First Prison Visitation after Incarceration

Family Impact

Feb 27

Thursday, August 25th, 2011 |

I woke up at 4:30 am after three hours sleep and got on the road by 5:45 am for my first prison visitation.  I made it to my friend’s High Point condo and then to Butner in great time!  What a relief not to have to pay for hotels, and what solace it is to come and rest my head there!

Visitation Arrival

I had a feeling there were going to be issues on the first visit so I made sure I arrived 15 minutes prior to visitation time.  Kevin wanted me to wear a sundress and when I approached the guard he said, ”You can’t go in like that—no sleeveless attire.” OK, now what? I had dropped my luggage at the condo already. I approached two ladies and asked if they might have a T-shirt I could borrow, but they had nothing with them. However, they suggested the Dollar General Store in Butner.

Butner is so tiny.  I missed it. You would think that it would have stood out. The town is only two blocks long on the south side. So, I raced back and bought a T-Shirt from the Dollar General to put over my dress. Then back to the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI).   I signed in, filled out their visitation form, submitted it with my driver’s license and waited.

Visitation List Approval

They called me up to tell me I wasn’t on Kevin’s approved visitation list. Kevin had mailed me the form, but it had not arrived prior to my leaving for Butner. I had been told that for immediate family there was a 30-day waiver of these written approvals. I told the guard I was supposed to be on the visitation list. With that, the guard told me to sit down again. I overheard him trying to get five members of Kevin’s team, but they had all left early. Finally, after 50 minutes I got clearance for the visit.  I was photographed and then scanned through a metal detector. Then I waited with other visitors to be escorted through the two massive electronic gates into the yard and then into the visitation center.

What I later found out from Kevin was that he had submitted his immediate family list to his counselor, Ms. Butler. When she saw the list, she said, “I don’t have time to clear all these people; my work load is overloaded.” To which Kevin asked if she could just clear me since I was coming up for four days. She said she would…well that didn’t get me too far!

TIP: Take an extra visitation form home with you, fill it out without a date and photocopy.  Keep a stack of the forms with you in the car so you don’t have to do it each time.

While waiting, I met a very beautiful black woman, 7 months pregnant with a 3-year-old in tow. We talked about her child. I was afraid to ask any other questions; Kevin had already told me that you don’t ask inmates any questions. They must volunteer. Once we were in the visitation center, I noticed that she and everyone else was anxious to see their loved ones.  I knew I would see her again.

Our First Visit Together

Again, I waited but not for long. Kevin came in and went straight to the guard desk to drop off his prescription sunglasses. He is only allowed the sunglasses due to his medical condition. Thank God, we had our ophthalmologist write a long letter about his eyes and the effects of the Amiodarone to his eyes.  The drug causes a “vortex” and creates light sensitivity.

Then he turned and saw me. I thought he was going to shout and cry for joy, but you can’t exhibit any emotions, just a little hug or kiss, very much like being chaperoned in the 1800’s! To hell with it!  It was our first visit; better to ask for forgiveness than permission, so I grabbed him and gave him a big bear hug from me and all who had called on the way up. Well not all of them, or the guards would have yelled at us!

Kevin looked great, clean shaved, haircut and pressed uniform—that’s my man.  He had lost another 3-5 lbs. but can’t afford to lose too much more. Kevin told me that he was really trying to stay away from all sugar and carbs. Problem is, that is about all they serve. Vegetables are canned, then over cooked and then further steamed in the cafeteria. Kevin doesn’t like anything but raw vegetables, and few at that. He told me that in the 10 days he had been there, they served salad only once! Chicken is always dark meat—you guessed it, Kevin only likes breast meat. He is now adapting…slowly. Much of the meat that is served is “broken parts” where the bone is broken prior to freezing. Companies can sell to the BOP, but not to retail customers.

We had so much to catch up on; it was like a super ball bouncing all around. Frankly, I have never had Kevin to myself for four uninterrupted hours without a cellphone or TV or interruptions and it was information overload. By the time visitation was over, I was ready to go as I had another 1.5 hours’ drive back to the High Point condo.

While walking back through the “yard” and through security, I talked to the lovely lady again with her child. She had seen my sleeveless dress dilemma and advised me that I could wear what she was wearing: spandex Capri pants and a tunic. I thought, “Great, I have that with me, that’s what I’ll wear tomorrow and there won’t be a problem!”

I felt Kevin hadn’t disclosed some things so I wouldn’t get concerned.  But in all, given how out of our comfort zone we are, I was amazed! Truly God has given each of us peace and the serenity to know what we can change and what we need to accept. I’m not giving up; I’m still praying for a miracle that it will be less than five years. Seeing him adapt, and make such an effort for our first “date”, convinced me that he will survive this as well. He will separate himself from the rest of the pack, while at the same time help and mentor others during his time there. That’s my man!

It had been a long and emotional first day—I had been up twenty hours!

  • […] on everyone.  Christine described this process from the family’s point-of-view here and here.  Also, I posted the BOP visitor forms and information links […]

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