Saturday, September 9, 2017
School is back in session. In preparing myself for a new school year I reflected on my experiences as a Prison Wife. I alphabetized my list, please feel free to come up with more words in the comments section.
Absence- Your loved one is not here, he is absent but not gone.
Advocate- prepare to speak for him. Calling the facility and sometimes Albany to make sure he is safe and being treated fairly.
Anger- At an unfair system, at him, for putting you through this, at yourself, because you choose to stay and suffer.
Attorney- If you can afford it, hire one!
Blessings- Count them any chance you get. They are everywhere you just need to recognize them.
Caring- The only way to get through the tough times.
Children- The innocent victims of incarceration. We must nurture them and teach them so that they may not continue the cycle.
Crazy- Many people will question your sanity. I am here to reassure you that you are sane, promise!
Dedication- Day in and day out, you are there for him.
Defend- There will come the time when you will have to defend your relationship. Even family members will not understand why you stand by him.
Discrimination- Inside and outside of prison, discrimination is real.
Distance- There will be distance between you and your loved one. One can hope that he is housed close to home. There is also the emotional distance that will threaten your relationship. It will take hard work to make sure you remain close.
Directives- Rules that must be followed by the staff as well as the inmates and their families.
Doubts- There will be so many! Am I doing the right thing for me? for my family? for him? Be true to yourself.
Drive- You may have to drive long distances to see him. It will take drive to keep on keeping on.
Emotions- Sad, happy, depressed, excited, relieved, etc. Prison is an emotional place and we are emotional people. There is energy in motion. Make sure to share them with your loved one, he needs to hear how you are feeling.
Excuses- (This one was given to me by my 15 year old) When someone asks "so why didn't you come to --- last weekend?" that's when the excuses come, that is, depending on who is asking and whether you choose to share about your struggle.
Family- Can be a great source of support or tension, depending on your situation. The way I see it, family is not determined by blood but by love.
Fears- Not knowing what is happening on the inside, thinking about everything that can go wrong- those fears are real. Unfortunately we have no control of what can happen but we can control our attitude. The universe has a funny way of giving us what we put out; those fears can materialize if we give them enough energy.
Friends- Prison will test friendships. His real friends will stand by and even assist you and your family. Some of your friends may disappear as you end up dedicating a lot of time to your loved one, or perhaps they do not agree with your choices. Good friends will offer support, accept it.
Handbook- When in doubt, check it out...
Hope- Here's a much better way to use your energy. Don't lose hope; this, too, shall pass!
Human- Inmates, prisoners, offenders... they are human beings and we love them.
Hunger- When my husband tells me he's hungry, it breaks my heart. It is a reality of prison... hunger. Anyone who tells you they get 3 square meals has never been in prison.
Ignorance- You don't know what you don't know... Many people will try to tell you how prison works or what 'goes on in there.' Truth is, there is a lot of ignorance about the reality of prison. Research, ask those who do know.
Independent- "I am woman, hear me roar!"
Injustice- Justice is supposed to be blind, it is not. Our system is broken.
Jail- Where the prison journey begins. Many people think prison is jail and vise versa. Jail is usually local (city/county) and for people waiting for trial or who have short sentences for less serious crimes (misdemeanors).
Kill- When people find out how much time my husband has, they will often ask; "Did he kill someone?" Unfortunately some offenders get ridiculous sentences, in many cases, harsher than a murderer might get. All thanks to mandatory minimums!
Knowledge- Ask as may questions as you can. Talk to those who have been in the trenches and you will gain knowledge. Experience is the best teacher.
Letters- You will receive many. Some will make you happy, others upset. They tell your and his story.
Lonely- This is a lonely journey, regardless of how many people surround you. The feeling of loneliness can be overwhelming, find a way to feel closer to your loved one.
Love- Hard for some to understand, especially if you met your loved one while incarcerated. How can you love someone who is not here? Love transcends space and time. It is limitless.
Man- He is still a man. Prison tries to emasculate our loved ones; taking away freedom, calling them horrible names, beating them. Treat him like a man any chance that you get.
Money- Be prepared to spend it. Vending machines, commesary, traveling to visit, phone bills, etc.
Number- DIN (Department Identification Number) In NY state, the number begins with the year of current convition, then a letter represents place of reception (A, B...), finally the last number reflects the number of people entering the system that year (Ex. 17B1234). This number becomes the way the State identifies your loved one. You will need this number when visiting, sending mail/packages, calling, etc.
Officers- Some can be real jerks who get a rise out of being in charge. There ARE some decent individuals who do their job and actually try to be fair. They are few and far between, but they exist!
