I was sitting on the city train and listening to the conversation of two men behind me.
“Did you just get out of the Remand Centre?” the one asked.
“Yep. You too?”
I looked up and out of my window I could see the Remand. Its tiny windows are like keys, but they seem to be hopeless keys that will never fit the lock. Hearing them speak about the Centre, and seeing it up ahead I was filled with emotions which I cannot quite understand, but I felt them in my gut. The Remand Centre which was built to house 340 prisoners now holds upwards of 800. I have heard that the human right activists have spoken harshly against the conditions inside. It is understaffed and as I gazed up at it I felt sick. This isn’t right, I thought. The train headed underground and the Remand was no longer in my sight, but it was still in my heart as I thought about the horrible treatment which is experienced there. The say that once people are finally sentenced they get two or even three days taken off of their jail term for every day they were in the Remand Centre because the conditions are so horrible. I heard the one man mention that he had gotten off “Scot Free”. I don’t know what he did, but it made me hurt for those who end up at the Remand even though they are innocent.
The train stopped and the Transit Police got on. “Tickets, transfers and passes” they demanded. I searched through my bag until I found my transfer to show to the Policewoman. She continued down the aisle. When she got to the men who had just gotten out of the Remand one was up front confessing “I don’t got one”. The other man searched in vain through his bag hoping to make it appear as if he had lost his ticket. They were both escorted off of the bus at the next stop.
I think it is just a fine if you fail to pay for the train, but I have come to realise that some people have no money, they cannot pay off a fine. If the fines don’t get paid I can only imagine that these men will end up back at the Remand.
The thought made me angry. I wished I could do something about it. I considered giving them my transfer; I didn’t know what else could be done. I wanted to offer them grace, but I wasn’t sure what it would have cost me.
The simple fact is that the train costs money. They didn’t pay, so they deserve the consequences. That is what is fair. That is justice... right?
I don’t know. It doesn’t sit right with me. The problem is far greater than the surface. It goes back further than I’ll ever know. Sending them back to the Remand seemingly with just perpetuate hopelessness. I am not convinced that incarceration is beneficial or even just, but I fear that I don’t have the better option. I just wanted to offer them grace, but maybe it wasn’t mine to give.