Aug 20th

COMING SOON!

By Admin Cat AKA MrsB1948

Stayed tuned for details! 

 

One_day_Closer

Jul 30th

Entering Prison, Don't Panic!, my third post

By momwhosurvived

 

 

In my two prior blog posts, I told you how I felt and how I interviewed over 40 people who went to prison.  Here is how they said the process started.  There is plenty more to tell about their on going life in prison.  This is the beginning.

Often a group of people in jail go together to the first prison, so they usually were not alone when they arrived at the processing center.  Several interviewees also had relatives at the prisons they were sent to so they had someone they knew already there to help ease the process. 

 

Still, most reported being frightened at the start of their prison experience when they were dropped off at the processing center.  Usually the night before they left for prison, the jails kept them up most of the night with paperwork or some other busywork.  Some interviewees believed the goal was to exhaust them so they were more likely to acquiesce to everything when they got to the prison.

 

They travel by plane or bus to the processing center.  Once there, they walk a distance to their first stop.  Even though they reported being exhausted, several people I spoke with indicated they had to pull up all their emotional resources.  One female interviewee told me, there is no show of emotions allowed, no crying, you have to be tough and take it.  Another female interviewee said it made no difference that she had been to prison before and had spent 8 months in jail waiting and talking about going to prison, she was still terrified, but she just had to put on her big girl panties and push through it. 

 

At this point in the process, they are no longer part of a group, they felt very alone and scared. The officers bark directions to new prisoners and it is intimidating.  The prison is setting the tone.  New prisoners are told to strip, are looked over carefully to insure they don’t bring any contraband or untreated communicable diseases into the prison.  They are given clothing that identifies them as inmates, a pair of shoes, hygiene items and whatever else the prison provides. Usually, not much else.

If necessary their hair is trimmed and if it is an unnatural color, died back to a natural color. The possessions they bring with them are recorded, either given back to them, sent back to their family or destroyed. They are given academic tests, intelligence tests, medical tests, eye exams, x-rays, their background and paperwork are reviewed, and they are interviewed.  They provide the prison with a list of people they want to be able to call on the phone. They are identified with another set of finger prints, iris scans, and dental records. Some people reported this taking days, others indicated it took up to a couple of months.   Based on the results of the processing, they are assigned to a prison unit. Criteria includes the appropriate level of security, the facility does not house someone who is a known threat to them, and there are no familial correctional officers.  But while they wait to be transferred, they could be locked up adjacent to significantly more violent criminals.  They are not told when they will be transferred to the new prison or which prison it will be.  A guard just shows up and says grab your things you are leaving in an hour.  Yet, it is not unusual for it to take more than a few hours to start the journey.  A prisoner’s time is not particularly respected, and at that moment, they have plenty of time to waste.

Prisoners may be shackled to the bus seats then driven to their destination.  The ride can be a few hours or a few days.  There are limited opportunities to use a bathroom or eat.  There are insufficient drivers and guards allocated to each transport to make it a pleasant trip.  When someone is unshackled, everything has to come to a stop.  Usually they don’t move over the weekends, so they stop at local prisons and wait until Monday to move again.  They get minimal services during their stopovers.

 

When my son was first transferred, he was picked up in our county jail by a Texas prison bus and traveled through Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, and New Mexico to pick up other transferees along the way, and then finally down to Texas.  The trip was about a week.  He had the right attitude, he told us after he was settled into Texas and he could use the phone, that the countryside was just beautiful as he watched it from the window.  He hadn’t been to that part of the country before, so it was really nice to see everything.  He didn’t mention the shackles to us, and I didn’t realize what was involved.    

 

The timing of any transfers are kept secret because the administration does not want anyone interfering with the relocation.  Nor do they want inmates at the receiving prison to be expecting someone.   Sometimes a new inmate may have an ugly history with a convict in the new prison that might require retribution in the opinion of that convict. The administration doesn’t want to give them time to prepare. They would like to avoid unnecessary difficulties.  But word gets around the prison pretty quickly if someone arriving has a reputation that precedes them or if the new guy happens to be an existing resident’s relative or enemy.  Given the high recidivism rates and for some, the long waits in jail before pleading or going to trial, as new prisoners come through the yard, they usually find someone they served time with before.  Additionally, police focus on some neighborhoods, so several people I interviewed mentioned they knew people when they got to prison from the old neighborhood. 

