I remember the first visit I had with my brother. I can’t describe the dreadful feeling I was overcome with leading up to the visit. Perhaps it’s only me, but this situation was very stressful for me so any and all visits – I was there. I refused to miss any opportunity to see my brother. In the following years, I began to look forward to these visits during the week. Most visits were great, but those awful visits are inevitable. With that being said, sometimes visits were just looking at each other. Almost like we were communicating telepathically. I knew everything he couldn’t say, and he knew everything we couldn’t say. These thirty minutes made the hours of wait time worth it. Some days we waited longer than others, and some days we didn’t get to visit at all. I would suggest to anyone visiting an inmate – familiarize yourself with the institution’s policies. I’ve been visiting my brother for a total of ten years, and it’s amazing how different visitation is now compared to the beginning of our journey.
Of course visits were hard, but most days we were simply looking forward to seeing one another. I was excited to catch him up on the things he would miss in my life. I was most excited because these visits were the only way to know how he was really doing. Was he eating enough? Were the other inmates treating him okay? Were the corrections officers treating him like a human? Is he sick? Is he getting the medicine he needs? Is he alive today? This was one question I quickly became familiar with obsessing about. Each day I became more and more fearful this wouldn’t be the case. That one day the answer would be no. It was crippling. Some days, I couldn’t focus. Especially the days at school when he couldn’t call the night prior because of a lock down in the facility or he couldn’t make it to the phone in time because he needed to take a shower. Those days were impossible to focus on school work. These days I looked forward to visitation even more.
Even with all the catching up we had to do, somehow visits weren’t always so talkative. Sometimes these visits are the hardest part of our journey. How could I possibly talk for thirty minutes knowing you aren’t coming home with me today? Luckily, these quiet visits are completely avoidable with a little diligence from us. If we keep a few things in mind, we can keep these visits fun and loving. Stay tuned for a future post about things to talk about when there’s nothing to talk about during these visits – I’ve become pretty skilled at pulling things from my — to keep to conversation going. Don’t forget, this isn’t the time to discuss the difficulties of life. Life can be hard, believe me, but it’s nothing compared to what you’re inmate is going through every day. Keep conversation light. Talk about songs you like that they haven’t heard yet. Talk about your favorite T.V. show. Visits are typically short, depending on the facility, so if you have important things to discuss do so at the beginning of the visit to avoid the dreaded voice “You have two minutes remaining” I hear this voice in my sleep LOL
The best advice I could give someone new to this, is to familiarize yourself with your institution’s policies. How long are visits? How many visits will your inmate get in a week? Which days are visitation closed? Dress code. Dress code. Dress code. Know the dress code like the back of your hand, because a correction’s officer will quickly send you away. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been waiting for three hours – if you’re not following dress code, you will be denied. What is permitted in the visitation room? I would request/find this information prior to your first visit.
When we first began our journey, visitation was on a first come first serve basis. Due to this, we would be in the waiting area anywhere from an hour to two hours prior to scheduled check-in. Many times, we were there while the previous visitation was happening. I can’t tell you how many school assignments I’ve done while waiting for visitation. The social life I opted out of to wait in that damn waiting room. It was the only way to guarantee our visit. If we showed up on time, there just wouldn’t be enough room. Too many people visiting for their two hour visitation window. More often than not, the C.O. would be thirty minutes to an hour late to check-in, cutting the visitation window even more. Even after all that waiting, we simply were not guaranteed visitation. If we were lucky and made it into visitation, we still were not guaranteed our full thirty minute visitation. It’s amazing how much it has changed. Now I am able to visit through my phone camera. The same exact visit, I can just avoid the dreaded wait and travel.
I always described waiting to visit my incarcerated loved one to be like a scene in a movie where the protagonist is waiting at a doctor’s office and every noise is amplified. You can hear the person scratching their arm. That lady turning the magazine page. The person chewing chips from the vending machine. Only this wasn’t a movie, and I was in a jail.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story about visiting with my brother. My “Prison Talk” series is so raw and vulnerable, so whether you’re here because it’s like a wreck you can’t look away from, you’re going through this too, or you’re just a nosy gal like me, I am so excited to share this unspoken part of myself with you. It was always this terribly hard thing to deal with until one day I realized:
You will be exactly as happy as you decide to be.