I remember how important visits were for me when I was in prison (or in jail). I remember sitting in my cell at El Reno's Federal Correctional facility (where I spent my time before moving on to Leavenworth) back in the 70s on a Saturday morning waiting anxiously to hear my named called and told that I had a visitor (anxious because one couldn't be sure that something wouldn't go right and your visit or visitor would be denied). I wore my good jeans, the ones I traded something for on the inside. I never wore them at any other time, content enough with my prison khakis for, shall we say, everyday wear. I knew that on my way to my visit I would be strip searched by guards and harassed in various ways. Didn't matter, visits were worth it. I knew how lucky I was to get visits every week or two. Most of my fellow inmates didn't get any at all...or if they did, they were few and far between.
I really appreciated the people who drove several hundred miles down to Oklahoma to see me. It wasn't that easy for them to do this, friends and family. I did feel bad for my visitors having to interact with the prison, with the guards. I knew that wasn't a good experience. I knew the prison wanted everyone connected with those of us held captive to feel that they were captives, as well. I knew this because I understood the ideology of prisons and because I had visited prisoners myself before I became one (and later, after I was released).
The prison ideology, the mindset of those who run these places is that we are all criminals, those of us inside, and those connected to us on the outside...and we all should be treated as somewhat less than human. The guards, I think, for the most part also just get off on the power. I mean, seriously, I know we all need jobs, but just who becomes a prison guard anyway (we can save that discussion for another time).
The piece I am sharing with you for Scission Prison Friday today is about all this, about the petty and not so petty nonsense those who visit prisoners must go through just to see those about whom they care. It is the personal story of what a young African American confronted when she went to visit her brother at the age of twelve. Nothing horrendous occurred or anything, but what is important here is what she learned from her experience and what we can also learn.
I am including the comments with the piece.
The following is from the Feminist Wire which I commend for the series and forum they have done on the prison industrial complex. The forum grew out of work around Mumia.
As the authors write:
The prison industrial complex both reflects and exacerbates many of our social ills. There is much work to be done, and we all must play a role.