Tonight, Tracy told me that 38 other prisoners are appealing their parole denials, since the parole board is OUT OF CONTROL. They are basing their decisions on erroneous PSI (Pre-Sentencing Investigation) reports, redacted court documents, assessments for which there are NO standard guidelines as to how to score them – the entire thing is a fiasco. A FARCE. I am sick to my stomach.
To complicate matters for US, the prison – for some reason – has fucked around with Tracy’s mail. TWICE now, he has mailed the paperwork he was given with the parole denial, including the reasons the board denied him, and TWICE the mail never got to me. TWICE. Now, this is particularly troubling, because a letter I mailed to him yesterday morning is already there and in his hands; he told me that tonight.
Appeals must be filed within a certain amount of time, and the hold up with the mail just complicates things, obviously. So, it’s a nightmare. But what is exciting is that so many others are going to appeal. As soon as the NDOC and the state realize that they’re going to have many, MANY lawsuits on their hands, they might start doing the right thing. But probably not. No one wants to do ANYTHING without being forced to by law.
I’m sick of the fact that there is no oversight. There are no rules. Cops on the street murder black people and get away with it, and guards inside this particular prison shoot, injure and murder inmates – not to mention the race baiting that goes on, as well as the general horrific mistreatment of the inmates by the guards – and answer to NO ONE. Well, they can start answering to ME, because I’m not going to sit down and shut up. I have a big mouth, a cause, and a man I love – and I will fight. I am a KNIGHT.
THIS KNIGHT WILL FIGHT.
I love my man so much, and he is worth it – as are all the other unjustly and unfairly incarcerated individuals sitting behind bars right now. Their lives mean something, too — their lives matter.
The battles wages on. Tracy, I love you. I am fighting for you, and I always will. ❤
Today’s visit was vastly different from last week’s; I got there an hour early, as per usual, but NO ONE else was in the waiting area, nor did anyone else show up. That is, while I was there. I got to sign in at 11:30 am – one half hour before the visiting hour officially begins, as per usual. While I was signing in, I was asked if I would like to make an appointment for next week’s visit, which I did. I was given a confirmation number and the metal tag for my locker, and then I went to lock my things up and proceed through the double glass doors, just like last week.
There was a new female guard being trained, and she was very nice. Once I had walked through those double doors, both female guards (trainer and trainee) walked me right through and past the metal detector. I then stopped at the next guard station to give my ID, and then was directed into the search room. Only the new guard came into the search room which surprised me, but which I was obviously okay with. I was searched a bit more thoroughly this week than last, with the guard actually putting her gloved hand between and under my breasts as I held my bra out and away from my body, shaking it. She also had me not only stick out my tongue but also show her under it, and once that was done, the search was over.
The door was opened and I walked out into the hallway where the training guard said, “Okay – do you know where you’re going?” I said, “Yes. I can go NOW?” She affirmed. I was very surprised, since it was so early! I then asked “Will he be there?” She said she didn’t know, but said that I could go ahead and go wait for him, which I did. (He wasn’t there, and I knew he wouldn’t be, since they are racked in for recount from 11:00-12:00 every day…Still, I thought that maybe he would have gotten out a little early, since he had a visit. Nope.)
Anyway, I got to the waiting area and really looked around the room this time, once I checked in and was told which table to go to. The room is smaller than a basketball court, and there are 42 tables there; I was at table 41. This time, I noticed the Snoopy on the wall, as well as various other Disney characters, and I think Garfield was there, too. I noticed that there is some type of alcove – a small sitting area which has a TV and which is obviously intended for visiting children, so they have something to do while the adults talk. There are 4 visitor’s restrooms, and 10 attorney’s rooms (all with large windows, and windows in the doors). There are also 10 vending machines, which have everything from frozen treats to candy to various drinks, coffee — you name it. The prices are outrageous, but there you are.
When I got there and was seated, I noticed that there were only 3 other inmates visiting with their family, wife/girlfriend and wife/girlfriend, respectively; they must have had special, all-day visits. The family at the table directly in front of mine where white and consisted of two middle-aged women – at least in their 60’s, a young man in his 30’s – 40’s, and a boy of about the age of 10; they were visiting a man who had to be late 60’s, early 70’s and had white hair. At the table next to mine, there was a Hispanic woman visiting her husband (or son?), and at the table futhest away, there was a 50-ish white woman visiting her husband or brother – I didn’t see anything romantic-looking going on there, so who knows?
