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Trish Vradenburg

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Confessions of a Jailbird

Posted: 04/20/11 02:59 PM ET

Much to my surprise, I was one of the 41 people arrested on April 11th -- along with the Mayor and six members of the DC council. DC is now being told how to spend its own taxes by the Federal Government. We stopped traffic, sitting in the street in front of the Hart Senate Office Building. The police surrounded us, handcuffed us, loaded us into a paddy wagon and suddenly I was back in the 60's.

I expected that, like all good cop shows, it would be over in an hour. Boy, was I wrong. Arrested at 5:45 PM, I wasn't sprung until 3:45 AM. I had a lot to learn about incarceration.

Jail was truly dehumanizing. They take away you license, your Blackberry, your Armani mascara. No longer a name, I was reduced to # 12. And they didn't even serve food. We were there for 10 hours so I was expecting a buffet. All we got was water and a port-a-potty. # 11 wrestled me for the one cough drop I had smuggled in. She was 6 ft-1 and in good shape so I didn't stand a chance.

The first place we were incarcerated was a cavernous warehouse with more spider webs than Charlotte has ever seen.

The Capitol Police were extremely courteous, but unable to get the process going for a mass arrest. 41 people -- that's a MASS. What about the 600,000 residents of DC (more than Wyoming) who don't have a vote? We're talking a really big mass.

The sole fingerprint scanner was broken so they had to take us all to another location. But how, when? No one seemed to know. We looked at them, they looked at us -- this went on for hours.

What they did enforce was that there would be no fraternizing between women and men. I have no idea what they thought would happen. No one was contemplating dating. Did they think putting a man next to a woman would spark some ingenious break-out plan?

These policemen also don't seem to have much of a sense of humor.

For instance when we were taken in the paddy wagon to the second jail, I wriggled out of my handcuffs -- and may have encouraged others to do the same -- and put them on my head.

The officers were not at all amused. I mean, c'mon, lighten up.

Sadly, prison is also not as glamorous as it looks on TV. I was put in a cell with three other women -- two of whom were councilwomen -- with a steel commode, and I was pretty sure we would all hold in until next year.

So the DC 41 (that's how many we were) will probably not accomplish what we want.

President Obama threw DC under the bus for the budget -- "John, I will give you DC abortion," he told Boehner. Why not? We have no vote. No power. No need to be worried about DC. So money DC raises with taxes will neither be allowed to go towards poor women who want abortions nor a clean needle swap program. Was it worth getting arrested for? Yes. We have the right to decided what to do with OUR money. DC isn't something Obama can give away.

So my virgin fingers have been printed, my mug has been shot and they are now are in the system. Thus, it will be much harder for me to commit a major crime and go scot-free. Here's a tidbit I didn't know: the first mug shot taken is with your arresting officer. Officer Jablolonski and I, good buddies by now, were both smiling wide (something you are not allowed to do in the big mug shot by yourself) and I told her that if I could get a copy, I would use it for my Seasons Greeting card.

But when I finally flew the coop (prison jargon) at 3:38 AM, and I hugged #11 and #13 goodbye, there was my glorious husband, waiting on the other side of the parking lot with open arms. I ran to him and he swirled me around -- safe at last -- it was an MOW (movie-of-the-week) moment.