Greeson: Want to be more comfortable in jail? Don't go to jail.

Greeson: Want to be more comfortable in jail? Don't go to jail.

January 24th, 2019 by Jay Greeson in Opinion Columns

There's lots of chatter around these parts about the folks who wear badges.

Certainly, it's not the best time for the leadership of the Hamilton County Sheriff's Department or the Chattanooga Police Department.

There are issues that need to be addressed.

But amid the DA investigations and the video evidence and the paper trails that make the 99.4 percent of great officers shake their heads and feel the backlash of public doubt, we need to make sure all of the inquiries remain pointed in the right direction.

Jay Greeson

Jay Greeson

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

With that, news that two of the five people arrested during last weekend's Women's March must not derail or be lumped into the serious conversations of police relations.

According to Times Free Press reporter Rosana Hughes, two transgender women were among the handful arrested, and the duo complained about their treatment at the county jail. One transgender person was not placed in the cells designated for men or the cells designated for women. The person was placed in a side room away from other prisoners, and that apparently was biased.

Yes, getting what the rest of us might consider preferential treatment now is unfair. OK.

There are a large number us who don't know which bathroom would be acceptable to transgender individuals, so it's a little hard to blame a sheriff's deputy for trying to err on the side of kindness. And legal deniability. (Yes, we're betting that Jim Hammond and his staff are working right now on a hard-and-fast policy, but if random Deputy Fife put a transgender person in the wrong cell and something happened one way or another, the civil attorneys looking to cash in would be lined up from the jail to the Olgiati Bridge.)

Considering we are dealing with a person who was identified both as Maddie Boyd-Nix and William Nix in the news story, do you really think if the good folks at the sheriff's department had put Nix with the men or the women that Nix would not have had an issue with being in what could easily have been the right or wrong cell, depending on interpretation?

Are we truly to believe that sitting alone in a "an open seated area, similar to a waiting room, that is located in a secure area within the jail next to the booking and fingerprinting area," as HCSO spokesman Matt Lea described it, is cruel or harsh compared to going into the general population?


Here's Nix's quote: "There [were] other prisoners, both on the male and the female side, just walking around and wondering about me because I was more or less getting 'special privilege' by not being put in a jail cell. It singles people out, and it makes the other prisoners think 'What is wrong with this person?'"

No, that kind of treatment does not make other prisoners in cells wonder, "What's wrong wth this person?" If I had to guess, it makes them think, "Dang, that person sure got a break!"

Nix of course went on to say the entire ordeal made her feel uncomfortable, which seems strange since the sheriff's office went beyond expectations in an attempt to make Nix as comfortable as possible for someone who has been arrested.

(Side note, and I pray this never happens: But if something ever happens that I need to go to the Hamilton County Jail, can I reserve that waiting room? I'd really appreciate it.)

Here's the general question that comes to mind: Those folks broke the law. They are entitled to certain protections under the Constitution, and I believe in my soul that 99-plus percent of the folks enforcing our laws live and die by those protections.

But, as my Nanny would always remind me, there's no way to get in trouble after 2 a.m. if you are home by midnight.

So, if you are worried about the puzzling paths to proper housing in the jail, here's a noble idea: Don't get arrested.

Contact Jay Greeson at and 423-757-6343.

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