While I was waiting, I asked the guard for some paper so I could write some little notes, since Tracy wrote me some little notes last week. I did an acordion fold and wrote little thoughts on each fold. It’s kind of dumb, I guess, since I knew he would not be able to keep the paper (they are not allowed to take anything from the visitors or from the visiting room), but I wanted to do it, anyway. He did read it while I was up and getting stuff from the vending machines; he’s a man of habit, and had the same stuff as last week, sans Twix this time: cheesecake, Squirt and KitKat. I will mail the paper to him so he can keep it…
Closer to noon, various family members showed up for 6 other inmates, and we waited for our respective guys to come into the room. Tracy was the 3rd one through the door, and I watched as he walked to the guard station to sign in (I guess), and then he walked over to the table. I stood as he approached so I could hug and kiss him, and I wanted him to sit down but he waited for me, so he could push my chair in under me. Then he sat down. He was sweaty from the walk; he said it’s a long distance to get from his cell to the visiting room, and I dabbed at his forehead with a napkin. His hair was, indeed, in corn rows, and I really liked it – better than the afro, even! He just looked really good.
Today, he was much more relaxed, or at least, that’s how he seemed. He wasn’t looking around constantly, as he did last week, and I think it must be because there were so few people in there this time. Also, last week he mentioned that he hated a particular guy sitting at a few tables over, and he did keep his eyes on that guy quite a bit last time. The guy was a skinhead, so anything could have popped off at any moment between them; needless to say, the tension is unbelievably high in there. Thankfully,nothing happened last week, and nothing happened this week, either. In fact, the guy of the last couple I wrote about (above) must be friends with Tracy, because Tracy tapped him and kind of said “Hey” as he walked by.
We had a very nice visit – once we got past me having hurt feelings. He was holding my hands and looking at my nails when he said, “We need to get you a manicure.” I was immediately self conscious, and told him I just hadn’t had time to paint my nails but had wanted to. But, I went on to say, I didn’t really care that much about my nails, and I am just fine with them being short – as long as they’re clean! (I used to have long nails when we were together years ago…) He then said, “Well, if that’s how you roll…” I did not know what he meant by that, but I took it as an insult, obviously – wouldn’t you? I was very hurt, since there I was, just wanting to be with him and love him, etc., and he’s being critical of my nails? He couldn’t just love me for me? And he also made comments about me coloring my hair red – and not for the first time; he has said that to me before, so I guess that’s what he really does want me to do. Hmmmmmm. Anyway, that didn’t go over well, as you can imagine, and we spent about 20 minutes having an unhappy discussion about how I’m overly sensitive and he’s an asshole. (I did call him an asshole several times today, but at least he admits to being one, and that’s a start.)
After we got past that, we had a very nice time together, and before we knew it, visiting hours were over. It was so difficult realizing that, again, I was going to have to leave him there. We embraced, and I kept kissing him. I kissed his lips, and as he let go of me and went to sit back down, I kept hugging him and kissed his cheek. Apparently, that did not go unnoticed – nor did my “behavior” during the visit. I will elaborate.
Tonight, when Tracy called me, he told me that the guard told him “She can’t be doing that with her top. She can’t fidget like that.” What he must have meant was that during the visit, I adjusted my bra several times, and then adjusted my top too, obviously. That bra is uncomfortable and tends to roll up, so I was trying to pull it down which caused my shirt to distort, etc. – you can imagine that, right? Well, I guess that is a HUGE no-no, and Tracy told me tonight that that was his one warning. He was told to tell me that I cannot do that with my top. “Next time,” he said, “They’ll give me a write up, throw me in the hole and take away all my visits.” Of course, that started and terrified me, so next time, I will be wearing a fucking turtleneck. And long sleeves.
And, apparently one kiss would have been okay (and it could have been longer, he said), but several kisses were extremely problematic and again, they will take away all of his visits if there is any violation of any of the rules. He told me tonight that if that happened, he would end up in Custody 4, which I guess is maximum, because if they got crazy with me and talked crazy to me, or cancelled our visits, he would not look kindly upon that at all and would end up mouthing off, getting himself into a lot of trouble. I told him not to ever worry about how badly they treat me; I can handle it, and I don’t worry about it all. My only concern is for him, and that he keeps his cool, no matter what. We are trying to get him HOME, not find ways to keep him there longer, or make his time there even more unpleasant.
