Plenty of people are chewed up and spit out by American prisons all the time. Few of them are chewed up, spit out, bitten into, swirled around, digested, regurgitated, and eaten yet again quite like Candie Hailey has been in the last several years.
Hailey spent three years in Rikers Island awaiting trial after being arrested for attempted murder in 2012. She maintained that she was a victim in the scuffle for which she was charged, and the court agreed with her, finding her not guilty in 2015. By that point, damage had already been done. Hailey’s jail term was characterized by psychological torment and outbursts at guards, and she spent nearly two entire years in solitary confinement. “My soul died,” she later told the Associated Press of her time in jail.
Now, she may go back to jail for crimes she allegedly committed while imprisoned for those initial charges—charges of which she was found innocent. As of this week, Hailey is back on trial, this time for allegedly breaking a chair used to scan inmates’ body cavities at Rikers, the AP reports. She’s charged with felony criminal mischief—which carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison—as well as several misdemeanors.
And indeed, Hailey—who has been diagnosed with several mental disorders including borderline character disorder—had a chaotic and sometimes violent stay at Rikers during her three-year stint awaiting trial. She attempted suicide several times, and regularly cut her wrists and banged her head against her cell wall. In February, she described to the AP the perverse strategy she adopted for escaping solitary: Misbehave badly enough to be sent up to temporary mental health treatment, only to be eventually sent back to solitary for the misbehavior that got her out. “I would take the feces and I put it all over me. I said, ‘If you’re gonna treat me like a dog, I’m gonna act like one,’” she said.
To extend her canine metaphor: by trying Hailey today, New York is acting like an owner who beats his dog, then stomps on its head for crying too loudly. Candie Hailey had her life completely wrecked by years being of punishment for a crime she didn’t do. She shouldn’t be punished again just because she didn’t take it with a smile.