4520 Reading Road, Suite B
Rosenberg, TX 77471
April 2004–I walked through the automatic doors dressed in a gray herringbone suit with my head up higher than Whitney Houston’s voice, and showing more confidence than Mohammed Ali. The walls were painted white, but not a divine white; it was a dirty white like highly cut cocaine. There were blue plastic chairs leaned up against the wall throughout the room that made you feel just as uncomfortable and nervous as sitting in the passenger seat of car being driven by a drunk driver. Everybody in there except for the employees was dead silent, and had a look of determination on their face, but I could see the paranoia through their skin deep facial expressions, just as they could see the paranoia through my skin deep confidence.
As I sign in, the secretary sitting behind the bulletproof glass took my ID card, prints out my monthly probation form, and takes my forty dollar money order. I hastily fill out the paper and sign that I haven’t violated any terms of my probation. All I have to do now is sit in the uncomfortable blue chairs, and wait for my Probation Officer to come get me. I hear the door open, and a voice softer than Downy fresh clothes says “Matthew.” It was Ms. Echols, my probation officer. I ask her how she is doing, and I used my Ken Lay smile to cover up my paranoia. She asks me if I’m ready to take my drug test, “of-course,” are the words I use as my rebuttal of choice.
When I get inside the testing area there are three bathrooms on the left with mirrors surrounding each toilet like the boards around a hockey rink. To my right was the computer for entering the drug testing fees and cabinets containing all the equipment necessary for drug testing. This room was so clean that it sparkled like a cloudless night sky filled with stars. I notice that there is a girl getting her hair cut by a different Probation Officer, and my body becomes paralyzed.
The Fort Bend County Supervisions and Corrections Department is a probation building. All people placed on probation in the Fort Bend Judicial District must attend this place. The building was placed in Rosenberg , a city which has a dominant Hispanic population; you will see Fiestas on this part of town, with a dollar store about every 4 miles down Avenue H, which is the main road going through Rosenberg . The Fort Bend County Supervisions and Corrections Department is located about a quarter mile off Avenue H on Reading Road . Sixty-percent of all individuals found guilty are sentenced to probation(http://isuisse.ifrance.com/emmaf/base/2lessons2.html, page 1). It is places like Fort Bend C.S.C.D. that will send approximately 352,500 probationers to jail every year for not successfully completing probation (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pandp.htm, page 1). Of the 352,500 people going to jail, about 60,000 of them will be going to jail because of a marijuana violation (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/ppus02.html). That is 60,000 people going to jail for smoking an herb that is less harmful than tobacco, and less dangerous to be under the influence of than alcohol. The government’s reason for putting these people on probation is to rehabilitate them. My probation officer, Ms. Echols, said “I’m pretty sure that about 95% of my probationers resume their drug habits after they get off probation (Brandie Echols, 18 Feb. 2004 ).” These peoples’ futures are destroyed because having a marijuana conviction on your record will greatly affect job opportunities in the future for all of these individuals. It is hard to understand how probation works unless you have went through it, so I will give you an example of how probation has changed my life.
In Fort Bend County Supervision and Corrections Department, my name is not Matthew Hinton in the records, it is number 103242. I am on probation for a Class A misdemeanor Possession of Marijuana charge. It is Class A and not the usual Class B Possession of marijuana charge because I wasn’t just caught with marijuana. I also had a digital scale, baggies, vile containing 38 hydroponic marijuana seeds, one pipe, one lighter, and an expensive Tupperware container to keep the herb fresh. I was lucky I wasn’t charged with intention to distribute. My lawyer had negotiated my punishment from being 24 months probation, with conviction, to 12 months differed adjudication, with no conviction. I basically would loose my freedom from May 13th, 2003 to May 13th, 2004.
What most people don’t realize is that probation is trap. The lawyer and the district attorney will tell you that it’s better because you will get the crime dismissed after you finish probation. Well to an uneducated kid that sounds like they will just through the case out and pretend it never happened. Dismissed means that you were not convicted of the crime, and you were not innocent either. So when I apply for a job in the future, my record will show “Class A Misdemeanor: Possession of Marijuana: Charge was Dismissed.” I still have this charge on my record, and anyone can figure out that since I was not innocent, that its’ pretty obvious that I committed the crime. So having a crime dismissed will affect your future just as much as getting convicted. If would have known this before giving my decision to whether I wanted 12 months differed adjudication, or two weeks in Fort Bend County Jail. I would have chose jail, because after I get out, I am a free man without having to take drug tests and pay money to the government once a month. Unfortunately I was scammed into taking probation, and now I have to suffer the consequences of giving up some the freedoms I love for at least a year.
