First Impressions of a Federal Prison by Spouse

Family Impact

Feb 16

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011 |

Today I received a Daily Hope email by Rick Warren that was very interesting, timely and so relevant given the last few weeks preparing for Kevin to self-report to prison at Butner.  It starts:

What to do when your world falls apart?   “… look at the specific things God tells us to do when our lives fall apart. You may not need this right now in your life…I guarantee you will need them someday. Inevitably there will come a time in your life — probably multiple times — when the wheels come off, and you’ll need to know what to do when you go through those rough times.”

The email came to my phone while we were driving up to Butner at 6 am! Kevin and I both agreed that this wasn’t our darkest hour, but a dark one nonetheless.  Those darkest times were probably more around the time of his sentencing and being forced to plead ‘guilty’ due to the cost and risk of going to trial.

He has had a very positive outlook, especially today.  His BELIEF going in is that this experience will allow him to serve others and that it will ultimately be a HUGE turning point in our lives. I hope so! I can’t begin to tell you how proud I am of him! Many people would have allowed themselves to be swallowed with self-pity and depression, but he is the consummate fighter.

Lots of first impressions today:

  • How stark our federal buildings are and the people that serve there. It is almost a city unto itself. There is a lot of barbed wire. It looks new and is VERY tall (15-18’).
    self-reporting to FCI Butner Low prison

    Entrance to FCI Butner Low

  • How frustrating the system is—can you believe I’m saying this when he wasn’t even in for 2 hours? They tell you not to bring in money.  So per Kevin’s request, I tried wiring through Western Union for 1.5 hours outside of the prison in the car parking lot. When the wire wouldn’t go through due to a “database error” after trying 7x, I walked back into the prison R&D to try and resolve the issue. I was rudely told that I wasn’t allowed to stay anywhere near the prison parking lot for that amount of time. Long story short, had Kevin walked in alone with the money they would have been forced to take it. Kevin had told me to wire $500 only to find out there is a limit of $300 by Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBOP). Cost per wire: $11.95. TIP: ask for new client discount! (that’s NOT a joke)
  • How we take our freedom for granted: They had signs to follow the sidewalk to the entrance and yet there was a cut through which we thought we would take. We were immediately reprimanded for doing so. You are constantly watched from the moment you drive in.
  • Clearly, they rule in their territory. So, when you go visit, tread lightly and politely: yes sir/ma’am, no sir/ma’am and very deferential!

They were polite taking Kevin in, but I only saw him as he was being patted down for less than 3 minutes before he was led away. I really tried not to cry so that Kevin wouldn’t get agitated, but wasn’t too successful.

Another impression: they have no heart and don’t care. Now all I can do is pray that he can get into the “Camp” after his medical evaluation.  He is currently slated to go into Low security until his evaluation is finished this week, or so we think.

Headed Home Alone

I am grateful to family and friends who made their last phone calls to us as we were driving to Butner.   Those reassurances and God gave me a lot of strength and courage today during the 7+ hour drive home. It is amazing when you are quiet what finally comes to you. There were very few tears though I thought there would be many.

I looked for a radio station playing soothing classical music and found this fabulous North Carolina station on 94.5. I first heard melodies and then listened carefully.  The wonderful words of Gospel and Christian hymns carried me to my next stop just shy of Charlotte where I had a Chick-fil-A sandwich. The same station was playing at the franchise, how amazing! I was self-absorbed when walking out, only to have a nice older gentleman break me out of my reverie when he gently complimented me on my flowered outfit. It was little thing, yet with a big smile, and thus uplifting.

Getting into the car, I heard “Amazing Grace”, which was one of Kevin’s favorite songs. I just knew he was thinking of me, and encouraging me on, as was God. I was thinking how fortunate it was that my mother had died earlier in February.  She didn’t have to witness Kevin going away to prison. My mother would have been devastated as she loved him dearly! She was so grateful for all his care during her last years. What finally brought me to tears was hearing the hymn “For the Beauty of the Earth” a few minutes later. It was my mother’s favorite hymn and one we sang at her memorial service earlier this year. Strangely, it was also energizing.  I felt she was watching and guiding me home.

I drove straight home to Atlanta to weather the storm of the dreaded first evening alone and picked up our beloved dog, Watson, from our dear friend, Ioana. Then I had a quick snack of cheese and crackers and wine with our friends, Toni and Jerry.  We shared the photos of the fabulous family send off at Flemings just 2 nights ago – it feels like weeks ago! One of their friends, Bobbie, offered for me to stay at her company’s condo in High Point, NC.  I can stay there any time for free during visiting days!  Truly an answered prayer to my visiting dilemma! Otherwise it would have been cost prohibitive for me to visit frequently. Thank you, Lord!

Looking Forward to a Visit Already

Our consultant told me that visiting times at the Low were Thursday and Friday 2:30 – 8 pm and Saturday and Sunday 8:30 – 3.  And, the Camp’s visiting times were Friday 5 – 8 pm and Saturday -Monday 8:30 – 3, in addition to federal holidays for both facilities.  I ultimately found out that, due to the large number of inmates at the Low, they rotate weekend visits. Therefore, Kevin’s schedule is every 1st and 3rd weekend for visitation.

My goodness, it is 3 am and still much to do. Just tried again to do the Western Union thing again before going to sleep so he can have money tomorrow, but no success. Like I said earlier: Government is SLOW! What a catch 22: he can’t call me because he doesn’t have any money in his account to make phone calls.  I can’t get him money until I hear from him to find out why he is not showing up in the BOP system. Will call BOP tomorrow or see if I can get his consultant to help.