Finally I got to a computer! Since I am traveling right now, and also visiting with family and grandchildren, having the time and space – and internet connection – so I can sit and write has been hard to come by. I’m in New Mexico right now and my son lives out in the boonies; great for peace and quiet and lots of land for the kids to run while raising chickens and rabbits – but has no phone reception in the house because of think adobe walls. If I want to talk or even text I have to go outside and it’s over 100 degrees. This is the first chance I’ve had to sit and write. So let me tell you how the visit went:
Allred Unit is the largest prison in Texas with 3700 inmates. Visiting days are Sat and Sun. They have 5 slots for “special visits”, which are two day visits with four hour visits each day. You have to call on the Monday at exactly 8 AM and hope you are one of the first 5 callers. Otherwise we would have had one two hour visit. Since it has been nearly three years since I’ve been to see Jamie that was also the last time I took his son to see him, I really wanted to get that special visit.
I stayed with my daughter and took a rental car to the prison which was another 120 miles away. We went to the entrance we were directed to. There are two entrances. They gave us a placard to put on our windshield and then told us to go back to our car and wait for someone to come around and signal it was time to go in. They were full and said we might have to wait and hour or two for people to leave. After waiting for about 1 1/2 hours they called us to the front and said, “Oh, I’m very sorry. We told you to wait in the wrong place so now you have to go around to the other entrance and give them your ID. This caused us to only have a 2 1/2 hour visit the first day because they kick everyone out at 5:00.
When we finally got in and went through security we sat in our chairs on one side of the glass for at #6 and waited for them to get him. His cubicle had a door with a small window and I could when they walked him past it to unshackle his legs. They put him in the cubicle and locked the door. He had to squat all the way to the floor and stick his hands out a slot to unlock his wrists. Then he could sit down. He had such a big grin on his face. The last time little Jamie saw his father he was seven and very shy. I think that time he was a little scared of meeting this man who was basically a stranger. It was hard to get him to look him in the eye and say more than yes and no answers. In letters from Jamie he said, “What if he still won’t talk to me?” But Jamie wasn’t shy anymore and told his dad everything he was doing; how his reading had improved – he has dyslexia – and how good he is in sports, especially football and running. I could tell his father was drinking up every word he was saying. Since we had another day of visiting there was no rush. Since there could be no contact all, the three of us put up our hands on either side of the glass.
Unfortunately there was no picture taking that day. They only do it the first weekend of the month. I was hoping since it was father’s day there might be an exception, but no dice. So all I have are the old pictures. He had a little hair – he said because he couldn’t get a razor, but he’s definitely bald on top. He had a small goatee and big square black glasses that only a prison would issue.
The next day we got in right away. Since little Jamie is just a ten year old boy I knew he would get antsy so he was in charge of the quarters. When you go in you can only take your ID, car keys and a bag of $25 in quarters. Since they don’t check we took in $32. The vending machines that had anything decent, like sandwiches you could heat up, were out of order so the only choices were the standard candy, chips and soda items. I let little Jamie buy what he wanted because he had no lunch and he picked out whatever he thought his dad might want. It kept him busy. Sunday was father’s day so there were other kids there to talk to.
When I planned this trip I didn’t realize it was father’s day and I knew this made it much more special for Jamie. Also, because he is in ad seg he is deprived of any human contact. He spends 23 hours a day in his cell and the other hour is either to a cage to exercise or the shower. It is hard having no AC but he says he’s okay. He’s been at Allred for 6 months with 6 months to go to get out of ad seg.
If you haven’t read earlier chapters, he intentionally had himself put in ad seg by threatening a guard and because his last prison, Wynne Unit doesn’t have ad seg, they would be forced to move him. He wasn’t safe there. The guards were abusive and also retaliated against him by filing false cases. Inmates have the right to file grievances against abuse but those grievances were not filed. They were thrown away. I talked to the warden about it and he said, “What grievances? I don’t see where he filed any grievances.” I wasn’t going to get any help with him.
Jamie has an anger button. How much can anyone take when they are being pushed and pushed and beat up and sprayed with chemicals. After ten years of this, anyone would be angry. It started a cycle of abuse and inmates can’t win that fight. Guards are always right and inmates are always wrong. When he got to Allred he had the determination to not let them get to him and also, show respect, even when they didn’t deserve it. He’s staying quiet and doing good. He did this before and it took 2 years to get moved to the level of G2 where he could have contact visits and make phone calls, but within a month, because of a false case filed against him his privileges were again taken away and things spiraled down hill. He’s back on track again.
He will be moved again when he’s done with ad seg and if he continues the rest of the year with no cases he will be moved to another prison and be able to apply to study for his GED and then other training. After four years in juvy from almost 17 to 21, and back in prison at 22 and is now 33 he has a lot of education to catch up on. He’s not a boy anymore but he doesn’t have the life experiences of a man. He’s a good man. I believe he has the potential to do something worth while. What he has learned these years he can use to help at-risk kids. We talked about the possibility of going to school to become a counselor. With schooling it would be a paid job. He will need help and guidance. How can you know what to do when you have never done it?
How To Survive
He has heard nothing from his family at all. I asked him, “When you get out, do you think they will come to you as though nothing is wrong and want to pick up like all you did was leave town and now you are back?” He said, “Yes.” But I don’t think that will work this time. I know he loves his family – they ARE family – and I know he loves his mother. But what they did was fail to show him that he mattered and they loved him, too. I know what that feels like so I understand the pain. I think it will be hard for him to forget. None of them was there for him or even cared to find out how he was. He has never seen his younger brother, and got only one letter from him. He hasn’t seen his older brother in eight years. Why? “It’s not my fault he’s in there,” he says. Of course he must have a perfect life and makes no mistakes.
It will be time for Jamie to move on and create the life he wants to have. There was a reason I came into his life when I did. His life gave my life a purpose. He has helped me and I have helped him. When I finish the book I am writing about him, “Inside The Forbidden Outside,”the last chapter will be this visit and the epilogue will be about what he would like to see for his future. As I gather notes for the sequel, that book won’t be out for some time – years – because it will be about his last years inside, the process of getting out and reintegrating into society and the obstacles he has to overcome. In the meantime I will write another book.
I’m also working on the next issue of my newsletter. Thank you so much to the people who have supported me, read it and shared it. This gives the book name recognition. I hope to have it out in time for Christmas sales and there is still a lot of editing and rewrites to do.
So after this week of visiting with more grandchildren I’m off to pan for gold and go to the Grand Canyon and I don’t know where else. I’ll be off in an RV with friends. Wish me luck. Maybe I can find enough gold to pay to finish my book! Well, it’s always good to have a dream. LOL
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