This is an excerpt from Snakes and Ladders. Book is currently in development with Affirm Press. Follow Angela J Williams on Facebook for more excerpts and news on publication.
The date on the warrant isn’t a mistake. It was from 1997 but was reissued when the system went computerised between 1999 and 2003. The crime I was arrested for had happened back in 1996 and I’d received a sentence of fifteen months’ weekend detention. I rocked along to five months’ worth when my addiction got out of control.
Weekend detention at Emu Plains was like playgroup for drug addicts and criminals. ‘Weekends’ we called it, like a one-star caravan park. We’d all turn up on Friday afternoon with snatches full of drugs, playing cards in our pockets and enough cash to purchase drugs from other people’s snatches when ours ran out. We’d shoot up drugs, snort drugs, smoke drugs – maybe mow some lawns – and then all jump a train to score drugs at Cabramatta after unlock on Sunday afternoon. No one ever seemed to get caught, not even the girl who climbed the fence every Friday night and smuggled back clinking bottles from the pub to keep her spirits up.
Weekend detention got me really committed to being a junkie. Me and Weekends were a good team, if being a junkie is a game you can win. When I started there, I was using $30 a day worth of heroin. By the end of five months I was pumping $150 into my arm every single day. I had a shot before I got on the train from Newtown to go to Weekends, another in the train station at Emu Plains, somehow mumbled my way through line ups and searches. Ate dinner, had a shot, threw up dinner. Rinse and repeat. By then, things weren’t too good outside of Weekends either.
I switched teams. I went to rehab, blowing off the rest of my sentence.
Rehabs are all about fixing things. Three months into the twelve-month program, team Rehab and I decided to act. Off I trotted, with a worker from the rehab, to Balmain Police Station to ‘confront the issue’.
‘I need you to arrest me,’ I said to the desk sergeant, a fat man with greying blond sideburns and crumbs on his lip. ‘I’ve got outstanding weekend detention.’
‘Can you come back after lunch?’ he replied.
I came back after lunch.
‘Just give me a tic,’ he said after hearing my case, wandering out the back of the station. Several tics passed before he returned.
‘I’ve looked into it,’ he seemed positive, unlikely to arrest me right then. ‘Your sentence has been commuted to rehab. If you finish the program, you’re home free.’
I believed him. I was a fool. Thirteen years later I discovered that he didn’t even enter my details into the COPS (Computerised Operational Policing System) database. Thirteen years I’ve been walking the fine line between prison and freedom. Forgetting to look right wasn’t a crime but it was enough to cross that line.