My husband and I traveled across the country to visit my son in Florida last weekend. We paid for airfare, a hotel and a rental car. When we arrived, we were denied visiting because the facility was in lock-down. We had traveled many hours Friday on the plane and then the next morning got up early to drive an hour to the facility. How disappointing for my son as well as for us.
We were told to call the next day, Sunday, to see if it had been lifted and it had not. There wasn’t much hope, as the entire administration goes home for the weekend and there apparently is no one to make a decision. On Monday, we called again to be told absolutely there would be no visiting. (We would have changed our plane reservations if there was) When we got to our transfer in Dallas, my son called to say the lock-down had been lifted. Another disappointment!
I have sent a letter to the Director of the Bureau of Prisons, Mark Inch, to ask that these rules be changed. It is not fair for a family to take the time and money to travel to visit, only to find they can’t. If it is a matter of security, they could escort the few inmates who have family from out of town visiting to the visiting room. How could this cause any concern or trouble? It is imperative that inmates be allowed to have contact and visits with their families. In this case, lock-down was due to a fist-fight. Why did they have to lock-down the entire facility over this? It’s just beyond my comprehension. Why should all the inmates and their families suffer over what a few do?
Most importantly, how can I plan a visit and spend all the time and money to go across the country and not be sure I will even be able to visit? This is not an incentive to encourage visiting. Even If I had known the night before, the tickets are already purchased and it would be prohibitive to purchase refundable tickets, never mind cancel hotel and rental car. There has to be a better way.
If you have had this experience, please write to Mr. Inch at:
Federal Bureau of Prison
320 First Street NW
Washington DC 20534
Only by voicing our problems can we get the BOP to make changes to their policies!
The holidays are almost upon us. Not only are the holidays important because they bring us closer to family and we make and share great memories, but also because for our incarcerated loved ones it is a difficult time. I imagine there are more lockups during Thanksgiving and Christmas than any other time of the year. The quote below was taken from Unprison January 5, 2012
“The free world can be puzzled by former prisoners who are emotionally conflicted when holidays come along. What they need to understand is that holidays in prison are typically spent on lockdown. Tempers get shorter. Depressions grow deeper. While prisons cut back on staff and pay triple-time to the guards who show up. Some prisons let people out for a 10 minute phone call, and that is the limit of getting out of one’s cell; and if nobody to call, it is all day in the cage.”
So, if you can visit or at least send letters, emails and commissary money, it helps your loved ones cope during the holidays. I have already received a request from my son to help him out for Christmas. He knows I will, but I can see his anxiety about the holidays is mounting already. It has every year for him. That is part of what makes understanding why he is in prison so hard. Why can’t he learn life is valuable and it is just criminal to spend it locked up?
The one thing you do need to do is to check to make sure the facility you want to visit is not on lockdown. You can check this by calling the main number for the facility or checking the prison website. Sometimes, one of the prison blogs will mention a lockdown too. On October 20, 2014 all New Mexico Prisons were ordered on lockdown for a safety prison search. There was no date stated for it to end. Hopefully, it has ended by this writing. On Illinois PrisonTalk, they state both Hill and Menard Prisons are currently on lockdown. You need to call to check when visiting will be reinstated.
Don’t forget your loved ones this Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, and New Years. And don’t forget all the children and families of those in prison who are not able to visit or spend time with their loved ones during the holidays. If you know someone like this, please send then a kind word.