Tag Archives: prison

Finally at Peace

When you live with constant turmoil you become accustomed to living as if on a constant roller coaster ride.  The twists and turns of upheaval in your life create emotional stress, and yet you constantly adjust, cope, and keep on moving forward.  This becomes so normal you do not even realize how much stress you are constantly under.

That has been my life for the past few years.  The loss of my grandchildren to foster care and then a battle with CPS when we tried to adopt which resulted in them being lost to adoption by strangers.  My son serving six years in prison for home invasion, dealing with the constant dangers that environments holds.  My mother, father, father-in-law, and then my husband battling cancer and passing away, all within a three year period.  My son being released from prison and paroled to my home; something I had originally looked forward to but which became a very stressful situation.  Peace of Mind

Following my husband’s death I made a determination that I needed to downsize out of my home and into something smaller.  In the midst of planning for that made a decision to  instead downsize into an RV and travel full-time.  During this process I informed both of my adult children that I was no longer going to be able to subsidize them financially, something my husband had always done while he was alive.  This resulted in more stress, but over time success was achieved.  They are both now living financially on their own.

I am finally at a point where success is on the horizon.  My new lifestyle begins on Monday.  I closed on my house today.    Friday is my last day of work.  My daughter moved her family north and is now residing near her fiance’s parents, a situation that is serving well.  Both Caroline and Rob are working at new jobs and my three grandchildren are enjoying life in a more country setting close to their other grandparents.

My son, now out of prison for 1-1/2 years, has obtained his CDL and is working in a position driving semi.  He and his ex-wife have reconciled and are residing in a home they rent near his workplace.   I am at peace that I do not have to worry about him being cold, undernourished, injured or killed in prison.  I wish him success.

For the first time in years my mind is at peace.  My children are both living on their own without my financial assistance, and I am going into semi-retirement.  I will be residing full-time in a motor home, traveling the United States and Canada and doing part-time remote or seasonal work.

For the first time in years I can sleep without my mind churning over the problems, worries, and stress that plagued me for so long.  I hope nothing happens to upset the apple cart.  A mind at peace is a wonderful thing.

2 Comments

Filed under Adoption, assumptions, cancer, Coping, CPS, death, decisions, employment, events, exploration, Family, Foster Care, grandchildren, home, kids, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, parents, reality, time, travel, work

First Day of Freedom

Imagine six years of life where your movements are controlled, where you have no privacy, where you can make phone calls out but no one can call you, your mail is read prior to you receiving it, where you can never go visit, but must wait for people to visit you.   That is the life my son led from the time he was 24 years old until he was 30.

When he received notice in December that he had received parole he began counting down the days.  March 20th seemed like it was in the distant future for him.  For me it went fast.  I was trying to get things done prior to his release, and of course I made the six hour drive to pick him up.

Patrick was released from Newberry Correctional Facility in Michigan’s upper peninsula at 8:00 am March 20, 2018.  Although he is on a tether for the first six months of his two year parole, and he must abide by curfews that in the beginning are tight, it is considerably better than the spot he was at.  So how did Patrick spend his first day of freedom?

I picked him up at the correctional facility, we loaded his belongings into the car and than took our last two prison photos, a “selfie” of the two of us, and then one of him in front of the facility.  Every time I (and my now deceased husband) visited we paid to have photos taken of us together and one of Patrick alone, so this was our last prison photo shoot.

Our first stop was a gas station/McDonald’s combination where he got a McGriddle sandwich — also one of my favorites.  When he asked if he could have bacon added to the sandwich the girl responded “you can have whatever you want” and Patrick responded “those are words I’m not used to hearing.”

I had purchased him a cell phone, but phones have advanced considerably in the past six years.  He was on the phone talking as we were crossing the Mackinac Bridge and I heard him say that the water looked really cool with the ice on it and “if I wasn’t on the phone talking to you I could take a picture.”  He got instructions on how to stay on the phone and take a photo at the same time.

Two years ago my husband/Patrick’s father passed away, and I had obtained permission from the parole agent to make a few stops, Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly being one, where Patrick saw his father’s grave-site for the first time.