Anyway, I jumped a little bit ahead, but there really wasn’t much more to it. We said goodbye, and he told me he would call me tonight. As I walked out, I talked to the black family. I said, “This is always the hardest part.” They all agreed, and one of the women said, “I just want to cry. I want to take him with us.” The older woman (probably the mother) said, “I know, baby, but crying isn’t going to make it any easier.” I said, “We just have to wait, but I sure do wish we could take them home, too.” We walked the rest of the way in silence.
Once we got back inside the search area, I retrieved my ID and then headed for my locker. I got my things, dropped the key off, and walked out the door to find my car. As I drove away, I had the same feelings as last week; I didn’t want to talk, I didn’t want to listen to music, I just wanted to feel. I wanted to feel that indescribable feeling, and I watched (well, as much as I could, anyway) as the prison grew more distant in my rearview mirror. I wanted to drive slowly, but a car was coming up behind me on that 45 MPH road, so I had to step on the gas and get moving. I really, really wanted to stay.
There is a strange kind of desperation when you have to leave someone you love in that environment. When you know that you’ll be going home and making dinner, and he won’t be there to eat it. You’ll be getting in your pajamas and watching a movie as you unwind for the night, and he won’t be there to snuggle with, to chat about the movie with, or just to spend that quiet time with. And when you go to bed and get between your soft, fluffy sheets which smell sweet, like fabric softener, you know that the man you love is lying on a hard bunk which affords no comfort. This is especially painful – and I use that word intentionally – for me, since Tracy’s knee injury makes it so that he cannot get comfortable at all during the night. And while you’re laying there trying to get to sleep, you yearn for his touch, to feel his breath on your neck, his hands on your body, his body pressed up against yours. It is agony. And there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.
Then guilt kicks in, because you can easily turn on a movie, or go to your computer to play some stupid game to numb yourself from the pain of missing the man you love, or you can turn to the fridge, if you choose food as your coping tool. But your man has no choice but to tough it out. No comforts of home, no way to ease that time. It truly is impossible to describe to those who have never been through this before.
Today, I got to really look into his eyes. He smiled and laughed a lot today, and it was really lovely. He is very jovial, and he is a jokester. I was glad that he felt that freedom today, even though he did piss me off when he kept messing with me while I was trying to talk about serious stuff and I wanted him to take me seriously! But that’s just him, and I love him. We talked about the relationship we had at various times in the past, since we have been together, then been apart, then been together again a few times. It was very special and emotional (for me, anyway) to think and talk about those times, and to share sweet memories, thoughts and feelings about our history together. I really love him, and I always have. I always will.
I cannot wait till next time, but I know that leaving will be even harder than it was today. I just have to keep reminding myself what I keep telling him and what he, in turn, keeps telling me: this is not going to be forever; this is only temporary. We will get through it, and he will come home. After this time is over and we look back on it, it’s going to feel like it flew by. But right now, it feels like an eternity.
Still, I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to see him again in person today. I do cherish and treasure every second we have together. I cannot wait till he comes home. I miss him so much. I love that man.
Just now, I was reading my last blog post – the one where I detailed yesterday’s visit to the prison to visit Tracy. As I got to the part about the search, and I remembered walking into that room where all of the inmates are waiting for their loved ones, I was struck by something I already know well: each of those men who received a visit are being shown that they are loved.
How can I stop my tears?
Yesterday, there was a grandma in a wheelchair who was brought there by her daughter and granddaughter (I assume), and for some reason, I remember a particular Hispanic family – a mom, a dad and a young (maybe 10 years old-ish) little girl; I assume they were there to visit their son and brother/dad. And of course, the mother and father who where there to visit their son.
And there I was, walking into that room to visit the man I love. To let him know that I love him, and that I am with him. At some point after the visit had started, he pointed out to me that three inmates had left the room; they had been expecting visits, but their visitors had not shown up for some reason – maybe something came up and they couldn’t make it, or whatever the reason was. I was mortified by that thought; I could not imagine telling Tracy I would be there and then not showing up. I just could not fathom that, and even thinking about it now makes me sick to my stomach.
I remember the love the Hispanic family seemed to exude, and I saw them embrace their son before they left; they exited the room just before me, and we were the stragglers, staying as long as possible with our men. I think about how lucky they all were to have visiting privileges and to be able to see their son every week. I truly do hope that my visitation form has been approved, as Sergeant Porter told me and showed me yesterday, so that I can start visiting every week, too.
I do not feel whole while my heart is in prison. I need to see him every day. I need him to come home. I need to know that he is not suffering, or hungry, or sick and not receiving the medical care he needs. I need to know that he knows that he is loved. I want to do all of the sappy, simple things a woman wants to do for the man she loves.
