and it shows I am not the father. But, the judge said he’s not going to let me out until I finish my time or I pay the child support which is another six months. I hired a lawyer a couple of days ago to fight this.”

Ulysses was shaking his head as Malcolm finished his story. Without hesitation he said, “Man, Malcolm got screwed in da ass before he got to the jailhouse!”

I had to walk out on that note. I did feel bad for Malcolm, if his story was really true. However, when I came back to work on the following Tuesday, Malcolm had been released. I asked about him throughout the day and the officers confirmed his was a true story. Malcolm was really innocent and his lawyer had him released after charging the courts with false imprisonment.