Optimistic- Be positive. There is nothing to gain by being negative.
Packages- Some facilities allow family members to send or bring food, clothes, shoes and toiletries. TV facilities only allows 2 food packages per year. Everything else must be purchased by the inmate. Non-TV facilities have different rules.
Phone- Once upon a time you needed a land line in order to receive calls from prison. Today, your cellphone will do. Second to visiting, receiving a phone call is the most awaited event! I've taken my husband on vacations, camping and to visit friends and relatives thanks to my cellphone.
PDA (public display of affection)- I am not one to engage in much of it, but visiting rooms are full with it. Some people even get in trouble for it.
Pictures- Prized possessions. Mementos from visiting your loved one. They will help you get through the tough times.
Prison- A large building surrounded by a tall wall with towers and barbed wire. Usually located in the boonies, far from civilization :) Love it or hate it, it houses your loved one.
Purpose- We all have one, what is yours?
Quest- A search. I think of our quest for my husband's freedom. We look for ways to bring him home, resources, people who can help, etc.
Questions- Oh, so many! They come from you, from him and especially from anyone who is just finding out about your situation. Your responses will depend solely on you. The hardest to answer have come from my own kids. On the other hand, don't hesitate to ask them. That's how we learn.
Quiet- Know when to stay quiet. In the situation when my husband is venting I try to stay quiet and listen. When I visit the facility I have very little interaction with the officers. I speak when I need to. It helps avoid issues.
Racism- Is alive and well, especially in the prison system.
Reasons- Why do you wait? We all have our reasons. They are OUR reasons. No one else has to agree.
Resilience- Your loved one will become resilient and so will you. Life throws us all kinds of curve balls. Our situation teaches us to expect the unexpected and rise above the pain.
Rights- We all have them. Yes, even offenders do. Get familiar with them.
Safety- Just like you worry about his safety, so does he about yours. He will learn to navigate prison and do his best to stay safe.
Sentence- That number (of months or years) that represents how long you will be apart from your loved one.
Solitary- Alone, with no one around! He might have to do solitary (box) time if he gets an infraction. He will need your support more than ever.
Stay- What we do. Even if at times we want to run the other way. Some of us even take time off before deciding to stick it out.
Stress- Those butterflies in your stomach, tightening of your chest, can be very bad for your body. You will experience it, learn to de-stress.
Tears- You most likely shed many already and will probably shed more. Not all are due to sadness, though. Crying is not a sign of weakness, it is necessary to release our feelings. Have a good cry, I won't judge you!
Therapy- I will be the first to admit it... everyone could benefit from therapy. I talk to someone regularly and it is very helpful. My husband, MR. I'm not crazy so why do I need to see a therapist?, is even looking forward to going. He hears me talk about how it has helped me and he wants in.
Time- You are doing it, too, and so are your kids (if you have them). Learn from the experience and grow from it. Don't let the time pass in vain.
Trailers- Conjugal visits. If you are legally married, you may be able to get them. They are the closest thing we have had to normalcy. Unfortunately, they are getting more difficult to obtain. NYS claims to want to foster family ties, why do they make it so hard?
Transportation- I have been fortunate enough to have my own car, but many people are able to visit their loved ones by using a Van service or other form of public transportation. It can be a long and harrowing journey, but nothing will keep us from visiting!
Unfair- Nothing about prison life is fair, especially for us. We really did nothing wrong to deserve all of this pain. Life is unfair. What will you do about it?
Unity- Uni means one. There can be unity even though there is distance between you. The goal for my husband and I is to be re-united and to continue life as one.
Unrelenting- Never give up!
Value- Don't forget to show appreciation for your loved one. Sometimes we are the only ones who know their value.
Visit- The best feeling in the world; to see your loved one in person.
Vulnerable- At times you will feel vulnerable, being alone is scary. Arm yourself with knowledge and seek support from friends and family.
Wait- We do it, but it doesn't mean we stop living. Time passes no matter what we do with it.
Write- Do it as often as you can. It will help both of you feel closer though it can be tedious, especially when you talk all of the time.
X's and O's- Hugs and kisses, my husband has never seen emojis.
Youth- Youth is a relative term. It is associated to a number, but I think it is more about attitude. I was merely 20, when this journey began... today I am 44 young.
The youth is also our future, invest in our young.
Zany- see crazy.
Zen- I try to keep a Zen state of mind; focusing on mind/body. I like to reflect and meditate when I can.
Zumba- Exercise (dance) class. It has saved my sanity; helping me relieve stress while being fun!
*Disclaimer- these are my interpretations of the terms. Every person has different challenges and experiences, they are unique to each of us. My intention is to bring awareness.