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Prison 101 (Ep. 3)

Well I gotta say visiting jail is not something that you really want to do. It’s all so unfamiliar and you end up learning things you never really wanted to know about. You feel quite intimidated from the first call you have to make to book a visit to waiting for someone to buzz you out of the locked door so you can walk to your car.

Communicating by phone is no easier. Accepting a phone call from the jail is not a casual experience. If you accidentally hang up after a recording has told you the anticipated wait time is somewhere between 15 and 45 minutes you have to go through the phone menu and try again. Receiving a call from jail is similar. Press one to accept the call, press two to deny the call, etc etc…the final one is press five to block this number from all future calls.

When a call comes from the jail you have one chance to get it right. One day I was in the kitchen doing something else while listening to the phone menu of numbers. I pressed five by accident.

OMG nooooooooo!! I had blocked all future calls! I realized what I had done and fell to the floor in a sobbing, blubbering mess. It took a lot of time and calls to the jail to reverse that momentary lapse of attention.

There’s a lot to learn about visiting people in jail and every day feels like a test you have to pass. If you fail, no visit!

When you first arrive at the jail you park in visitor parking. It is important you do not arrive too early as the perimeter cameras will alert a guard you have been waiting on the premises too long and they will ask you to leave. If you arrive too late and the visitor line is already moving through the screening process, the front door is locked and you will be denied entry. That happened to me once and again I lost my mind. It is such a horrible feeling knowing your loved one is waiting for the guard to say it is time for his visit and no one comes. They don’t know why until they can get a call out to you. Ken always said the only way he made it through the days was waiting and anticipating those visits so the stress of not doing everything right was incredible.

You have to remember you need to sign in showing two pieces of government ID. Don’t make the mistake of using your combined driver’s license/care card because depending on which guard is at the front sign-in area they can choose to say this is only one piece of government ID and you cannot visit that day. We learned that one the hard way too.

Money in prison is another minefield. Inmates have to pay for things like razors and toothbrushes, extra food items like cheese, and most importantly, phone calls. To do that, they have to apply and have money put in their inmate account. You must bring cash and two pieces of ID during certain hours before a certain time of the week to have that cash transferred to their account in time for the following week’s calls and canteen opportunity. If you miss it you miss out. I had to learn to juggle who needed what by when to make sure they each had money and could call. Sometimes I lost track and had to get another family to drop off money ASAP!

Something I didn’t expect to have to keep in mind was the dress code - nothing revealing! No problem for me I thought. Remember I was a 50-year-old woman and my mind wasn’t on trying to get anyone excited. But I was wrong.

Revealing means nothing sleeveless, no tank tops and no layers. That means no jackets, no sweater over top of a T-shirt, and don’t make the mistake of wearing a sleeveless dress with a little jacket over top. You can’t wear the jacket but you can’t be sleeveless either. One day while coming from a morning of meeting multiple lawyers, that is exactly how I was dressed. When I was told I wasn’t dressed appropriately I had to figure something out. Thank god I had a workout shirt and tights in the car or I wouldn’t have been able to visit that day.

You’re always waiting when you visit someone in jail. You wait in line to sign in, then you

put your purse, phone, jacket and so on, in a locker and wait again. When it’s time to go from the front seating bench, you take off your shoes, make sure you have no jewelry that will set off the alarm and wait your turn to go through the x-ray. You put your shoes in a bin along with your key for your locker and slide that through, and you're off to the other side to put your shoes back on.

Then you wait for the guard to tell you which steel and cement booth you are in. Then you wait to go into the booth. When you go in you spray clean your chair, the window, counter and phone before you sit and wait again until your guy shows up on the other side of the glass and picks up the phone.

When the visit is over you wait to be let out into the front desk area to get your stuff and out you go. If you are waiting to see two others, which I was for the first thirty three days ….off you go to the parking lot get in your car and wait for the next visitor check in time. It arrives and then you start waiting all over again.

That was how I spent from 12:30 to 5:30 when the last visit ended…. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Kenny and Greg were released 16 months after they were arrested. That’s when I finally graduated from Prison 101.

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