We then headed to Fort Gratiot, he did not have to check in with the parole agent until the next morning, and we had permission to go shopping at Kohls to get him some clothes and then out to dinner.  We ended up spending about three hours in Kohls.

IMG_20180320_160215167

Patrick tries on a hat at Kohs

Patrick helped me pick out short outfits for my grandchildren’s Easter baskets, then we shopped for clothing for him.  He had changed sizes while incarcerated and had to try on a few things.  A pair of tennis shoes, four pair of jeans, a pair of shorts, one shirt (couldn’t find many he liked), some boxers, and socks and we felt he had a nice start.  I had already purchased him a nice pair of fleece pants, hoodie, polo, and a v-neck t-shirt prior to picking him up.  During our shopping Patrick had to exit the building and stand in an open area of the parking lot so the satellite could take a picture of him/his location.  He was told that happens frequently in large department stores or malls if in for a while.

Next stop was Red Lobster.  Lobster Fest is going on, and we had the same meal — two different kinds of lobster and green beans with mushrooms, and of course salad and biscuits.  The place was quiet, the service was good, the food was fantastic.

IMG_20180320_173823262

Dinner at Red Lobster

We were on our way home when my daughter called and said her boyfriend had the truck torn apart and needed to pick up a hose to complete it, could I swing by, pick him up and take him around the corner to the auto store.  I went by her house, dropped off Patrick, picked up Rob and took him to the auto shop, then went back around and dropped off Rob and picked up Patrick and we came home and unloaded the car.

The evening was finished off with Caroline (my daughter) and her three kids coming over for a while, and then Patrick and I watched a bit of TV.  It was a wonderful day for me, and I’m sure a great first day of freedom for him as well.

Leave a comment

Filed under celebration, children, communication, Coping, decisions, Discoveries, events, Family, food, home, kids, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, memoir, parents, travel, Upper Penninsula

Freedom on the Horizon

For the past six years my son, Patrick, has called me every week, sometimes more than once a week, and each time we engage in a 15 minute conversation.  He always calls me.  I am not allowed to call him back.  We try to exchange as much information as possible in those weekly conversations.  Things that need to be handled, questions, and some general fun information on what is going on in each other’s life.

This past week Patrick called me in the middle of the day while I was at work.  It was a very special call and he was bursting with good news.  He finally received notice on the outcome of his parole hearing, which I talked about in All We Can Do Is Wait.  He is being paroled!  On March 20, 2018 I will be picking Patrick up from the prison and driving him home.

He will be on a two-year parole and is being released on a tether.  It is a six-hour drive home and Patrick will need to report to his parole agent here in our county that same day.   He will need to get a driver’s license.  The majority of his clothes will not fit as he has gotten taller and broader in the past six years.  Patrick was twenty-four when he went in, and will be thirty when he comes out.

Patrick and Grace taken during prison visit October 30, 2017

Patrick and Grace, October 30, 2017

It is exciting to have Patrick coming home.  In the time he was incarcerated he lost two daughters (my granddaughters) to foster care/adoption.  He also missed the funeral/memorial services of one grandmother, two grandfathers, and his father (my husband).  In addition to a general loss of freedom, those who are incarcerated can lose much on a personal/emotional scale as well.

We are both looking forward to the day of Patrick’s parole with excitement, but I think also a bit of trepidation.   Neither of us are the same people we were when he was arrested all those years ago.  There will be an adjustment period as he will be living with me initially while he gets his feet under him.  My home will need to meet the requirements of his parole.   He is used to living under the constant scrutiny and control of a prison and will now have the ability to enjoy freedom within the confines of his parole requirements.    He is used to living with all men.  I am used to living alone.  It will definitely be an adjustment.

The countdown has begun.  Seventy-seven days to go, but who is counting.  Freedom is on the horizon.

