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Contra Costa County Jail

30 Glacier Dr
Martinez, CA 94553
(925) 646-2441

Interview with Tom and Barbara

JM: How long was your sentencing for?
Tom: I received 4 years with halftime credits available pending good behavior. I also received credit for 1,050 days time served.
Barbara: 5 years 8 months with credit for almost 2 years in the county jail

JM: Did you spend time in a holding cell after your sentencing? If so, what was that like? If you didn't where did they they take you instead?
Tom: The holding cells in Martinez are very overcrowded and sometimes violent places. I am a pretty big guy with a reputation for being able to fight really well so I did not personally have any problems. For those not so fortunate though the holding cells can be a pretty dangerous place. There is a lot of people having withdrawal from various drugs and alcohol and people sleeping on the floors. It is a nasty place despite good attempts by staff to maintain a clean environment.
Barbara: It was dirty, smelly, very overcrowded (No room to sit). I sometimes would not make the 12:30 bus back to the jail and would have to wait another 4 hours for the next bus

Life On The Inside
How you'll spend your time at Contra Costa County Jail depends a lot on what you were sentenced for and who you choose to be friends with. There is a very strong gang presence in the inmate population at Contra Costa. The staff does a good job separating the gangs into different housing units. There are 9 separate housing units all together, but even with the gang segregation there is still a high risk of violence occurring within the walls of this jail.

Become a Trustee if Possible
The best position to put yourself in would be to be awarded trustee status. According to a former inmate, the trustee pod is the best place to do your time. Not only are you given more freedom to roam in a safer environment but you're also given better food and more access to leisure equipment like televisions, ping pong tables and a spacious recreational yard.

Of course, to be a trustee means you would have to be serving time for a non-violent offense. You'll also have to maintain a perfect working and behavior policy or else you will find yourself transferred out into one of the "rougher pods."

For the general population, the food is all prepared by way of microwaves. As you can imagine you're not going to get much taste or variety that way. There is a commissary available to inmates. Once again, the trustee world is the better one to be in as they are provided with fresh fruit and veggies.

There are also many educational and vocational programs that inmates can take advantage of while working off their sentence. Participating in these programs isn't mandatory, but it will certainly help improve your chances for early release.

Good Behavior Policy
In the California penal system, an inmate can earn 2 days for every 1 day of time served. Essentially this can cut your sentence in half. If you volunteer to serve on the fire crews, you will be given even more time off. The best way to avoid having your good time taken away is to stay away from drugs, fighting and the homemade hootch called "pruno."

Visitor and Phone Policy
Each housing unit has their own phone. However, if you should happen to find yourself on lockdown you'll only be given one hour outside of your cell to shower, groom and make a phone call. There is no guarantee you'll even get on the phone. There is a $1.25 connection fee for every call. Thereafter the charges are all collect.

Visitors can arrange to see an inmate throughout the week at various hours depending on where that inmate is being housed. Each visitor will have to go through a background check before being approved for a visit. They are also advised to show up at least 30 minutes before the scheduled time.

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