We have been blessed that we could spend 5 hrs./day together these last four days to talk, hold hands and “drink each other in”. It was hour after hour of brainstorming/strategizing about the house being under contract and all the negotiations with the bank. We also got a chance to talk about the broken prison system and Kevin’s experiences in the SHU.
There is no doubt, since we were relegated to a small area of the visitation center on very hard plastic chairs, that the bottom gets numb! The other difficulty at visitation is the lack of decent food in the vending area. And, the vending machines don’t work half the time and eat up your money! But how can one complain when you see all the other atrocities going on with what Kevin must endure?
I tried in vain to leave a message for Kevin’s counselor, unit manager and case manager to find out why Kevin didn’t have access to his personal belongings. I made a call to the Butner general number. The good news was that I was lucky enough to talk to a nice guard. He said he would make a call to the head of the SHU. I was so grateful when Kevin came into visitation flashing his wedding band! It meant he finally got some personal items after eight days. But, they wouldn’t let him have a razor (he might slit his wrists), and many of his books and photos weren’t there. Frustratingly, he forgot to pull his stamps out so he couldn’t mail the letters he had written to everyone.
Kevin thought I had talked to the head of the SHU, but I told him it was a just guard who answered the phone. Normally, if they get a call like that from the outside, they put you at the back of the pile and you must wait longer! We got lucky, if you can call it that!
There is no doubt that this system is made for people with loose screws, not for the likes of Kevin. Sadly, there are far more men like Kevin in the system than we first realized. What we discussed is how to revise the system. Truly, it would be a miracle if anything this broken could be revised. I think it would be like undertaking the revision of the IRS code, if not worse! The overcrowding is one thing that must be addressed for several reasons. Our government doesn’t have the financial ability to build more prisons.
Our solution was that it should stop sending in first-time white-collar offenders (and perhaps all non-violent first-time offenders) to prison. Let them have home confinement with restitution. The fact that felons can’t find work is punishment enough, given the impact on the family and their self-esteem. In addition, there is a proposal that time off for good behavior should go from 52 days/year served to 120 days/year served. Those two things would probably send 25% of the inmates back on the streets.
While that might be a scary thought, what is scarier is that there are so many old men (80+ years) that rely on their walkers and wheelchairs in prison. Can you tell me how they could be dangerous to society if they are released? They don’t even know what life on the outside is like. For this, the taxpayers are paying $50+k/year to support those that are living in this broken system!
There’s so much money involved to support the criminal industrial complex – from law enforcement to the prosecutors’ offices to the defense attorneys to the prison employees and all the industries that support the prisons – that it seems very unlikely that true change can ever occur. There isn’t enough time for me to tell all the stories about how broken this system is!
Even though we were satiated after our four days of visitation, we knew the next 4-8 weeks were going to be bad. I can’t come to visit until after I sell the house, pack, move and unpack, all in the next 25 days. There just isn’t enough time for me to take-off four days for another trip to Butner. In addition, it is costing $300 in gas for every trip, so $600 for this past month! And, now I have the expense of a move!
I can’t begin to think of what Kevin is going to endure. We just don’t know when he will finally be moved out of the SHU.