 

4 Comments

Filed under anniversary, celebration, communication, Coping, decisions, Family, habit, home, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, parents, reality, time

All We Can Do Is Wait

On October 31, 2017 while everyone was prepping for the evenings Halloween fun, I was attending my son’s parole hearing.  It was the first either of us have ever been through so the nerves leading up to the day were rough for both of us, but I’m sure more for him than I.  I visited Patrick the evening before the hearing.  We had a nice visit and were both quite relaxed by that point.  We were as prepared as possible.

Patrick and Grace taken during prison visit October 30, 2017

Patrick and I, October 30, 2017

The parole hearing was scheduled at 8:30 am, so McLeod House, the bed and breakfast where I was staying in Newberry was kind enough to fix breakfast for me a bit earlier than normal.  This was nice, as I was able to attend with a satisfied appetite.  When I arrived at the prison I had to go through the normal security check procedures used when visiting a prisoner.

The hearing was being conducted by video, with Patrick and I seated side-by-side at a table and the gentleman from the parole board on two-way video with us.  We could only see part of his face, but we could tell he was inputting information into a computer, reading information on Patrick, and forming his questions as he went.

This was surprising to me.  I expected them to have a written list of questions they went by, but that was not the case.  Obviously each parole hearing is conducted “on the fly” so to speak, with questions tailored specifically to each individual person and new questions arising based on the answers the parole board member receives.

When I arrived the parole board member asked if I had ever attended a parole hearing before, and when I told him I had not he explained that for the majority of the hearing he would be talking to Patrick and I was to sit quietly and listen, and I was not to help Patrick with his answers, nudge him, kick him under the table, or in any other way influence his answers.  At the end I would be given an opportunity to speak.

The gentleman covered my Patrick’s crimes, asked him some questions, and then asked me what I thought about his crimes.  That was a question I had not anticipated and all I can hope is my reaction/answer satisfied what he was looking for.    When given the opportunity I also stated that I have room for Patrick to stay with me, a car he can use, etc.  However given the nervousness of the situation I know I forgot part of what I intended to say.

The hearing took approximately thirty minutes.  When it was over we were advised it may take weeks or months to hear a decision.  Patrick has one required class he will be finished with in a couple weeks, and we anticipate they may wait until he has completed that before issuing a decision.  Hopefully it is not too long.

There is no visiting once the hearing is complete.  I was able to hug him goodbye and then I left the prison.  His earliest parole date is March 19, 2018, so there is plenty of time between now and then.  Hopefully the decision is made quickly so we know the situation.  It is in the parole boards hands so all we can do is wait.

1 Comment

Filed under assumptions, communication, Coping, decisions, Family, impressions, Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, parents, time

Show Me The Bottom Of Your Feet

A step that I completed three times this past weekend.  Having done it for the past five years, I really don’t need any instruction, I now know it is required.  That is only one of the things that must be done when you visit a prisoner.  Those who are familiar with the routine don’t give it a thought, but it is discomforting to someone who visits for the first time.

Knowledge is the main key to a successful visit.  Visiting a prison is not scary, it is just different.  Security measures and dress codes must be adhered to.  Your freedoms are also restricted to insure the safety and control of all inside those doors.  Prisoners in a visiting room are not horrible people to be terrified of, they are just people who made a mistake at some point in their life.  They are in that visiting room spending cherished time with friends, their parents, spouse, children, grandparents.  Anyone who is on their visiting list and has been cleared to visit.

So what is involved in visiting a prisoner?  While I can only speak for Michigan, I would presume that other states have similar practices and requirements.  Step one is the prisoner has to fill out a visitors list, putting on it the people who will or may visit him.  Before a person can go inside a state prison to visit they must fill out an application and submit it to the prison, then wait to obtain clearance.  Once you have received clearance it “moves” with you if the prisoner should be transferred to another location.

Patrick and Me 2 adj croped May 2017080

My son, Patrick, and I during day one of my visit during Memorial Day weekend

Once approved you are free to visit the prisoner during that prison’s designated visiting times.  Information regarding each prison’s visiting hours and other important information can be located online.  You may want to call the prison to verify whether their vending machines use cash or if you have to purchase and load a vending card.  You will need quarters for a locker where you will be required to store your car keys, jackets, or any other items you carry in but are not allowed to take into the visiting room.  Keep in mind that most prisons do not allow you to bring your cell phone, beeper, pager, or any other similar devise inside the building.  Those items must be left in your car.