One of the most important things I want is for him to be able to heal from this experience. Being in prison (or jail) has a catastrophic effect on those who experience it, and it changes their psyche in ways that almost can’t be described but which are extremely noticeable to loved ones. I saw it in my baby brother, and recognized a huge change in his personality after he spent many years in and out of jail, and a visit to state prison. In fact, it changed him so much that he truly was not at all the same person I used to know and be so close to. I had to accept that loss, but I grieved it just as I would a death. It was a death, in effect; gone was my sweet brother, so full of possibilities and hopes for a joyous future and in his place was a hardened, calloused, nervous, suspicious, brooding, blistered, warped man.
Just now, writing about my brother and remembering the changes in him, I see an incredible similarity in how I felt when I was with him to how I felt when I was with Tracy. I would talk to my brother, and though I know he heard me, I sometimes felt like he wasn’t truly there – like he wasn’t connected, and his mind was somewhere else. If I keep that in mind, it will help me to not feel like Tracy isn’t engaged in the conversation or that he isn’t interested in what I’m trying to tell him. And even more so, I will remember that my brother was not incarcerated during the times I was with him; he was free, we were out in public, and yet there was still a vacancy in his eyes and demeanor. He would respond appropriately to me, like for example, we both really laughed about some stupid shit I told him I was thinking about doing to a boyfriend of mine at the time, and he told me about conversations he had with our dad about our brother, Spencer, who died of a drug overdose only the year before. So I know he was at least partly present, mentally.
Anyway, I wonder if loving Tracy and showing him that I love him will have any effect on him, or if my visiting is just a distraction or a small break in the monotony of a day in prison. I don’t know if I will ever have an answer to that, but getting an answer is not actually of any importance to me, nor will it have any impact on my continuing to visit. In fact, I want to visit for selfish reasons – because it is important to me to show him that I love him, and to know that I tried in the ways I could to show him that he is so loved, that he is so valued, that he is worth more than I could put a number to – that he is priceless. I have told him many times that his current situation and location does not define him, and does not speak to who and what he is; it simply is a result of a mistake he made – a mistake he has already paid for and continuing to pay for because of an incredibly corrupt and unjust “justice” system, run by apathetic, jaded people.
I assured Tracy, and I hope that each person who visits their loved one in prison assures that person, that visiting him is not an imposition of any kind and that it is something I want to do with all of my heart, more than anything. To be there with him is a selfish act on my part, because I have this intense need to show him love. I don’t know why — I have just always loved that man. Always. Circumstances and situations have kept up apart for a large portion of our lives, but fate has also always spun us back together in the strangest, most inexplicable ways – and that is what has happened on this go-round, too. Isn’t that just what fate does? Can’t make sense of it, can’t explain it, it just is. Like love. We don’t choose who we love, we just love.
Today, I visited Tracy at High Desert State Prison. I had never been to prison before today, and it was a surreal, horrifying experience that I will be repeating over and over and over again for the next several years, or until Tracy is released.
The day started early, with me waking at 4:30 am to shower, fix my hair, put on a little makeup, dress and get on the road. I left the house at about 6:15 am and had a very smooth, peaceful drive up the 95 to Indian Springs, where High Desert State Prison is. I found the turn off, and headed up Cold Creek Road, on which sits Southern Nevada Correctional Facility and High Desert.
Once I got to the turn to enter the HDSP area, I stopped and took a picture of the sign out front, then proceeded to the parking area for visitors. It was just after 7:00 am when I turned off my car and got out. I walked up to the building where visitors check in and found two other people – a husband and wife who were there to visit their son – in line ahead of me. I was pleased that it wasn’t crowded, because I thought that meant it would be a relatively speedy process.
Other people started entering the area, and a few of us made small talk, such as the couple I mentioned a moment ago. We talked about the fact that I was there for a special visit and was expecting to stay the entire day, since that is what Renee, Warden Neven’s Administrative Assistant, had promised me on the phone yesterday when she called to tell me the warden had approved the visit. We also talked about how long it is taking for applications to be processed, and made general small talk about the process of visitation and what I should expect.
As we waited, a few guards walked through the doors and proceeded to the next area, where they were buzzed through and went on to wherever they were going. None of them looked the least bit friendly, and all of them were heavily armed. It was an unpleasant feeling, particularly in light of the recently publicized (see past blogs) notoriously high number of shootings at High Desert State Prison, as well as the way the guards antagonize the prisoners. Just thinking about that made me feel sick.
