My son is in prison
My son wasn’t living with us at the time; we had kicked him out of the house 2-3 weeks prior. He moved in with a friend down the street: he was 17. I was happy he was down the street, but I had no idea he had a drug problem. I would talk to him every couple of days. One day his friend knocked on my door crying and told me he was arrested. I didn’t know who to talk to or anything. I was able to see him in the detention center, but that was through a monitor. It was horrible. I couldn’t believe that I have a son in prison!
My son did get an attorney, a public defender. So I did meet with the attorney and he told me my son was going to prison, so I did know that. After the case I never talked to the attorney again. Nobody prepares you or tells you what to or what was happening with my son. Not sure how I got information to visit: if I got a call from my son or if I called the facility. I might of gone on line after I was approved or called to find out what I could wear. All I remember is that nobody was very friendly.
When he first arrested there was a waiting period and I couldn’t visit him. He was in the “fishbowl”. After the waiting period I visited him a couple of times before he was sentenced.
Once he was sentenced I went to visit him with my mom, grandmother and his dad. He was in the youthful offenders program, 22 and under, so felt a little better that he would be with younger people and not hardened.
Visiting My Son in Prison for the First Time
First time pulling into parking lot was horrible. I felt like, what am I doing here? I physically felt ill, like someone kicked me in stomach. The check in took about an hour. I’d never been to a prison before. After check in I would hear every door clink behind me. I’d walk into the visitor’s room and the guards would be sitting at a table. They would tell me what table to sit at.
I got more used to seeing him here – as he was there longer, I’d look forward to the visits, but the feeling in my stomach never changed, like someone was physically kicking me or punching me in my stomach.
After 10 years I still have that same feeling after I drive into parking lot, still have that same sickening feeling in my stomach, G-d I’m here; I could never get past it.
When I visited the people in line helped me the first time and told me what I needed to do. Once I became a regular I helped people like they did to me the first time. You learn to talk to the other people that are there on the outside. I’ve met nice people that helped each other and I always tried to give back. I’ve actually lent clothes to people because they would not get in. I got used to always having an extra outfit in the car, just in case. One prison you could not wear a certain color jeans, and in another one you could.
At the prisons I visited I would get in line and they’ve give me a locker for my keys or anything else I couldn’t bring in. On my first visit I only brought $2-3 because I didn’t know how much money I could bring in and my ID card. I put everything in a plastic bag.
Pending on the day I visited sometimes there was a 6 hour limit, and on other days there was a 2 hour limit.
One time they moved him to a facility where they put people to death. I had an issue with him being in a facility where they put people to death, but he wasn’t there long. He was also in maximum security once, and I couldn’t stand the fact that he was in a cell for 23 hours.
During one of my visits to my son, the guard tole me that my son and one other man would get the most visits. It’s heartbreaking.
He did get a certificate for AC (Heating & Cooling) and I received an invitation in the mail for his graduation. I did attend his graduation.
It is important for him to have a support system when he comes out. I don’t know what people who don’t have a support system do. I don’t know what people who don’t have anyone to help them get back on their feet do?
It was heartbreaking, when I would tell him goodbye it was hard. I didn’t cry in front of him, it would be harder for him – I was the mom. I’d tell myself: I’m fine, I’m fine.
Every prison has different rules, every time he was moved I had to call to find out what could I wear, how much money could I bring. Probably the hardest thing for me as a parent was every time he was moved to a new place it took me a while to get used to it because I knew it was hard for him. It was tougher for me because he was a kid – just turned 18 – out on house arrest for his 18th birthday and 2 weeks later went to prison. I wrote him weekly for 10 years and he had a lot of support.
It was really nice when we could start using cell phones on the outside because I knew that he could reach me anytime. This was done through JPay. Prior to that he could only call the land line, now he could reach me any time on my cell. As a parent I was so excited because he could call me at any time – that if he had access to a phone that he could call me and I wouldn’t miss his call. At least I knew that he had access to me. He was in 6 or 7 facilities and would call me after he was moved because he didn’t have warning when they would move him.
To let you know, sometimes I would drive out to the prison and just sit there and cry so much that I couldn’t go in. I didn’t see him on those days.
I thought it was very unfair the way that guards treated me, “I didn’t do the crime so you have no business to look down on me.”
Advice I’d give to the readers when visiting a loved one in prison is to mentally prepare yourself. I got used to telling to myself on the car ride there “I know he’s okay, he’s safe”, and this helped me. Cry before you go in and after you leave. Do not cry when you are with your loved one. Don’t cry in front of him, it doesn’t help him.
Call the prison to find out exactly what you can take, how much money you can bring and what clothes you can wear. Bring plenty of money. Also, shoes can be a big deal. Always bring an extra pair of shoes.
For me, I would think: “I am going to be strong for my loved one, not let him see my cry, and am going to be positive, you know choices have been made, but I’m here for you”. Even if you don’t feel it inside do it for your loved one. Be positive for your loved one.
I admire these women who go in there and support these men – you are married – how do you end up in here?
Advice to my son was to be safe. Always make sure that when you are out and about always be with someone – you do have to watch your back in prison. My son was always very positive with me. He would always reassure me.
I always made sure he had $30 on his books, my mom was my lifeline with my son in prison, his dad was not very strong, you always hear that one of the parents is the strong one – it was me.
I would plan my vacations around when I was going to visit my son.
I can’t stand to see my son in prison, did he think it was easy for me?
First time hardest because you don’t know what you’re walking into and know there is nothing you can do, I had to leave him in that place. He seemed he was doing much better than I was, don’t know if he really was.
If you are not able to put on this face, don’t go see him – write to him and just let them know that they are loved and you are thinking about him – it doesn’t help them if you are not able to put on a good face.
What helped me – the power of prayer – I just had faith, and my son going to prison saved him. I can honestly say I think it saved him – I had no idea of everything he was involved with. I learned to appreciate the fact that he was saved by going to prison. I am optimist and you have to find the good in every situation, just think positive and have faith.
The first year I kept a journal – it was cathartic.