Home for the Holidays... from Jail

The term "family reunion" takes on a whole new meaning for people who are returning home from a period in jail. At the Los Angeles County Jail, hundreds of people are released daily with little more than the clothes on their backs.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Now for Christmas and Hanukkah weekend, a little feature about something to be truly happy for, family reunions. Now these can be a little difficult for all kinds of reasons--the things that have happened, the things that haven't happened. And for real reunions, someone has to travel. That keeps getting harder. But just think how complicated things can be for some who find themselves in a real jam. And that is why we are leaving the studio for a few moments.

(Soundbite of traffic)

CHADWICK: And this is where we've come. This is the release point for the Los Angeles County Jail.

Unidentified Man #1: Yeah, yeah.

Unidentified Man #2: Whoo!

Unidentified Man #3: Cool! ...(Unintelligible).

CHADWICK: Hey, so you just got out of jail?

Unidentified Man #4: Yes, sir.

CHADWICK: Congratulations.

Unidentified Man #4: Yeah.

CHADWICK: And how long were you in for?

Unidentified Man #4: Oh, just for a couple of days, just doing my--I didn't go to my AA meetings, that's why.

(Soundbite of traffic)

Mr. JOSH HERMAN (Bail Bondsman): There's murderers, there's traffic offenses, there's gangs, there--you name it, they've done it, and they're here. You know, from unpaid parking tickets all the way to killing someone.

CHADWICK: We've got a guide. His name is Josh Herman. He's 34 years old. He's a bail bondsman. Now maybe you've never been in enough trouble in your life to actually know what a bail bondsman does, but that's Josh's business.

Mr. HERMAN: I don't ever remember me wanting to do anything besides this job. I went with my dad when I was a little kid. He used to take me to the jails. He used to take me with him to meet clients. I had been doing this my whole life. By the time I was doing it as a job and this is what I was doing, I just assumed that's what I was supposed to do.

(Soundbite of traffic)

CHADWICK: Now this is downtown Los Angeles, and Josh's main office is in Beverly Hills. He's known as bail bondsman to the stars. He has a lot of clients in the entertainment industry.

Mr. HERMAN: Most of my large bonds have been somebody that you would definitely know their name.

CHADWICK: So how important is it to be like--you know, I mean, you're a physically imposing guy.

Mr. HERMAN: When I'm making mistakes or I don't do my job correctly, then the physical aspect comes into play more. Most of the time it's a desk job. It's an insurance job. Yeah, when I make a mistake, that's when I have to change my hat and become, you know, a bounty hunter rather than a bail bondsman.

CHADWICK: What's a mistake?

Mr. HERMAN: I'd write a bond for somebody that then doesn't go to court or doesn't want to show up, or I have to go and pick up or arrest. It's a mistake. In my eyes that's a mistake, you know? But what I do to fix that mistake is I get them back to court. I don't just let them go, and I don't, you know--I don't make them, you know--I don't allow them to run away and not live up to their obligation to the court. I make sure that they do live up to that obligation one way or another, either going back to jail, me bringing them back to jail or them going on their own.

CHADWICK: Have you brought people to jail?

Mr. HERMAN: Many times.

CHADWICK: You catch somebody and...

Mr. HERMAN: You catch them, you go to the--you know, you find them, you catch them, you put handcuffs on them and you bring them right here to the county jail.

(Soundbite of whistle)

Unidentified Man #5: Yeah, I got out but I got to go back. My brand-new shoes, brand-new pants and all that is missing. They gave me something else.

CHADWICK: An official Web site says this: The Los Angeles jail is the largest in the free world. There are other holding facilities in Los Angeles aside from this place, but this complex here probably holds 10,000 people at any one time and there's a waiting list to get in--and, of course, a waiting list to get out. Any time is a good time to get out, but this is Christmas weekend.

(Soundbite of traffic)

Mr. MICHAEL BRITTON(ph) (Former Los Angles County Jail Inmate): Sure, sure.

CHADWICK: I'm a radio reporter.

Mr. BRITTON: OK.

CHADWICK: Could I just ask you your name? My name's Alex Chadwick.

Mr. BRITTON: Michael Britton.

CHADWICK: How long were you in?

Mr. BRITTON: I was only in there for a couple of days.

Unidentified Man #6: Yeah.