The easiest way to go about this is to take in the cash you plan to use for vending (some prisons require quarters only in a clear plastic bag and limit the dollar amount per person), your vending card or funds to load one, your picture ID, and your car keys.  You are not allowed to wear anything, such as a watch, that contains a battery or is electronic, but other jewelry is allowed.  An inventory of all jewelry, belts, glasses, and medical items, such as an ankle brace, will be noted at check-in, and then verified that it is still with you at check-out.  That is not because they think someone is going to steal it off you, but to make sure that a visitor has not transferred contraband to a prisoner.  Prisoners are also searched/patted down prior to the visit and again go through a “shake down” after the visit.

Patrick2 May 2017 adj cropped 078

Patrick during day 2 of our visit — this photo has been cropped, which I do with most photos taken at the prison.

Keep in mind that clothing should be conservative — no short shorts, low-cut or revealing clothing such as skin tight leggins, no hoodies, no jackets/coats in the visiting room.  The only thing you are allowed to carry into the room is your funds or vending card and your locker key.

So, you’ve done your preliminary steps, you have been approved, you know when to visit, how to dress, how to bring in funds for vending machines.  Now what?  If possible, it is best to advise your prisoner in advance the date and anticipated time when you plan to visit.  This allows the prisoner to be properly clothed for a visit and to be where his Commanding Officer can quickly locate him.   My son knows the estimated time of my arrival and is able to see me drive by from his bunk window.  When he sees my car go by he walks up by his C.O. and awaits the call from the visiting room so he can be released for a visit.  This helps to shorten the time you have to wait before the visit begins.

When you arrive at the prison take in only the limited items mentioned above and lock everything else in your car.  You will need to complete a sign-in sheet where you fill out your personal information, including your name, address, birth date, the license plate of your car, the prisoner’s number, and your relationship to the prisoner.  You will need to present picture ID, which they will hold until you leave.  They will note any jewelry you are wearing:  2 earrings, one ring, one pair of glasses, etc.  The desk will call back to the prisoner’s bunk and advise the C.O. that the prisoner has a visit.

If your prisoner sent anything up to the desk for you to take home you will receive it from the visitor’s desk, will be instructed to sign that you have picked up.  It is always a good idea for the prisoner to let you know ahead of time what they have sent to be picked up so you have some knowledge of what to expect.  Items they send to the front for pickup are only held for thirty days.  At my most recent visit I had to pick up a large envelope, a very heavy box filled with paperwork and books, and a huge plastic bag filled with numerous items my son had crocheted since my prior stop.  I have a small hand cart I take with me which helps in transporting the items going home from the building to the parking lot.

Make sure you have the appropriate money and/or vending card purchased and loaded before going back to the visiting room.  It is also a good idea to use the restroom prior to your visit, as bathroom visits are limited, require you to be escorted out by a guard, and also require another complete search and pat-down prior to re-entering the visiting room.

Once your prisoner arrives in the visitor area (you will not see this, he will arrive through a separate entry), he will be patted down, enter the visiting room, and be either standing at attention near the doorway until you arrive, or be already seated at an area he was instructed to use by the visiting room officer.   Once he is in the visiting area you will be called and taken back.

You will walk through a scanner, then be told to remove your socks and shoes and show the guard the bottom of your feet.  If it is warm enough, sandals make this step much easier.  You will then put your footwear back on.  You will be asked to open your mouth and raise your tongue.  You will have to stand with your back to the guard, legs spread, arms raised, and be patted down.  You will have to pull out your pockets so they can be checked.  If you are wearing a shirt with rolled up sleeves, they will have to be unrolled so they can be checked.  All of these steps are to prevent contraband from entering the prison.  The search and pat-down are done by a guard of the same gender as the visitor.  Your hand will be marked with a black light pen and you will be then taken to the visiting room.

