I thought it might be difficult to not write. After nearly 600 posts since September 2014—and many streaks of every-other-day posts, I pledged to (mostly) take the summer off from writing.
And it’s been great. I have no problem sleeping in instead of leaping out of bed at 5:30am to knock out 700 words.
But yesterday was a big milestone, something worth writing about. The reason I ever started this blog in the first place—my son going to prison—is gone. Yesterday, after spending half his time in prison and half on supervised release, my son’s sentence is over. Over! He wrote a post about it on his own blog, if you’d like to read it. I liked this line:
“I am free to roam about the country or world as I please. I am free to register to vote, and I will. I am free to drink alcohol, and I won’t. I am still not allowed to own a gun, and I don’t care.”
For me, the low point was the day I was ejected from Moose Lake prison without seeing Vince because I was wearing a “low-cut shirt.” Then I went off to the Middle East for work, where I got to hear stories of people being tortured in prison. When I came home, there was a letter waiting for me, informing me I was banned from stepping foot on any correctional facility property in Minnesota for six months.
Corrections employees have nearly complete discretion, and impunity, to do whatever they want. And so they do whatever they want.
I feel like I am walking out into the sunlight after several years under a cloud. I transitioned the blog to writing mostly about travel a while back, but I’ll still write about prison once in a while because … there are still 10s of thousands of people in prisons. I don’t just care about my son; I care about my whole community, my state, my country.
Sigh, my poor country. What a mess we are. It’s like a nightmare where we are all living on the Jerry Springer Show.
I had never given a thought to prison, prisoners, or people whose loved ones are in prison. Why would I? Prisons are far away. You can’t go inside them without permission. Only bad people are in them, so why would you want to go inside, anyway? And if a single mom is on her own because her man is in prison, then she and her kids are probably better off, right?
Boy, has it been an eye opener. There are some bad people in prison, for sure. But mostly they’re regular people who messed up. Have you ever messed up? Of course you have. You just didn’t do something illegal, or you didn’t get caught.
I am grateful to my son for doing the hard work it took to change his life. He had been under arrest before. He had been homeless. I suspected he would die early due to liver failure or a car accident or a drug deal gone wrong.
Ironically, it was prison that set him free. He always says he needed to go to prison. So for all my idealistic fellow campaigners on prison reform, keep that in mind when you propose repurposing prisons into artists’ retreats or organic garden centers.
I have made little progress planning for Australia, except to decide that I will limit myself to Australia and not attempt to also visit New Zealand, Fiji, Borneo, or Papua New Guinea.
Heidi and I spoke for over an hour yesterday on What’s App, and we agreed it’s crunch time. Time to figure out how we’ll get from Sydney to Melbourne, time to book flights to Tasmania and maybe a train ride to Alice Springs. Time to book accommodations in the Red Centre. The pressure is on.
And yet it is summer, and it’s Sunday. I think I’ll go sit in the garden and read the paper.
I’m not sure of the best word to use: congratulations? maybe hallelujah? I met you just after Vince went to prison. I have always admired your intelligence, insight, world view. I learned a lot from you about prison management, for lack of a better word. The six month banishment is unbelievable…all for wearing a “low cut blouse” whose classification as such was really in the eye of the beholder. I’m proud of Vince for recognizing that he didn’t want to continue the life of a user and then doing the necessary work to leave that life. I wish the best for both of you!
Thank you! From the beginning, knowing that people are reading the story–and maybe getting mad enough to become active in changing things–has been a wonderful source of strength to Vince and me.
I have so much love for you, Ann. You are living an authentic life. Wish more people could share the real ness of their true life experiences. There would a lot this shame, and more answers on how to manage through trauma.
Thank you, Joni. Writing is a light that dispels darkness and shame, for sure.