Mr. BRITTON: We couldn't be in there on--Christmas is coming. We can't be in there.

CHADWICK: What--can I ask you what they were holding you on?

Mr. BRITTON: Felony possession of marijuana.

(Soundbite of traffic)

CHADWICK: You got out of jail for Christmas?

Mr. BRITTON: Yeah. Yeah.

CHADWICK: So what are you going to do?

Mr. BRITTON: I'm going to go spend some time with my son and stuff and stay out of trouble.

CHADWICK: Yeah. All right, good luck.

Mr. BRITTON: They're not going to get me again.

Unidentified Man #7: (Spanish spoken)

CHADWICK: The inmates get out in groups of four or five, and Josh stands beside me watching them. `That guy's too weird,' he says. `Don't bother. There, go talk to him.'

Mr. GABRIEL SYLVA(ph) (Former Los Angeles County Jail Inmate): All right.

CHADWICK: Can I--my name's Alex Chadwick. Could I ask...

Mr. SYLVA: OK.

CHADWICK: ...your name?

Mr. SYLVA: Gabriel.

CHADWICK: Gab...

Mr. SYLVA: Inmate 8857328. Man, I'm glad to be out.

CHADWICK: Gabriel Sylva.

Mr. SYLVA: Yes, sir.

CHADWICK: So how long have you been in?

Mr. SYLVA: Oh, I've only been in a week, but that's long enough for me.

CHADWICK: What's it like in there?

Mr. SYLVA: It's crowded, packed; long waiting process.

CHADWICK: So what are you going to do? You're out. It's Christmas weekend. What are you going to do?

Mr. SYLVA: I'll go home with my little boy and celebrate Christmas and New Year's and hopefully take care of my problem and never have to come back over here again.

CHADWICK: Good luck.

Mr. SYLVA: Thank you very much. Have a good day.

(Soundbite of traffic)

CHADWICK: And now a couple of women are getting out.

How long were you stuck in there?

Ms. ANNETTE JACKSON (Former Los Angeles County Jail Inmate): I was in there for four days--four miserable, obnoxious days. Very terrible. I slept on the floor. I was cold. I'm pregnant. It was awful. The people and the guards are awful. I'm happy I'm going home.

CHADWICK: Can I ask your name, please?

Ms. JACKSON: My name is Annette Jackson.

CHADWICK: OK. And what were you in for?

Ms. JACKSON: Oh, a speeding ticket.

CHADWICK: A speeding ticket?

Ms. JACKSON: Yeah.

CHADWICK: You're pregnant?

Ms. JACKSON: Yeah.

CHADWICK: Well, it's Christmas. You got out of jail. You've been there for four days.

Ms. JACKSON: Yeah.

CHADWICK: What are you going to do?

Ms. JACKSON: I'm going to go home and don't speed anymore--that's what I'm going to do--and take care of my grandchildren.

CHADWICK: Yeah?

Ms. JACKSON: Yup.

CHADWICK: You have grandchildren?

Ms. JACKSON: Yup.

CHADWICK: And you're pregnant?

Ms. JACKSON: Yup.

CHADWICK: Well, merry Christmas to you.

Ms. JACKSON: Thank you.

Unidentified Woman: It's been an experience, let me tell you.

CHADWICK: Have you ever been in jail before?

Unidentified Woman: No, a few times before this, but not anymore. This is it.

CHADWICK: Yeah.

Unidentified Woman: I'm done. Completely done.

CHADWICK: Well, good luck to you.

Unidentified Woman: Good luck to you, Alex Chadwick. Merry Christmas to you.

CHADWICK: Merry Christmas to you.

Unidentified Woman: We appreciate that. Thank you.

(Soundbite of traffic)

CHADWICK: It is Christmas. Tomorrow night is Christmas Eve. People are getting out; they're going home to spend the weekend with their families. But tomorrow night, Josh Herman, are you going to get a call?

Mr. HERMAN: I guarantee that I'll work Christmas and Christmas Eve. As long as I can remember, I've always worked those two days.

CHADWICK: Josh Herman, bail bondsman in Los Angeles.

DAY TO DAY will be right back. I'm Alex Chadwick.

(Soundbite of "I'll Be Home for Christmas")

Mr. BING CROSBY: (Singing) ...will find me where the love light gleams. I'll be home for Christmas if only in my dreams.

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