Patrick May 2017 adjusted 077

This photo of Patrick shows how prisoners are required to dress, in their striped uniform and prison issue shoes.  This also shows the way most photos are taken before the mural and is why I crop most photos

Visits in prisons are contact visits.  This means you are in the same room with your prisoner and with all other prisoners who are having visits.  Be aware that prisoners are not allowed to converse with each other in the visiting room.  A cordial greeting is okay, but beyond that they can not congregate and or hold conversations with each other.  When you enter the room you will spot your prisoner and go to where ever they are located.  You are allowed to hug your prisoner upon greeting and upon leaving.  There are usually cards and other games available on a shelf to use during the visit if you choose to, and also some toys for children.  There are vending machines to purchase beverages, snacks and sandwiches.  Keep in mind that this is usually food the prisoner is unable to get during their day-today life and so this is a special treat to be able to eat and drink items such as burgers, burritos, candy, and pop.  They have limited items available in their commissary, but not all.  I normally purchase the photos tickets and food for my son, only having a light snack myself during the entire day I am there.  I go out to dinner after the visit.  I generally go for about 8-9 hours per visit and spend between $25-$35 in vending per day.

Remember, everything in a prison is limited and controlled.  The prisoner is not allowed to get up and walk around, they are not even allowed to approach the vending machines or area where games are stored.  You will have to get everything on your own.  Food items must be removed from their package and put on a paper plate before taking it to the table where you and your prisoner are seated.  There are microwaves available in the visiting room for heating foods.

You will be able have photos taken of your prisoner solo and/or with you.  Photo “tickets” are purchased either at the front desk as you check in or are cards that are purchased from the vending machine.  The cost is very reasonable, $2.50 gets you two 4×6 prints of the photo, one for you to take home, one for the prisoner to keep.  At some point during the visit you will be called up to have your photo taken before a mural in the visiting room.  Photographer is one of the jobs that prisoners can hold while they are incarcerated.   This is the one time when the prisoner is allowed to get up, walk over to have his photo taken, then return to his seat.  The other is if he is going out for a restroom visit for which he is escorted out by a guard.

If you as a visitor need to use the restroom you will have to advise the guard at the desk.   You will then go back to your seat and wait until another officer comes into the room to escort you out.  They will sometimes make an announcement asking whether any additional women and/or men need to go, but sometimes it is not announced, so keep your eye out.  It is often easier to go out when a group is going then have to wait later.  Bathroom trips are limited and keep in mind you will again have to go through the metal detector, remove shoes, get patted down, etc. depending on how far outside of the visiting room you have to go to use a restroom.

If a visiting room becomes crowded some visitors may be asked to leave.  The general rule is first in, first out.  Some prisons base who is asked to leave first on the distance traveled to visit.  If visitor one was in first but traveled 300 miles and visitor two only traveled 100 miles, visitor two may be asked to leave before visitor one.  Generally they will make an announcement and ask for volunteers to leave prior to selecting who must go.  I have only had to leave earlier than intended 2-3 times in the past five years, Father’s Day being one of them.  For that reason I now avoid visiting on that holiday.

Patrick and Me adj cropped May 2017079

Patrick and I during day 2 of my Memorial Day weekend visit. 

When you are ready to leave you must advise the desk overseeing the waiting room, then go sit back down and wait.  An officer will arrive in the visiting room to escort you out.  Keep in mind that it may take some time before you are actually allowed to exit, and  the wait may be extensive if it is during shift change or count.  Your prisoner can advise you on when those things occur.  You may hug your prisoner before departing, and if photos were taken you would have received two copies of each picture — one to leave with the prisoner, one to take home.

During the exit process you will be asked to pass your marked hand under a black light, they will verify you are wearing the same jewelry you entered with, and your drivers license will be returned to you.  Retrieve your items out of the locker and you are free to go.

You have now survived your first prison visit.  A simple walk in the prison.  Nothing scary.  Perfectly routine.

Leave a comment

Filed under Life Changing, Life is a Melting Pot, reality, travel