More and more people arrived, and there were about 20-25 people by the time the first visitation guard came into the office to start checking people in. She was very nice, and I have probably spoken with her on the phone before but did not know her by name. She went into the small visitation office which was encased in very large windows, and then brought out a few clipboards with papers on them; one had a sign in form that every visitor has to sign, print name, time of arrival, person who is being visited, etc., and the other had a stack of forms which were “Consent to Search” forms that each individual had to fill out. We passed the sign in sheet around, but once we filled out the Search form, we each held on to ours to be given along with ID to the guard once it was our turn to approach the window.
We went in order of arrival, of course, so I was third. She greeted me courteously, and I handed her my ID and told her I was there for a special visit. She looked through the papers on a clipboard inside the office to find Tracy’s name and had to flip through a few sheets of paper before she located it. I was very relieved when I saw her turn around to find his file in the filing cabinet and return to the window with the large, pink “Visitation Record” that had been in his file. She wrote down information from my Driver’s License on the record, and then said, “I need your right hand, please.” I slipped my hand under a very narrow opening at the window – something similar to the opening at a bank teller’s window through which you slide your deposit and receive your receipt – and she stamped the top of my hand with an invisible round stamp.
She then handed me back my license, along with a small silver key which had a round, purple, metal tag stamped with barely legible numbers. When she handed it to me, she said, “You can put the things you won’t be able to take with you into the locker; you’re locker number 9.” I took the key, thanked her and turned around to the wall of other visitors who were standing in front of the bank of lockers. I turned off my phone and placed it inside the locker, along with the key to my car, my chapsticks and my credit card (didn’t want to leave it to warp in the heat inside the car). The only thing I was able to keep with me was my driver’s license and the little clear purse which was full of $30.00 of loose quarters to be used in the vending machines once inside the visiting room.
After I locked the locker, I then went through some double glass doors into a waiting area which had long metal benches on either side of the room, a vending machine full of PowerAde, two rest rooms, the door to the Visiting Desk area, and a metal detector. Immediately behind the metal detector was a heavy, hydraulic door which was operated by a guard inside the next section of the building; he sat behind a wall of windows, watching everyone in the room and working the door. Slowly but surely, visitors would enter into this area and as more and more gathered, the woman I had spoken to earlier blurted out, “Well, we’re not going to get in there till 9:00 – 9:30…” She then said to the guard behind the wall of windows, “Is anyone going to get in there and help her (referring to the guard in the Visiting Dept.)? She’s working all by herself, and it’s going to take forever.” Her annoyance was palpable and very clear. The guard responded, “Nope. She’s on her own. You’re just going to have to wait.” His annoyance was palpable, too.
After that exchange, another visitor started explaining to me that the guard in Visiting would check everyone in and only after all of the paperwork was done would she then come to this second holding area, at which time we would all be searched, etc. I asked, “So, we can’t proceed until all of these people are checked in?” That was affirmed by several nods, along with the an audible answer from the woman who asked about the help. She then told me that sometimes, if there aren’t a lot of men (since the large majority of visitors are women, she said), the guards would come in and search the men first, making the women all wait, etc. I asked what I already knew the answer to: “The female guard will search the women, but doesn’t a male guard search the men?” Again, that was affirmative. I didn’t know how that was going to be accomplished until I saw Sergeant Porter walk into the room.
I knew it was Sgt. Porter because one of the women pointed him out to me; I had mentioned that I had spoken to him every week (when I was talking about the odyssey of trying to get my visitation approved), and she wanted me to know who he was. When he walked past us once again, I spoke to him, telling him my name and saying “I’m the one who calls you every week!” The husband of the woman, both of whom were in front of me in line, laughed and said, “Oh, *you’re* the one who calls every week!” We both chuckled, and I said, “I know; I realized how ridiculous that was as soon as it came out of my mouth!” That is because we were ALL “the one who calls every week.” Sgt. Porter breezed right past me, barely glancing over to acknowledge me, but that was fine; if he was hurrying to get into that office to help speed things up, I didn’t care about exchanging pleasantries. I wanted to get to Tracy, and whatever could make that happen faster was perfectly alright with me.
In fact, Sgt. Porter DID get into that office and start checking people in. Actually, he relieved the female guard, and she came right into the holding area, walked through the metal detector and just beyond that heavy hydraulic door which had been opened, and called “Okay, I need the first five females.” I was one of them, so I did what I saw the other two women who went before me do: I placed my little clear purse on the metal table beside the detector, walked through, and then reached back for my purse. Next, I stopped to talk to the guard who was working the door. I handed him my ID and he told me, “Go into room 2.” When I turned around, I saw that there were three Search Rooms. I was glad the search would be conducted in private, because I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to have to experience that in front of an audience.
