Jail Booking Process
If you are arrested in Multnomah County you will be brought to either the Multnomah County Detention Center (MCDC) or the Multnomah County Inverness Jail (MCIJ). If you are cooperative during your arrest, the officers will remove your handcuffs and turn you over to the jail booking staff. If you are not cooperative, you may be restrained or confined in a cell. All of your personal belongings will be confiscated and held until you are released. You may be required to remove your shoelaces, which some jails require in order to prevent inmates from hanging or strangling themselves or others during the booking process.
The booking process varies by jurisdiction. Occasionally, people will be loosely chained or cuffed to benches or chairs during the booking process. Often though, you will not be restrained and will sit in a common area with other arrestees who are also in the process of being booked. There may or may not be a television. Usually, there is very little in the way of entertainment.
In addition, there will be a few pay phones from where you can make phone calls. In order to use the jail phones in Multnomah County, you will need an access code. This can be obtained when you are processed by Recognizance, or if you file a form during your detention. Using jail phones is costly and can range from $0.25 to $1 per minute, so it is advised to keep your calls short and concise and avoid discussing details of your case.
The first step of the actual booking process is your mugshot and fingerprints. The jail staff will take complete fingerprints of you. If you have been previously arrested, your fingerprints will be in a database and this will allow the jail staff to identify you. If you provided false information to the police, this is often how they will find out and you could face additional charges of lying to police about your identity. You will also get your booking photos, which involve one photo directly of your face and one while your head is facing to the right. In Multnomah County, all jail booking photos are uploaded to the public database on the sheriff’s website, and will immediately be procured by mugshot websites, social media, and other interested parties. As such, it is advisable not to do anything to draw attention.
After you have been booked and identified, you will be processed by Recognizance. Recognizance is where jail staff will evaluate your charges, your record, and other factors in your case and process you for jail or release. Sometimes, people who are charged with comparatively minor crimes will be released on recognizance, which means you will be released without having to post bond after you agree to appear in court to answer the charges against you. This is known as being released “on own recognizance” and is more likely to happen to individuals with clean or relatively clean records. In general, the majority of those who are arrested will be processed for jail.
If you are processed for jail, the staff in Recognizance will tell you that you shall receive “housing.” You will be interviewed by Recognizance staff, during which you should get a pin to access the jail phone system. If you do not get a phone PIN you will not be able to make phone calls. At this point, if you are fearful of having a cellmate, you can request solitary confinement or to be alone in a cell. Conversely, if you don’t want to be alone, you can also request a cellmate. Keep in mind that jail staff has no obligation to honor your request either way.
If you get a cellmate, be aware that whoever your “cellie” is, it is someone who has run afoul of the law. Some jails will evaluate charges of those processed into jail and avoid putting low-level offenders with violent inmates, but other jails will not bother at all. In Multnomah County, the most violent offenders are typically housed only with those charged with similar crimes and low-level offenders are typically placed with others in similar situations, but this is not always the case.
Finally, after the booking process is complete, you will be led to your cell. But first, you will have to change into jail clothes and submit to a strip search. Many people find this to be the most difficult part of being arrested. You will be handed jail-issued clothing. What type of clothing it is will vary by jurisdiction, but in Multnomah County, it includes pink boxers or pink underwear and pink undershirts. Your clothes will also be clearly labeled with “JAIL” or similar description. You will take off all your clothes until you are completely naked. Then you will be ordered to turn around, bend over, spread your legs, and cough while the presiding officer observes your anus. This procedure is known as “squat and cough” and is done in order to check for contraband – some inmates have smuggled in drugs or even guns by hiding them in their anal cavities, but historically it was also done to humiliate. You could potentially be asked to “spread your cheeks,” as in spreading your butt cheeks apart. If you are a woman you may be subject to additional checks of your vaginal cavity. Once the strip search is complete, you will be led to your cell. In Multnomah County, the strip search is done in a room with multiple inmates sorted into individual cubicles where you are shielded from having to observe other inmates, but in other jails, you may be strip searched alone or in a group.