The main things you have to do while being on probation is pay $40 a month to your probation officer and be subjected to random drug tests. There are two types of drug tests, urinalysis and hair testing. The urinalysis test cannot detect most drug two to three days after they are used, but it can detect marijuana for a slightly longer time (http://www.omegalabs.net, “Hair Testing Overview”). The hair test usually can find drugs in your system if you have used them within the past ninety days, if no head hair is available, then body hair can be used (http://www.omegalabs.net).
…I notice that there is a girl getting her hair cut by a different Probation Officer, and my body becomes paralyzed, but I gain back my composer quicker than a drunk getting pulled over by a cop. My Probation Officer Ms. Echols asks the other probation officer if she could hair test anyone. The Probation Officer said that in order for me to get hair tested, my court papers must be worded correctly, and I must be on probation for at least one hundred and twenty days. I told Ms. Echols to get my court papers so I could see if they worded correctly for me to get a hair test. As she was getting the papers, I could feel my luck running out quicker than a cocaine abuser’s bank account. Of course I was right; the papers said “The probationer will be subjected to random drugs tests throughout the period that he is on probation.” Since the paper didn’t specify any kind of drug test, which meant that it was perfectly legal for Ms. Echols to hair test me. I start getting desperate, so I ask how much the hair test costs, and she tells me that it costs seventy-five dollars. I try to convince them that I can’t afford the hair test, but they just replied by saying “you can make monthly payments if you don’t have the money now.” The other probation officer asks me why I am so against the hair tests, and if it was because something would show up, and if something will show up, that it would be better for me to tell them now. I freeze, and I can’t decide what to do. As I am thinking, I am tapping my leg with my hand, but as I become more stressed out over the seconds the tapping becomes harder and harder, and soon enough I am beating my leg like a red headed step-child (you see when most people are around cops, and are close to getting busted, it is hard to make logical decisions, in fact it is almost impossible. That is why whenever you talk to someone that has gotten in trouble with the police, all you hear them say is “only if I would have done this…” The fact is that you just can’t think straight, so their will always be something that you could have done better.). I ended up confessing to smoking marijuana, and they told me that since it was my first time messing up, they would not send me to jail, they would put me in a another drug education class, and possibly extend my probation.
The mistake that I made was confessing to smoking marijuana. What I should have done is not confess at all, and waited for the test results to come back. Then after the test results come back I should start making excuses for what I failed for. I ended up failing for marijuana. If I wouldn’t have said that I would fail for anything, then I could probably have just said that I was around people that were smoking, and I might have gotten some second hand smoke in my system, and Ms. Echols wouldn’t have thought anything of it. Ms. Echols ended up sending my case to court because I admitted to smoking marijuana on my statement. I should have listened to the advice that I give almost everyone, “when in doubt, don’t say anything, because you always have the right to remain silent.”
It makes me sick to know that I am facing a year in jail because I enjoy smoking an herb, and the fact that I got tricked into accepting probation knowing that if I violated it I would be facing a lot more jail time than if I just went to jail in the first place. If it were not a crime to smoke marijuana, then I would not be in the situation that I am in now. I am not a threat to society, I am not a child molester, and I am not a murderer. I am a full time college student with a 3.33 GPA. I am a full time employee of The Men’s Wearhouse. I am a person that pays taxes, and I am a person with a future. My future is in jeopardy because of some stupid law that prevents people from using a drug less life threatening than both alcohol and tobacco. Why can’t our society understand that victimless crimes like smoking marijuana should not be crimes? Why can’t our society understand that not every person that smokes pot is the stereotypical drug user that is homeless, and a threat to society? Why can’t our society understand that smoking marijuana is the sole decision of the person using it, and that it doesn’t harm anyone else but the user? Most importantly, why can’t our society understand that this ridiculous law against the use of marijuana is ruining the future for hundreds of thousands of working class citizens per year that contribute to the economy, volunteer for homeless shelters, and do just as many good deeds as everyone else in this misguided nation? Fort Bend C.S.C.D. is the place that is about to destroy my future. The one thing I have learned from it is that I will never accept probation as a punishment.