I watched the female guard put on gloves as two women went into the rooms to ready themselves for the search. (The third room wasn’t used, for some reason.) After the women emerged, the female guard directed me into Search Room C and followed me in. She was extremely nice and said, “I’m sorry, I don’t remember your name…” I told her that was okay and told her my name, after which we said, “Okay, I need you to turn around and put your hands against the wall, take off your shoes and spread your feet.” I did that. She then started by gripping my left arm with both hands, feeling from wrist to armpit, then repeated that on my right arm.
Next, she went through my hair, then along my shoulders, then down the sides of my body and down past my hips. She went down both legs with both of her hands, then back up to reach up under my shirt to feel along my bra in the back, and her hands went entirely around my waist, under my waistband. After that, she told me to go ahead and turn around, which I did. She then said “I need you to stick out your tongue, and lift up your shirt and pull your bra away from your body and shake it.” I did both of those things, and then she said, “Okay, now I need you to hand me both of your shoes.” I did. She checked them, handed them back to me and said, “Okay. Have a good visit,” and with that, I was excused from the room.
I walked back into the light of that holding area, and one of the other visitors asked me, “Do you know where you’re going?” I told her I didn’t, so she walked me over to the door and pointed toward the next building. She told me to walk along the walk way and once I got to the door, pull slowly and wait for the noise of the door to be unlocked by the guard inside. She told me the men would all be sitting there waiting. I asked “Can he see me?” She said “Sure, unless he’s sitting in the back. He will see you walk up unless he’s in the very back, but even if he is, he will see you as you get closer to the door.” I thanked her and said goodbye, and headed out the door; the time was about 8:30-8:45.
As I walked up that walkway, I looked around at the facility. There were some men outside, seemingly playing basketball and being a little rowdy. Other than that, it was very quiet, and I was focused on getting to that next door. I got there and could see some small windows but couldn’t see inside the building. I pulled slowly on the door, and after a few tries, it eventually opened.
I walked through the door and as I entered the building which looked to be about the size of a basketball court, I saw several tables to my left, each with an inmate sitting at it in complete silence, hands on the table in front of them. I cannot underscore the eeriness of the silence in that room; all of those men sitting perfectly still and quiet, searching for their loved ones to walk through the door and not making any noise or movement whatsoever. Very surreal and a bit disturbing. I did not know (nor did I care to) what each was in for, but one of the women who had been waiting to be checked in told me her husband had been at another prison for 22 years previous to this prison, and that he would never get out. So that gave me an idea…
To the immediate right was an elevated guard “station,” where three guards were seated. The woman in front of me was still talking, but once she was through, the guard asked me who I was there to see and said, “Now, you are aware that visiting ends today at 10:30,” as if it was a question. I said,” I have a special visit, so I’m here for both sessions.” He immediately disagreed and told me that wasn’t what he was told. He picked up the phone and called Sgt. Porter, and during that conversation, I heard him chuckle and say, “AM session ONLY? Okay…” So, obviously I knew before he told me what he had been told.
I told him that Renee had arranged it and that it should be for both sessions, and asked him if there was someone I could call or speak to, etc. He very abruptly and snidely told me that I could go talk to the man who had JUST told HIM – Sgt. Porter. One of the other visitors – the woman who had given me directions to this building – shook her head at me and said, “I wouldn’t; you’ll have to go through all of that again and waste time, and probably won’t get that second session, anyway. Check with Porter after this…” I took her advice and decided not to leave the room. Just then, the third guard (the middle one never spoke to me) asked me, “Who are you here to see?” I told him “Tracy _______,” and he said “No, who are you here to see?” I repeated his name. Apparently, the guard thought my name was Tracy. Once I said that, he said, “Oh, Okay…” Then, the first guard said, “He’s at table 39, right over there in the corner.” I said, “He’s here?” The guard repeated, and added, “Right over there by Snoopy.” At first, I didn’t understand what he was talking about; I was oblivious to the art on the wall because I was only focused on seeing Tracy. In fact, I am aware that there was something on the wall, but I can honestly say that I never once looked at or saw it at all.
As I turned around to walk to the table, I was looking at the man at table 39. He stood as I approached, and even with an afro and after 18 years, I recognized him immediately. We embraced and kissed, and then he pulled the chair out for me, pushed it in after I sat down, and then walked to his side of the table to take a seat.
