FAMILY VISIT

So, once or twice a year the prison here holds a “Family Day” type festival where you meet in the gymnasium for some special food and and some type of religious event. Once cleared via the normal strip search method you are ready to enter the gym and meet your guests. Unlike the visiting room, you may sit anywhere you want and move about more freely. The food is specially prepared and is not the normal mess hall fare. Bar-b-cued items are the favorite. Guys will pay the money for the weekend just to get the food.

Of course you must sign up weeks in advance which means planning for your guests as well. Their names will have to go on a list too and verified upon entry. No last minute switching allowed. Photo identifications required. But once accomplished and your name and theirs on published, you are good to go. Fortunately I had my roommate help navigate the sign up process as he had done it many times before.

So there we were, my wife, son and I in the gym, talking and adjusting as best we could to life inside corrections together. When the regional director of protestant religious services for this area of Department of Correctional Services (DOCS) was speaking, we were all listening intently. I thoroughly enjoyed their presence and doubly enjoyed them hearing his message of salvation that I had now adopted. “You are forgiven,” he kept repeating. While I did not totally feel it, the idea of somehow possibly receiving it from them as well as myself was joyous.

So when the altar call came – an opportunity for people to come forward, profess their faith and surrender to Jesus – we all went up. There were many tears all around and I felt they were now a party to my new hope, strength and life. We hugged while the director made his way from group to group, hugging and congratulating people.

The end of the visit came too soon with never enough time to say good-bye. They went on their way and I headed down stairs to a room set-up for quick processing of over 100 inmates. Temporary curtains were strung up, and we were to perform the normal strip search process for any of the numerous officers collecting overtime for an easy bid while also enjoying the fine food. Unfortunately for me, I had received a food package the day before and had overdone it on the fresh fruit and vegetables– squash, cherry tomatoes, blueberries and peaches to be exact. The mess hall had served another tofu concoction that I bypassed in favor of the veggies and fruit that just arrived. Sharing two refrigerators with almost 50 guys gets hairy, and you might not find your food in future days if not guarded carefully. Sure you lock it in a net bag which bears your name and ID number, but that means little to someone who really likes the contents. So you have to eat it while you can and it’s fresh.

So I had really chowed down on them to the point of having at first mild then major diarrhea, the evidence of which was plainly visible in my state issue boxers. I had to excuse myself a couple of times during the whole afternoon event to relieve myself, but the explosions keep coming. So now when it was time for me to perform the ‘ol drop ’em, bend and spread routine I was a little, no very, embarrassed even scared.

But God was with me. I muttered something to the young CO about my new diet and the resulting diarrhea and I guess he had pity on the old guy. “You’re all set, get dressed,” he said as he turned away and left the make shift tent, not wanting to see what I didn’t want to show. Another small but important blessing inside corrections that I was noticing more and more. So much so I cried. I do not know for how long, but I cried for my wife and son, the CO and what he had done, the mess I was in and everything. I didn’t think I was heard outside, but some CO used his night stick to bang on the temporary tent curtain to tell me to hurry it up.

There will not be another such opportunity for such a festival till near Christmas. If here, I definitely want to partake.

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