 

One book I found years after my son returned home from prison, is Mr. Smith Goes To Prison, by Jeff Smith.  He describes his year in a minimum security federal prison in Kentucky after pleading guilty to fraud associated with his political race for state senator in St. Louis, Missouri.  He commented that as he arrived at his prison “one of the saddest things about prison hit me within minutes of arriving.  It’s the way in which new prisoners – most of them newly transferred from other prisons- treat their introduction onto the compound not unlike people on the outside might treat a high school reunion, greeting old friends from other prisons or from their hometown, updating one another on the time they had remaining.  It strikes a neophyte as incongruous, but placed with in a context in which two-thirds of inmates reoffend, it begins to make sense.  Very few of these men had ever attended a high school graduation, and many have spent the majority of their lives locked up.”

 

If there is anything in their commissary account, it is transferred, but may not be there when they arrive.  They are given a booklet with the prison’s rules and another introductory talk. The paperwork regarding their charges and specific needs are handed in separately and reviewed within a few weeks. They are positively identified, checked again for any contagious diseases, given various sets of clothes, usually up to 3 sets, minimal hygiene products, and are shown to a bed. 

 

Some prisons have cells, two to a room. Some prisons have, as one interviewee explained, warehouse space where there are a hundred or more beds in a room, others have cubicles where there is a bunk bed arrangement.  The beds have thin mattresses and are either made of bolt into the concrete wall or floor steel beds or pipe frame beds with a steel bed pan.  Prisoners may also have access to a small foot locker for their possessions.   Like the beds, most of the furniture in the facility is bolted down. In Arizona, and probably in other states, to avoid building additional prisons, they also use large tents to house groups of low level prisoners. The tents have heaters but maybe not air conditioners.  In Arizona, sometimes heaters are not the solution to weather problems.

 

It seems that for men under 40 or so, there frequently is an informal test that other prisoners apply.  Most male interviewees indicate that regardless of how they plan to act in prison or how they behave upon arriving, unless a very tough guy reputation precedes them, they are tested shortly after entering.    Somebody starts a fight with them.  It’s not a fight to the death sort of thing.  You don’t have to win the fight to avoid being picked on in the future, but you do have to show you are willing to stand your ground.  You need to show you aren’t going to make it easy for someone to push you around.  You also have to show you are not going to tell, or snitch, on the person you fought. Women interviewees indicated that it was different for women, they generally did not experience the same thing.  And older men said the word on the yard was to leave them alone. 

 

My son was tested, but only beat up a little.  He told no one, including us, until he was released.

 

Interviewees said the prisons are like small cities.  Besides biding the correctional officer’s directions, there was also politics among the inmates that shaped what people could and couldn’t do. The best way to stay out of trouble was to just stay out of the way.  Don’t get involved in the politics or the drama. Keep to yourself until you can tell who you can trust, and even then, be careful. Several of the interviewees used the expression “stay in your lane”, and you’ll stay out of trouble.  Everyone agreed there is a lot of gossip going on all the time.  If you want to stay out of trouble, best to walk away from the gossipers. People don’t like hearing someone say bad things about them, so when the opportunity comes around, there was often retaliation. They told me they just kept their mouth shut and watched what was going on until they got their bearings.

 

I originally suggested to my son to try to make friends.  I didn’t want him to be lonely and I thought friends would help him get acclimated. Apparently, my advice to my son, based on my experience in the outside world, was wrong.  Being friendly to everyone when you get there was not the right thing to do.

More next week. 

 

Jul 23rd

You Never Know, my second post

By momwhosurvived

 

For years, my stomach was in my throat and I was just a tiny bit shaky and off balance.  Everything that happened in life, good or bad was tinged by what was going on with my son.