We talked and looked at each other, and I was amazed that we were finally able to see each other in person. At one point, he asked me if I was hungry; I wasn’t, but he was. He hadn’t eaten breakfast, so I asked him what he would like, since I would be the one going to get it. (The inmates are not allowed to get up from the table at all until “Bathroom Break” is announced over the loud speaker.) I took his “order,” and went to the machines to get the things he asked for: cheesecake, Squirt and a Twix, but I didn’t get the Twix because it was the peanut butter variety. I returned to the table, sans Twix, and explained why, and we both commented that we thought peanut butter Twix sounded gross – but I ended up getting that for him a little later, as well as a KitKat. The prices they charge are ridiculous; the little slice of cheesecake was $3.00, the Squirt was $2.50, the Twix was $1.75 and the KitKat was $3.00. Are you fucking KIDDING me?
When Tracy was telling me the items he wanted, he laughingly said “I’m going to be sick as a dog later!” I told him I was going to buy him some yogurt and granola, and other *actual* food! But he wanted the treats, so that’s what I got him. He told me those are things they can’t get from the commissary, so I wanted him to be able to have them, even though I did think it would give him a stomach ache.
One disturbing and unnerving things I noticed today was that Tracy was constantly scanning the room, looking around, keeping an eye on everything that was going on around him. He had previously told me I would notice him doing that, but I must say that I didn’t truly understand what he meant until I saw it today. And he wasn’t the only one; as I walked back and forth to the vending machines, I noticed that every single other inmate in there was hyper-aware of who was walked by. There were little, nearly imperceptible glances up to see who was approaching, and I could see by the defensive body language and posturing that every inmate was on heightened alert. The fact that Tracy did that constantly during our visit made it difficult to feel like he was listening to me, or that we were connecting. When I was trying to make eye contact with him but he was busy looking from left to right and back again, I felt like he was shy, or bored, or just not interested. That was hard to take, but I had to keep reminding myself that, there in that place, scanning and keeping that awareness is sometimes a matter of life and death, since they never know when an attack is coming, or from where. I would obviously much rather him be safe and alert to any threat than to be caught unawares. And I know there will be a time where we can talk privately, without anyone else around, and I will know he hears me and I have his complete attention. There will be a time when he is home and safe, and not under any threat from anyone at all.
There were no clocks on the wall, so we never knew what time it was, but the time went by extremely quickly. We talked about all kinds of things, and just enjoyed being together. I didn’t notice whether the chair was uncomfortable, and I didn’t think the visit was long at all, even though Tracy had told me it would be, and some of the other visitors also said it would seem like a long time. All of them were wrong; the time flew by and I was very sad and disappointed when the announcement came that the time was 10:30 and visiting hours were over. The reason for the abbreviated visit was because today was Ramadan, or the celebration thereof. I don’t know why that should have mattered to anyone who doesn’t observe it, but there you are.
We both got up, embraced and kissed each other goodbye again. I told him I would go talk to Porter and see if I could return for the next session, and I said, “You’ll know in about an hour what the answer is. If I don’t see you, call me tonight, if you can.” He said he would, and with that, I headed for the door, noticing that most of the other visitors had already left.
I met up with the mother who had been in line in front of me first thing in the morning, and she and I walked together to the middle area. The other visitors had been buzzed in, but the door locked us out, so we just had to wait until the guard opened the door back up. While we were standing there, she asked me how long Tracy was in for and I told her. She said, “Well, we’re already halfway through this year, so that’s not too bad.” I think she was trying to make the best of the situation, since when we first spoke and she told me she was there to see her son, she said “I hate that we have to be here; I hate that he’s in this place. This is not what I wanted for him. I wanted so much more for him.” I completely understood, and shared a little bit about my brothers and sister, all of whom have been incarcerated although only one of which has been to prison (that I know of).
Finally, the guard opened the door and we walked through. She signed herself out first, then it was my turn. Once I signed the time I was leaving, the guard handed me my license. I thanked him and again walked through the hydraulic door toward the visiting desk. As I passed back through the metal detector, I saw Sgt. Porter sitting back in his chair having a jovial conversation with whomever was on the other end of that phone line. I stood in the doorway waiting for him to wrap it up so I could speak to him. After a few minutes, he did, and I addressed him. I explained that I was supposed to be able to visit for both sessions, so he looked through the paperwork and found the special notice from Renee. When he showed it to me and pointed it out, I did, indeed, see that she had only specified the 8:00 am session. Sgt. Porter told me that she would have to have also specified the afternoon session for me to be able to attend.
