I'm a Prison Mom Part 3
The years continue to pass and my son remains in prison. Not looking for sympathy just wanted to provide another insight into prison life in the US...
...so far. This is part 3 in an unknown amount of articles. Somehow it's cathartic to write about it. There are so many of us. We don't discuss this in our daily lives yet our loved ones on the inside are always on our hearts. In Illinois alone, there are almost 45,000 inmates in the IL Dept of Corrections. This doesn't even consider the additional number of inmates in federal prisons (FBOP) in IL.
My son is doing as well as can be expected. He is just over halfway thru this. We have become immune to many things since this all started. We are polite and quiet to all CO's (correctional officers). In the waiting room where you sign in there are often visitors who either weren't aware of the dress code or ID requirements and are sent out to travel down the road to the small town Walmart in hopes of finding something that conforms to the dress code. The CO's have all the power: they determine how rigorous the pat-down and search process is and whether you get to visit at all. They also control your loved one's life so it pays to be polite. Whatever happens in the waiting room eventually can filter down to how they are treated.
We visit often and are fortunate that he is only 113 miles down the road, that we have cars, gas, money and time to visit. Many people don't.
Has anyone heard of video visitation in the prison system? Sounds great, doesn't it? The prison system installs a video system so that families can have a video visit either at home or at a special kiosk nearby. The pluses for this system:
- Ease for the families - especially true for long term sentenced inmates. As the years pass, your relatives and friends age and it gets harder and harder to get to the prison to visit. Also, if you visit with little ones, it is hard to keep them content with nothing for them to play with and in many prisons they are not allowed to do anything but sit in a chair, they are not allowed out of their seats.
- Cheaper than driving sometimes hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles if your loved one is in the federal prison system (FBOP). Many prisons are located far from cities. Few have mass transit available nearby as they are in small towns and more rural environments. Crime is more prevalent in the cities so more inmates are from the bigger cities versus the farm towns.
There are only negatives if this REPLACES in-person visits. I live in a rural area where there is no mass transit and most people own cars. The prison where my son is doesn't have video visitation and we would use it only as an extra way to visit, not to replace an in-person visit.
Our son is one of the fortunate ones. At a recent visit he told me that he was very lucky that he came from a good home. He went on to tell me that many of the guys in his prison came from single-parent households where the parent was either addicted or doing something illegal, were abused as children, products of the foster care system or simply were homeless and on the streets from a young age. Some of the guys have been "down" so long that their families have died or their their families have disowned them. Many don't have commissary money so my son goes to many meals simply so he can give his food away to someone that is hungry. Life "inside" without commissary can be bleak. Many guys have a "hustle" where they do tasks/chores or provide a service in order to get commissary.
I'm also a volunteer prison visitor for our statewide prison activist group. In this capacity I go with others to visit prisons to try to reform the system. I go quite often as they don't have a lot of healthcare visitors. You meet and talk with so many prisoners. So many issues: some small and some insurmountable. In one visit I met a guy in his 50's now who was sentenced to life without parole (LWOP) when he was 14. He'd been down for >40 years. Now with the new legislation that juveniles can't be sentenced to LWOP, he was up for possible parole. But...he was scared - he had been in prison for almost his entire life. He had held prison jobs and was currently a tutor (highly respected position). However, he has never held a cell phone, driven a car, worked on the outside, paid bills. His family was either dead, or had long since forgotten about him. He was located in a prison many miles from what used to be his home and he had no contacts. While legislation is great that helps to release some prisoners, more support is needed on the outside. Just one of the more frustrating aspects of this adventure.
So - I'm going to see my son tomorrow. There is a Christmas tree in the waiting room now and the mural is almost done in the visiting room. It's just another Christmas in prison.
When Your Adult Child Makes the Headlines...For the Wrong Reasons
Part 2Last edit by Joe V on Dec 27, '17
About traumaRUs, MSN, APRN Admin
Joined: Apr '00; Posts: 52,454; Likes: 25,138
allnurses Asst Community Manager, Advanced Practice Nurse; from IL , US
25+ year(s) of experience in Heart Failure, Nephrology, ER, ICUDec 27, '17I am glad you continue to share and I know it cannot be easy. The curious and prying eyes, some whom are only that and not at all concerned or aware of the very real pain behind it...
I read frequently about prison ministry (and I am not referring to a religious thing as much as a humanitarian ministry...I have no religious affiliation). I have a few books that I have enjoyed. I did my literature review for my MSN on a prison diversion program that has healthcare workers and police departments working together to attempt to keep the nuisance types of offenses committed by undertreated mentally ill individuals out of the prison system and funnel them into a system more in tune with their unique needs. I had no idea how awful for-profit prison systems are until I did my literature review. I had no idea how much of our inmate population is made up of the mentally ill and how completely detrimental the environment and how totally at risk they are there. I also had no idea how many good souls end up on the inside, behind bars, for a one-time mistake or lapse in judgment.
This is verbose and I apologize. I just wanted you to know there ARE people out there who have no connection to the prison system watching with concern and wanting to do more. I am sending you love and light.Dec 29, '17Thanks for your very kind and knowledgeable words.
It isn't easy but I want people in general to be aware that when someone goes to prison, it affects us as a community. Over 95% of current prisoners will be released back into society at some point or another. So, as a society we should care what happens because research and just common sense tells us that if we release people from prison who have no education, no job skills, no therapy in accepting responsibility - they will re-offend.
I've visited nearly every prison in IL now and I can tell you that at least in IL - we need to do something. I would think that all the rest of the states have this same issue.