 

Almost all the extended family lived far away so we only needed to make a few excuses over the years as to why he was never around.  I could not imagine how he could ever show his face to his family again if they knew. So I said nothing. How will he face them when he is allowed to leave the state after his ten year parole is finally over? They must wonder.  His grandparents feel bad that he has ignored them as they have gotten older. Maybe I should have told the truth at the beginning, but that would have just killed them. Certainly I should have. But it would have killed me too. Now it’s too late.  This is what television soap operas are built on, people keeping secrets, I know.  Each time I go to visit I try to figure out how to tell them what happened.  But it never seems the right time.  Things will come up in conversation about what a shame it is someone else’s kid got in trouble.  Much less trouble than my kid got into.  And, they, like almost anybody else will jump to conclusions and condemn the kid as a loser, an ungrateful, stupid hopeless bum.  I don’t want to hear that about my son.  I have hopes for him still. I love him. He isn’t a loser.

 

I remember an incident, over fifty years ago, I’m in my sixties now, my parents and I were driving through the Bronx, just north of New York City. At that time sections of the Bronx were like a war zone, totally dilapidated.  We passed by some buildings, or what was left of them, where people were going in and out of where a door should have been. People were dozing on the front stoop, with other people stepping over them.  The building had broken windows and uneven steps, terrible and scary looking to a ten year old.  I couldn’t believe anyone could live there! I didn't understand anything about drugs then. I said something to my father about it.  He said the bums live there. It was a nonchalant comment, but it stuck with me. Didn’t these people have people who cared for them so they would have a more livable place to be?  I didn’t want my son to be considered one of these people.  No one should be left in that situation. But they are. There are lots of people who have no one and nothing. And, I realize now, even if they do, sometimes it is very hard to help them.  Some survive, some turn it around, some do not. But I believe with all my heart, that having someone like you who cares for them will give them a better chance. Some where deep down inside, they know, they remember, they are loved. It should give them added strength when they are ready to fight back and get clean.   

 

Back to the recent past. I did not tell family members, but I did tell two long term friends who wouldn’t judge out loud.  They were probably judging, everybody judges, just not out loud. They kept telling me it will be alright. That’s what people say. They said that when we realized he was using drugs, when he did things that addicts do, like steal from us or run away from home, and they continued to say that when he went to prison.

 

My friends lived far away so I would not have to face them often.  Every once in a while, I needed to hear that optimistic it is going to be alright talk.  I’d ask why they thought that when things looked especially dismal, and they would say, he was always smart, he had good sense, he will get out of this ok.  I still pray they are right long term.  At this very moment, they seem to be right, but while the mantra is one day at a time to stay sober, it is also one day at a time that you are sober, and relapse is always a real possibility, and relapse leads to more bad choices. I’m a mother, I’m worried for my son. Worried, hell, at that time I was panicked and often hysterical.

 

Right now, America has woken up.  Or at least the media has and they officially proclaimed an opioid epidemic.  Right here I was going to tell you more about my son, but this is the internet, everything lives here forever, so details are probably not a good idea. Suffice it to say, many people feel it was the War on Drugs that so significantly increased the prison population over the last 30 years.  The police got grants to fight the war, they were given military type equipment to pursue it, and prosecutors got elected on their tough on crime attitudes which so often meant tough on drug offenders.  Prevention programs popped up, like D.A.R.E., drug abuse resistance education programs, but although they handed out awards for attendees participation in the class, it did not prove successful on reducing drug use. What we need is an effective program to help people after they have a problem but before they get a criminal record that will make the rest of their life more difficult. Sending people to jail, prison, or even just labeling them with a criminal record, is a very expensive option for the person with the problem, their families, and for society. Drug court alternatives are starting up, I hope they help.

My son did not get arrested for a drug offense, but he never would have done what he did if he was clean back then.  He got clean by his own efforts, before he went to prison, but after he was put on probation for his crime, and he has stayed clean. It is a testament to his personal strength that he decided enough was enough and then powered through it, not the criminal justice system.

Next blog will focus on life in prison. Not his life, he doesn't really want to talk about it. I interviewed over 40 people, and have been obsessed with reading everything I can and listening to everything I can about life in prison. I can't help myself, I'm a mother.  But we survived.

