I have never been to jail. Nor am I planning on visiting one of these fine institutions anytime in the near future. While the prospect of having to use a metal toilet is daunting enough, what really frightens me is the inadequacy of the justice system when it comes to getting out of the slammer. After a recent visit to observe the D.C. court system at work, my fear is multiplied. When I left for the H. Carl Moultrie I Courthouse, I envisioned the place as a temple of justice with smooth-talking lawyers delivering eloquent speeches to dignified juries. But first-hand experience revealed a system that played more like a trashy talk show than a court of law. Having never served on a jury or needed to defend myself, I had always pictured the courtroom as an orderly institution where the cases moved along steadily as the audience sat hushed in the back. But after seeing the real thing at work, a more fitting description of the courtroom would be total chaos. With court employees bumbling about and dropping papers, the place felt more like Texas justice than Law and Order. Maybe I watch too many movies, but it seems to me that we have always been presented with an articulate and intimidating judge who commands the room, keeping long-winded lawyers and rambling witnesses in line during the course of the trial. But the judge I witnessed was a chronic mumbler who had enough trouble just controlling the background noise. Perhaps the entire day is best summed up by the people who were sitting on the row in front of me. I don't think I had ever seen actual prostitutes that close up before. But there, sitting in front of me, were two living prostitutes accompanied by a huge, hulking man who obviously was their pimp. With both of them dressed in tight clothes and wearing more make-up than Tammy Faye -- these were no church-going women to say the least. A more puzzling addition to each woman's ensemble was the lipstick kisses smattered about their necks and faces, looking like they had been attacked by someone's granny. But when they began to plant kisses on each other's faces, the cause of all those lipstick traces was revealed. Later that afternoon as I was walking out of the building, the two hookers were passing through the metal detector at the front door. While waiting for their purses to come through the scanner, they explained their situation to the security guard, "We got kicked out of court for kissin' each other." The old man replied, "There ain't nothin' wrong with free love." As the two walked towards the escalator, another woman in line remarked, "I don't think they's sistahs." I guess that's justice Jerry Springer style for you.


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