At that point, I felt myself getting teary, but I held it together and said, “Okay, thank you – I’m not going to cry, but I am so disappointed. She told me there wouldn’t be any problem, and that I could attend both sessions, since it’s been such a long time.” When I said that, he asked me, “When did I send your application in?” I told him, “March 14.” Then, he picked up a huge (and I mean HUGE) stack of papers and said, “These just came in; yours might even be in here. We may have even sent your letter already. What’s your name again?” I told him, and he started looking through the tremendous stack. Several sheets were paper clipped together with what looked like a top sheet listing the names of the background checks included in each group.
Suddenly, after probably 15 stacks, he said, “Here it is; yours is in here.” He pulled the smaller sub-stack out and started looking through it. He found mine and pulled it out, showing it to me. “Here it is,” he said.” I said, “And it’s all done? It’s complete?” He said, “Yep, it’s all done. I’ll get your letter out today and you’ll have it by the end of the week.” I asked if he was going to send it to my home address (which is the one listed) and explained that I do have some trouble with mail not being delivered, and that I have a post office box. He told me he has to send it to whatever address is listed, which is my home address. He added that if mail comes back, they will call me (which I think is ridiculously unlikely, given how things have gone thus far. I digress.)
I then asked him, since he had the completed background check in his hand, and since the warden had authorized the special visit, and since I was already there, if I could stay for the next session. He said no, and explained, “The warden has to sign off on it, but once he does, then you’ll be able to visit again and there won’t be any problem since you’ve already been here now.” I was elated that the background check was complete and that I will now be able to visit more often…for a second.
My joy was tempered with the knowledge that Sgt. Porter told me the same thing back in April – and he was mistaken. The background check had been returned but had NOT been completed, so he had to re-submit it. Hmmmmmm. I did specifically ask today if it was complete, and he specifically told me that it was, but I don’t want to get my hopes up too high, since it could be a glitch – just like the one we had today with the second session being promised but not being delivered.
I thanked Sgt. Porter for all of his hard work and help, and then I exited back to the little anterior entry room where visitors check it. As I approached my locker, I started to cry. I unlocked the little lock, retrieved my belongings and, trying to hold back my tears and not cry too loud (since there was another visitor standing at the window waiting for Sgt Porter’s attention), walked out the door and again out into the light. I was teary and sniffling as I walked through the parking lot, trying to find my car, and I was trying to figure out what emotions I was feeling. It was all a big jumble, and I could not have described it – still can’t – if my life depended on it.
One thing I do know is that, even though we didn’t get to spend the second session together, and even though the first one started late and ended early, I was so grateful to get to see Tracy. I got to touch him, kiss him, hold his hands, look into his eyes, laugh with him, tell him I love him and just be there with him. It was something I really needed, and I think he needed it, too.
I drove home in silence, numb. Once I got home, it hit me how incredibly tired I was. I wanted to cry but couldn’t, and I wanted to talk and write about my experience but couldn’t. I called a friend, thinking we could meet up for Chinese for lunch, but found that I couldn’t even say more than a few words on the phone, and though I wanted to share what I was thinking and feeling, words – for once in my life – failed me. I realized that I didn’t actually want to talk about it or write about it at all; I just wanted to be. I wanted to sleep, and meditate about the day, and I knew I would write about it later. And now, it is later; at this exact moment, it is 11:00 pm, on the dot.
I was lucky enough to be able to speak to Tracy on the phone this afternoon and then again tonight, after they had dinner. We talked about our visit, and I told him that I plan to be there next week and every week from now on. I will only be able to attend one session on one of the days (visiting is on Friday and Saturday; morning sessions should be from 8:00-11:00, and afternoon sessions are from 12:00-3:00), but at least I will know I can go every week. That will make the passing of time so much easier – and so much harder. Leaving him there, and seeing that place in the rearview mirror is something I don’t think I could describe to anyone who hasn’t experienced leaving someone they love behind, in prison. It is macabre.
There is probably more that I am forgetting at the moment, but when I remember anything else, I will edit this blog to include it. And I look forward to writing many more blogs, not only about our visits, but about my ongoing fight against the Nevada Department of Corrections. Prison is not about punishment; it’s about making money off of these prisoners and their families and loved ones. I hope Obama will succeed in his prison reform initiative, and I hope it happens soon enough to benefit my Tracy. ❤