This hits very close to home for me. I was also arrested for felony battery and held by the SFPD. (The San Mateo County sheriffs, who police Caltrain, were the ones to make the arrest, but I was taken to the SFPD jail.) That's the only time I've ever been in jail, and it seriously fucked with me. I always thought that I would be able to handle jail/prison - hah, wrong! It's a completely dehumanizing experience.
When I first got there, I was thrown in the drunk tank and left for hours. (After a false felony battery charge, why not a false drunk in public charge?) Like Ian, I couldn't find out anything about my situation. The guards refused to answer any of my questions. There was a phone in the cell, but it was next to useless because everyone I called was unable to navigate the byzantine collect call system. (I briefly wrote about this in a previous comment in an earlier story.) The only things to do were to ponder how truly fucking scary it would be if I were eventually tried and convicted or stare at the ceiling and wonder if the stains were feces or peanut butter from the disgusting sandwiches they provided. I'm a self-confident, mentally-stable person, but that started evaporating disturbingly fast.
Things got a little better for me once they moved me from the drunk tank to a regular cell. I finally made some progress on getting bail. They took my mugshot and started processing the fingerprint/background checks. At this point, at least there was a light at the end of the tunnel. While things were looking up for me, at this point I started seeing the more fucked up shit other people were going through. The majority of the people in my new cell were making phone calls to anyone who would answer (this phone made local calls free) trying to scrounge together bail. While I was mad as hell that I was throwing away >$2,000 in bail (10% of the $25k that Ian mentioned), I'm well-off and would have spent far more to get the hell out of there. This was a Friday night, and you wouldn't get arraigned until Monday morning if you couldn't make bail. It was heartbreaking to watch these guys make call after call for bail money that they just didn't have. In retrospect, maybe I should have helped them out, but at the time I was doing my best to keep to myself.
The low point for me was one point when I saw a number of guards rushing to some situation. I couldn't see what was going on, but it was a few minutes of a lot of shouting and one voice yelping in pain. I then saw 5-6 officers manhandling an inmate to lead him to a cell. They were forcing him to do some reverse crabwalk sorta thing with his wrists chained down by his ankles, all while he's clearly in pain and protesting that he didn't do anything. This is when it really dawned on me how much these corrupt fucks can control your lives. I was confined to this cell of thick glass and concrete because of a lie. Once in jail, there's virtually nothing stopping them from using further lies to justify abuse. I have no clue if the inmate actually did something wrong or was being abused by sadistic guards, but I sure as hell wasn't going to believe the guards (who are sheriffs) just after being falsely arrested by one of their fellow officers.
Eventually my bail went through, the background check came back clean, and I was going to be released soon. For some reason I don't understand, they again transferred me to another cell. When we got there, it was full of what I stereotyped as mentally ill homeless people. One dude was lying on the floor drooling and shaking. I could not deal with this and froze up. Ignoring that this man clearly needed to be in a hospital instead of a jail, all I could do was ask to go back to the previous cell. Thankfully, it wasn't a sheriff but an administrative employee moving me around at this point, and he was sympathetic enough to take me back to the previous cell. That was the only shred of humanity I saw from anyone who worked at the jail, and it's not a coincidence that it came from someone who isn't a police officer.
I totally admit that I am incredibly privileged and had a walk in the park compared to pretty much everyone else who goes to jail. I wasn't beaten by the cops. I didn't have any bad interactions with any of the other accused. I spent a total of ~10 hours in jail. When I showed up for arraignment, the charges had already been dropped. (#crimewhilewhite) Most people go through far, far worse experiences. But that's the point. It was less horrible for me, but it was still easily the most traumatic experience of my life. There's a great quote from Dune Messiah: "Between depriving a man of one hour from his life and depriving him of his life there exists only a difference of degree. You have done violence to him, consumed his energy." Taking someone to jail is doing great violence to them; sentencing them to years or decades of prison is a truly awesome amount of violence. However, the majority of the population has no concept of this power and is completely irresponsible in their delegation of this power to corrupt institutions with little to no oversight.
I don't know how to end this, so I'll leave with two thoughts:
RIP Ian, and thanks for the first distro I ever installed
And, as always, fuck the police