I'm spending a lot of time these days editing the book, chopping out sentences and paragraphs and pages to move the narrative along. As it turns out, there are a few occasions when I'm on the fence about cutting things--some of them will get chopped and wind up...well...here. So without further ado, some over-written scraps for the wasteheap of excess verbiage...
After a few years of being a public defender, you realize that are two states of being in the world: In and Out. In meaning in jail. Out meaning free. Somehow, against this essential dichotomy, every other distinction pales. Black and white, rich and poor, vicious and passive all fade next to the essential question of self-determination. Some of us are able to walk where we like, rest or move at will, eat or try to when we are hungry. Others are manacled, move when told to, eat on someone else’s schedule, and are shipped like chattel to points of another’s desiring. Of my first three cases of the morning, James, is out, Jesus and Antoine are in.
Up in the Bronx, once you’re in, you’re pretty much in. And once you’re out, you’re pretty likely to stay out. A physicist might imagine in and out like phase change points. Moving water that few degrees between –1 and 1 or between 99 and 101 takes a lot more energy than anywhere else in the otherwise linear progression of the energy /temperature graph. And just as it takes a lot of energy to put someone in—the lawyers fight like hell, the families cry, there’s extra paperwork to do, and it takes a lot of guts to let someone out: the prosecutors fight like hell, invoking the crying of the victim’s family, and there’s extra paperwork to do. As a result, the culture in the Bronx, tends to disfavor the capricious changing of this essential state of being. And so, unlike other places, in the Bronx, In and Out tend to be fairly static categories, set early in a case and pretty much constant until the resolution of the situation.
In Manhattan, by contrast, people are walking out and stepping in all over the place. When the prosecution misses a deadline or fails to be ready for trial for a long time, judges will actually consider releasing a defendant. Of course, when the prosecution becomes ready again, the same judges have no compunction about putting them right back in jail again. This fact suffuses the Manhattan courthouse with an edgy vigor predicated on the accurate notion that no one is safe. Clients who come to court free, often leave locked down behind the steel mesh windows of a blue prison bus. (Bud Goodman here?) In the Bronx, on the other hand, things feel much more casual—the possibility of imminent incarceration more a vague reality than an immediate fear.