Liliana Segura

Liliana Segura

17-11-2019

22:48

Yesterday I accompanied a woman to see her loved one in prison. We left before dawn to make it for the AM visit. Several hours later, we were headed back home, our visit denied. I wanted to share a bit about the experience. 1/

As with all prisons, visits are limited to certain days. Our past 2 attempts had been canceled at the last minute after her loved one was thrown in the hole. He has serious health issues and they were really anxious for this visit. 2/

The drive was long, but smooth. We stopped to get quarters along the way, for the vending machines. Some prisons don’t allow money inside, so I thought maybe this facility was more relaxed than others I’ve been to. I was wrong. 3/

The first thing we saw upon arriving was an older woman walking back to her car, carrying her visitation form. She looked defeated. She stopped us and warned that we should take any extra keys off our car keychain. “I just got denied for having too many keys.” 4/

The woman told us she had asked the guards at security if she could just go back to her car and leave her extra keys, then come back. Nope. Not only did they refuse to allow her in, she was banned from visitation for 30 days. 5/

We were stunned—but she seemed more resigned than surprised. She told us to make sure we had no more than $20 in quarters. Also, no earrings, she reminded us—and no necklaces other than a cross. (Wedding bands are okay.) 6/

We went back to the car, took the extra keys off the keychain, and headed inside. Went through security. As I was about to be patted down, the guard smirked and pointed out my (very small) nose ring. “No jewelry.” 7/

My heart sank. This hadn't occurred to me. It’s never been an issue before. I was worried I'd be turned away, or worse, that we would both be denied and it’d be my fault. I was offering to take out the piercing when another guard called over—“they can’t visit anyway.” 8/

Apparently the man we were going to see has had his contact visits suspended. For a year. Reason unclear. Nobody told him. Or his loved one, even though she speaks to his counselor regularly. 9/

As she heard this, the woman I came with started shaking, trying to maintain her composure. She repeatedly told the guards that she wasn't mad at them, but pleaded to talk to someone. She was in tears but clearly anxious not to escalate in a way that would lead to reprisals. 10/

A sergeant came over, checked the computer, said it was not clear why the man’s status changed but he could not allow us in. When the woman asked if someone could notify her loved one about what happened, the sergeant said he would. 11/

We were back on the road when her loved one called. Were we running late? He was still waiting for us. Nobody told him what had happened. And that’s how he found out his contact visits have been suspended for a year. 12/

I’ve been to a bunch of prisons in a bunch of states. The rules are always changing, always arbitrary. What is consistent is the casual cruelty; the indifference; the way some seem to relish denying visits for any reason they can. 13/

I have been thinking about the woman who was turned away because of her keys, and the fact that she must now go a month before seeing her own loved one. For what? There is NO reason. Other than keeping people in their place. 14/

This is a thing that always gets to me after visits: It’s not just the trauma for those inside, but the endless harm to those who try to maintain connections to loved ones. Most people don’t have the resources to just adapt; to try again next time. Families become fractured. 15/

Boarding a flight so I’ll leave it here but: It’s moments like these when I feel most overwhelmed by mass incarceration. This was 1 day, in 1 prison, in 1 state in this country. We have built a vast machinery of cruelty and called it justice—and we’re all diminished by it. 16/16


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