 

 

  

 

 

 

Jul 19th

New Member Looking For Support and Friendship

By Iárnvidia

I'm a new member here and am looking for friendship and support from other women as I strive to understand and provide support for my guy who is in prison. This is my first time in such a relationship, and I mean it when I say we are absolute soulmates. I really want this to work out as I know being together is the best thing for both of us. 

He and I spend as much time together as we can, talking on the phone for 1- 2 hours almost every day (every day when we can afford it!!), and we also write letters almost every day as well. I can't believe I've found someone who is so perfect for me, and yet occasionally we have issues related to the length of time he's been incarcerated and the vast difference in perspective between life in there and out here. I'd be most interested in talking with other women whose men have been incarcerated for a very long time, as mine has been in for 20 years (with a lot of prison time before that as well). 

As for me, I'm a naturalist, wildlife rehabber, heathen, and nature gal. I don't have any children, unless you count my many animal compaions. (I do.) I keep fairly busy taking care of animals and spending time outdoors. My guy is called Wulfram, and he's a lifer in prison, a dog trainer, and a Gothi (ordained Asatru priest). He's been incarcerated for 20 years and we've been together for about 7 months (as of July). This may not seem like a very long time, but I am convinced that he is The One. He feels the same. <3 

I know I'm neither wife nor technically family, and I hate to seem like a poser. Nonetheless, I would LOVE to be part of a supportive community that could help me understand some of what Wulf is going through and how I can best be a supportive influence in his life. I hope that I will be welcomed here and that I can receive advice, encouragement, and friendship from the other women on this site. 

Thank you so much for listening!!

Stella :) 

 

 

Jul 18th

The Last Taboo, My First Post about Prison

By momwhosurvived

There are no carefully guarded family secrets anymore, no skeletons in the closet waiting to be exposed, no deep dark secrets taken to the grave. Everyone shares everything now.  All the filters, gone.  Five years ago I don’t think anyone would openly admit there was alcoholism or drug addiction in their family. Not anymore. Now you can read about it on Facebook or on someone’s personal blog. But, maybe there is one exception. One shame that lurks behind eyes that have cried all night, alone.

 

Two years ago, on vacation in Costa Rica, I waded into the water of the pristine, clear, warm Pacific Ocean, surrounded by craggily rock formations on either side of a wide open, beautiful, sandy, hardly occupied beach. It was sunny with just a few puffy clouds in the sky.  A great break from reality. I was standing in the surf near a fellow traveler I met a few days ago on the tour bus.  After rushing around seeing rain forests, volcanos, and coffee bean plantations, this was the beginning of our two day total relaxation time. A wave engulfed us, she was pushed down by its force, then she popped back up, catching her breath. She laughed and told me, almost a complete stranger, she had a parent who was an alcoholic.  OK, good to know, I guess.

 

Most people would think that’s a weird reaction to getting tossed about by a wave. But unfortunately, I could see the relevance.  She felt unbalanced as the wave hit and then the sand was pulled out from under her feet as the water receded. A metaphor for how she felt when she lived with her problematic relative. I found that I could share with that wave impacted vacationer that I too had the gut wrenching experience of a relative who was an addict, providing a small bonding experience as we continued to go back to jumping the waves, and then ultimately back on the tour bus. But there was still one thing, one horrible thing left unsaid.  I could not bring myself to tell her, but now I’ll share with you, because if you are here, then you already know. That addict was my child and he ended up in prison. I did not have a spouse in prison, I had a son. Not as bad in some respects, worse in others.  I’m telling this story (there are more blog posts to come)  because enough time has passed and I can deal with it now. But I remember the pain, the confusion, the lack of understanding I felt about it happening to my family and the lack of believing that it was actually happening at all even as it was going on.  I did pinch myself, but it didn’t help. It was like being in a small boat in a gushing river with broken oars. The river current carried us along, and as much as we tried to stop it, the impending boat wreck starred us in the face and we could not avoid it. We tried everything we could think of, spent tons of money, believed in what we thought was the system, and still we had to live in the middle of the rubble as if nothing happened.  We had to go on living, like nothing unusual had happened. There was no other choice.  Plus, at the time, I could find almost nothing in the library, the internet (it was before it became almost infinite), or anywhere else, about what was happening to my son while he was in prison. Because everything is monitored, he really could not tell me, nor did he want his mother to know everything. I should thank him for that. So, finding out about what life is like inside became an obsession for me. Over time, I volunteered at re-entry non-profits, and then I started to interview people released from prison.  This first post is an intro, but many of the upcoming posts will be insights from the people I spoke with, books I've read, videos I watched.  Maybe you have engulfed yourself in everything prison too. But just in case there is someone who is besides themselves because they don't know what is happening to their loved one in prison, this is for you. 

