Strength Behind Bars

  This past weekend I visited a dear friend who is currently incarcerated in Texas. I have never visited someone in this environment and it gave me pause beyond belief. My good friend, who will remain anonymous for this posting was beyond excited to see me and she certainly made it known. I wanted to know so much and get the inside story on all of the goings on and I am so glad that I did.
  We spoke about what she eats and when she eats it. We spoke about the other inmates and how they all deal with the day to day in such a raw environment. You should also know that this is a minimum security prison. They are all allowed to walk around the compound without cuffs or any kind of restraints. During visits, if they have to use the bathroom, they must be strip searched before as well as when they leave the visiting room. Contact is allowed, however, it it limited to a hug or kiss in the beginning and one at the end as well. I brought $25 in quarters so that I could get her anything that she wanted from the vending machines that were in the room. All paper money, cell phones, or anything else outside of car keys or glasses were not allowed in the room.

   So naturally, I thought about the thousands of liberties that we have daily that we many times take for granted. Something so simple as not having any paper money with me was magnified in that moment. The food that I bought her was complete junk food and soda, but those were the options that were made available. I asked her if she eats any fruits, and she told me that she had not consumed a real fruit in 2 years! The only ones she had seen came in a can. Also, because our visit transpired during dinner time, she missed dinner that night. I was watching her eat her dinner at that moment.

   As I asked her so many questions, she had answers for all of them and some of them stunned me. Something in particular actually made me stop and take a breath. She told me that crying was definitely something that should not be done. In a place like this it is obviously seen as a sign of weakness that could put you in harm way sooner rather than later. I learned that she was teaching other inmates about their anatomy and even getting a CDLP license for when she returned to normalcy.

  I write her with so much consistency and I was curious what parts of the letters affected her the most? She told me that she enjoyed when I described where I was writing the letter from here in NYC. That alone made me once again have an even higher respect for words and how I release them on paper or from my mouth. She made it clear that she likes clippings from newspapers and any other publications that informed her about things that were happening out in the world.

   As I watched all of her friends meet with their families, I was very emotional inside, although I did not show it. Their were families and lovers coming to see their mates and even children of a couple of people.
The bottom line was, it gave me a different perspective that I will never forget. We are all out in the world enjoying freedom and the choice to make a difference or not. They are on the inside being told when and where to go as well as what to do. The character building that is taking place behind those walls is just on another level completely.

   I must say that my friend was smiling the entire time. She was so very appreciative for the visit that lasted almost 4 hours, but went by like 30 minutes. After driving for about 2 hours and 45 minutes to and from this place, I had thought about so much and took a closer look at what is truly important to me. I goes its like breathing air, you don't think about out too much until it isn't available to you. My blood was running through my veins in a completely different way as I drove away.

  Did you know that you can send money to a person behind bars by using a service called "JPAY"? Did you also know that all letters going in or coming out of prison are read and inspected? I learned so much this past weekend. I will write her even more now as well as send her more clippings, pictures, and even some more books. I feel that I should share even more of my blessings just to make her time more comfortable. She will be out early next year I am sure. I guess you could say that even this experience was supposed to happen. She is resetting her mind, her soul, and her direction.

  Reaching out felt wonderful. All that I had to do to get there was completely worth it. As much as being there is changing her, going there to see her changed me at the same time. Keep striving for the best and remembering that we all need each other no matter what our circumstances are.



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