Rashad "Bluejay" Gilbert
Travis County, Austin, TX
Rashad spent four months waiting to see a judge, and ten more months in Travis County Jail. Despite maintaining his innocence, he accepted a plea bargain in order to return to his life and support his family.
I was living in a low-income place. I was 19 or 20. I was struggling financially, I had a family and two kids, my stepson and my daughter. Me and my girl, we were planning on getting married soon. I went to jail, and all of that just fell apart.
We both worked at Whataburger. I worked nights and she worked mornings. So we both had that. We traded the kids off. We had everything planned and working out good.
They beat me up, threw me in jail, ruined my life—and it ruined her life, too!
With me gone, who is there to cover half the bills? Who is there to take care of the kids? Now she has to find a babysitter to go to work. How is she going to do that? We already had all the assistance, food stamps and all that, and we’re already still struggling, so where are we going to turn now? We’re trying to fight to the top, and you just took away half of everything else we’re working for!
She lost the apartment.
She lost the car.
She lost everything.
And I lost everything because that was my stuff, too.
The kids had to be separated. She ended up moving all the way to Arlington, it was chaos. And that kind of drove her crazy, too. Me leaving and her losing everything, slowly... everything we built and worked for was gone. I know that was hard on her.
She had to suffer with me. Eventually, I think her suffering turned into anger and resentment towards me, because I wasn’t there to help her. I think if this hadn’t happened, me and her would be married right now. She would be in school and I would be working, and our kids would be well taken-care of. We would probably be in a duplex, two cars… that’s where we were headed. Four years later? That’s where we would be.
There are systems set in place as far as funding prisons and jails, and there are corporations working together to imprison people, to earn money off them. Like, if I want to sell you toilet paper, I know you’re going to buy it. You need a supply of it, so there’s a constant demand. It’s the same kind of system, but with people.
They know people have to go to jail, and they want a constant supply of bodies behind bars. So they’re going go find all kinds of new ways to put people in jail, to send them there for tickets and little things like that. To supply people to the jail: there’s a business behind it.
They go after the low-income people. They consolidate us all in one area, then they target that area. They send all the police there. So we’re the ones going to jail. It’s a circle of fuckery. If they can make a dollar off of us, they will. I had a bond of $25,000. It was ridiculous. I couldn’t afford it.
They are not in any big hurry to get you to a trial, to get you to a judge. They make money off of you sitting in there. They’re being funded to feed you, to clothe you, to house you.
I was supposed to be going to court over and over, two or three times a month I’d get scheduled and then reset. I asked why, and they said, “Your lawyer is getting paid every time it gets reset.” He’s getting paid, and I’m sitting in here?!
You don’t have any rights in jail: you are an animal. You can’t do nothing about it. One time I was fed—they would put the food through a food chute, a box in the door. One time they pushed my tray thru and it fell right on the floor. I was like, Hey, can I get another tray? All my food just fell on the floor. Y’all dropped it, so it’s your call.
He’s like, Nah, pick it up off the floor. It’s yours, it’s there. If you refuse to eat it, then that’s a refusal.
And I’m like, But you’re supposed to feed me! You really want me to eat the food off this dirty floor? Y’all are gonna keep me from the meal?
They’re like, We gave you your food. It’s right there.
That’s how they treat you. Who’s there to police the police? Who’s there to call? Nobody. We need something like that.
I’ve seen people with 106 degree fevers and nobody’s doing anything about it. They’re just lying there in their beds. Obviously a nurse is coming by and taking their temperature, then just saying, Yes, he has a 106 degree fever. But not doing anything else. You are supposed to rush somebody to the hospital for that!
Some of the nurses and guards do want to help and understand, who will go out of their way and above and beyond for you. Those people are very, very appreciated. If a new inmate comes in and tries to mess with a good guard, that inmate will get put in their place by everybody else.
When you’re sitting in jail, they have you between a rock and a hard place. They’re like, "We’ll release you in two weeks if you sign for 30-year probation!" You’ll be like, where do I sign? You just need to get out of there and get back to your life.
I have a life outside of these walls. You need to let me go.
They need to incriminate real criminals. Stop the discrimination based on race, and if this person dresses a certain way. Stop degrading people and tearing people down within the system.
If the system had a heart...but right now, the system has no heart. It’s just a zombie going around killing people, destroying lives. And it has no remorse.
The people who are within the system need to experience the roles reversed. They need the judges to sit in jail, the lawyers to sit in jail, to be in the position they put us into. If that was possible, they would understand. If they could actually live in our shoes for even a little while, get an understanding of the point of view of the person on trial or the prisoner, get a closer connection so they could have an understanding of what our lives are like, then they will develop love. They will want to help people, want to make things better out of that understanding.