 

When I was in Costa Rica, I just could not tell a stranger. I could not make the words come out of my mouth.  They were stuck in my throat. I knew she wanted more.  She was waiting for something more, something to continue the conversation, but I could not say it.  The last taboo seems to be prison.

 

More importantly, I could not tell my parents, in-laws, brother or sister, or anyone in the family.  It would be too sad and hurtful for them, how could that happen to the sweet little boy they once knew.  He was a nice, bright, fun kid. He was clever, lots of smiles and laughter.  He was charming with plenty of friends. He loved riding his bike, fishing in a lake, exploring everywhere and everything. As he got older, I thought he had street smarts, but sometimes he displayed anxiousness if he wasn’t sure about a situation. On the other hand, he had the steadiest hands I had ever seen and a right to the point focus.

 

There were times when he was little and we would be standing on the edge of a lake.  He would see a fish nearby, and he would wade into the water, and catch the fish with his hands.  He’d hold it up for the family to see wearing a big grin on his face. He was quick and steady.  One time we were browsing stores at an airport and a souvenir store had a sign, IF YOU CAN SOLVE THIS PUZZLE, IT’S YOURS FOR FREE.  It was one of those little wooden boxes you had to get small metal balls into the right sections or holes.  I worked on one, his friend worked on one, and he worked on one.  And, one, two, three, he did it. They gave it to him for free. They said they would. Then he did another one, his friend and I were getting nowhere with the ones we had.  I was too embarrassed to take a second one for free. He just had a knack of that sort of thing. 

 

Another time we were going to a Mets game.  We planned to meet a friend who had the tickets in the parking lot. My friend was a few minutes late, he was panicked that they wouldn’t show and then what would we do! I was surprised by his over reaction, but then my friend came and he was fine and had a good time.

 

He was not brought up in a slum, he did not live with family who abused him, or an environment full of drugs. The things most people associate with people who go to prison. He had a perfectly fine upbringing with lots of opportunities.  But still it happened. People I asked for advice, people I knew all my life, shrugged their shoulders because they thought it was so unusual for a kid like mine to be in that position. First to be charged with a crime and then ultimately to go to prison, and then to face re-entry. It was not a problem that fit in their world, they had no ideas and very little empathy. I felt directionless.

 

Had I told my family that my son was an addict, he committed a crime, was convicted of a felony, and ultimately went to prison, yes, it would have been heartbreaking for them.  That is true, but probably the greater truth is that it was too shameful for me. Never in a million years would I have thought this would happen to us, not the addiction, not the prison, and not everything in between.  Such an overwhelming sorrow, scare and embarrassment for us.  And, it is something that we’ll have to live with for the rest of our lives. They used to scare me with getting a B on my report card, it will go on your permanent record! That didn’t, and it wasn’t so terrible either, but this does, and it can make life a whole lot more difficult. This sure didn’t happen just to my son either, although he’s the one who will bear the brunt of it for the rest of his life.  This affected me, my husband, my daugther, and even though I did not tell them, the rest of my family. 

But eventually, it gets better.

 

Jul 17th

New Video on Our YouTube Page

By Admin Cat AKA MrsB1948

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Jul 8th

Ro is BACK on YouTube

By Admin Cat AKA MrsB1948

Ro is BACK on YouTube and already posted a video. Watch and SUBSCRIBE so you don't miss future YouTube only videos.

 

Jul 8th

One Way We Can Help Educate Others

By Admin Cat AKA MrsB1948

We are always telling you to educate yourself and educate others. This is one way we can help educate others.

 


goo.gl/YP6FKE

 

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