After three weeks of long-haul flights, sleeping in five different beds, crossing borders and checkpoints where soldiers armed with Uzis scrutinized our passports, where I was the scribe in meeting after meeting where everyone chain smoked and kept switching from English to Arabic, I arrived home.
It was a great trip. I love to travel and I love coming home. In this case, “home’ was my apartment for five more days. My 16-year-old niece had come in while I was gone and packed for a couple hours, which was super helpful except she’d packed all my coffee mugs and drinking glasses. Oh well. I’d figure something out.
I savored going through my bags and re-discovering the few little baubles of ethno-bling I had bought along the way, like the camel made out of nails. I’d traded for it with a Bedouin woman; she now had my umbrella that says World Bank on it.
I turned to my pile of mail. I always enjoyed this part of coming home, even though there’s rarely anything interesting in the mail anymore. Vince had told me before I left that he had a lot of blog material that would be waiting for me when I got home. I always looked forward to his letters, but there was nothing from him.
There was, however, an envelope with a Minnesota Department of Corrections return address. That was odd…Vince’s letters had his own name on them…and here is what it was:
I was banned from visiting Vince until August. Mr. Lott had not mentioned the possibility of me being banned when we’d spoken on the phone. I had told him I’d be leaving the country the next day for three weeks. The letter was postmarked the very day I left. He must have sprinted down the hall to get it printed and mailed to ensure I wouldn’t be able to appeal within 10 days.
My post-trip afterglow was blown. Many choice words flew out of my mouth. I won’t repeat all of them here because, based on what has transpired since this day, I am concerned that the DOC is onto the blog and not happy about it.
A battle cry, “This is war!” came first, followed by a profound sense of physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion. I felt furious, impotent, overwhelmed, helpless. For the first time since Vince’s incarceration, I felt like giving up. Just not fighting the ban. But I’ve always been wired to pursue justice. Sounds grandiose, maybe, but I simply cannot walk away from a fight when something is just wrong. I wish I could.
Now, I just wanted to get a good night’s sleep so I could write my trip report, pack everything that remained to be packed, and deal with changing my address with my bank, the post office, Comcast, my credit card company, the electric company, the DMV, my health insurer, my employer, my magazines and newspapers, and on and on. Oh—right—and I would have to re-apply for visiting privileges with the DOC too, since my address would change.
I’m want to say something smart, but this is all I can come up with…I read all that you’ve shared with gratitude that you’re not silent. I want so badly to get you back to visiting your son. I wonder how the DOC believes separating people from their loved ones does anybody any good.
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Sarah, The Doc couldn’t care less if inmates are separated from loved ones and they don’t care if it is or isn’t doing anyone any good. Inmates equal money. Many states have contracts with private prison corporations like CCA and Corcoran who have 20 year deals with the government promising the prisons will be kept 90-100% full at all times or they have to pay them money to make up for the loss.
There are too many prison forums and blogs on the web for them to be concerned about this one. Really