I am going to talk about the last two visits I received along with my views and feelings as a whole, in regards to visits, looking back on my prison sentence.
To me, visits are my single most favorite way to spend my time and the only thing that rivals it is watching football. 🙂 Some inmates say they would prefer not to have visits because it’s too hard emotionally for everyone involved, and there is some truth to this.
However, I generally hear this from inmates that don’t receive a lot of visits, and I am guessing this is more of a coping mechanism. Visits can be very taxing physically and emotionally. The closer you are to someone, the harder the visit. I remember the first visit I had with my daughter, Melrose, in Michigan. My mom brought her, and it had been nine months since I had seen her last. I’m not sure if it was the sight of the prison (Even I was intimidated when I pulled up), all the metal detectors and pat searches, the six-inch steel door bolting behind her before the next one opened…a mixture of all these things could have shaken her, and who could blame her. She was only three-years-old. I will never forget the look in her eyes, she was scared. And I don’t think she remembered who I even was.
Now, the last time she was here I asked her if she remembered the time when I was home and she said she does not. Over the course of that first visit she warmed up, but I will never forget that feeling. Ever. I included a picture, it was our first picture taken in prison and I’m not holding her because she wouldn’t let me. Regardless, I still love the picture.
When I went back to my cell that first day after visitation I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up.
I felt so terrible, and as I was laying in my bed, my neighbor Slim came by and asked if I was alright, as he could see I was in shock, and I told him about the visit. He reassured me that tomorrow was a new day and it would be different. And he was right. Because as soon as Melrose came through those double doors, she was in full sprint, yelling, “daddy!”
When I got back to my cell the second day, Slim asked me how it was, and I told him he was right. And he said, “from here on out, it’ll be just like today.” And thankfully, it has.
Visits in Milan, Michigan were much different than visits here in Yankton, South Dakota. For one, in Milan, I had to sit on one side of a table, and my visitors sat on the other. I got a bathroom break every 90 minutes, and if you had to take a number two the visit was over. I couldn’t accompany my visitors to the vending machines, I couldn’t play with my daughter in the kid’s room, and if I ever stood up out of my chair, I was signaling my visit was over.
Now serving in Yankton, although the rules change with each Warden, even at it’s worst, it’s still better than Milan’s best. Here I can watch a movie with my daughter in the kids room, color with her, play the games they have available (Monopoly, Connect 4, Candyland), pick out my food at the vending machine (but can never touch the money and have to stand behind the tape line), and use the bathroom when needed (with permission). I can even take my daughter’s drawings with me back to my bunk.
My latest visit was a couple of weeks back with my cousin Aaron and my aunt Joey. My aunt is 9-10 inches shorter than me, but she stood on a bench so she could be the tallest in the picture.
They visited Friday night and all day on Saturday. As I hadn’t spoken to them in almost six years, we had plenty to talk about. Topics ranged from this blog, to my experiences, what I plan to do when I get out, and what they have going on in their lives. They said they plan to come again and I already can’t wait!
The visit before that was with my friend, Kevin, two weeks prior. I called Kevin out the blue on that Thursday to chat for fifteen minutes, and I asked him when he is going to come to see me again? He asked when I have visiting next, and I tell him tomorrow and following every two weeks after. His reply was, “Well, I will get in the car in the morning, cruise down, and be there by four.”
I’m thinking he is joking as it’s an eight-hour drive and then he yells, “Hey, Paige! I am going to see Noah tomorrow!” And I hear her respond in the background, “Okay!” like he just told her he’s running to town. And I quickly realized I’m getting a visit the next day.
I have known Kevin since high school; although we weren’t close until college, I consider him one of my best friends now. Visits from Kevin are always enjoyable. He is one of the funniest people I know, his energy is contagious, and he’s the type that you can tell genuinely cares more about personal happiness than any material thing. In our visit, I learned that Kevin is still doing good, he’s still working for Phil Larson up in Roseau, bought a house, and married Paige. Paige could have joined Kevin on the visit, and I could have met finally met her, but she was too honest on the visiting application. She said she didn’t know me before incarceration (which is true), so good job Paige! Guess I’ll get to know her when I get out.
Kevin and Paige also have a clothing line that is starting to really take off, called Peace Grenades.
On top of all that, he has a dream called Pure Flow Films that he and his buddy Ben are working on, and I can’t wait to see where that takes him. In our picture, you can see Kevin is modeling some of his clothing, from Peace Grenades.
Another super cool thing Kevin and Paige did for me, they made a flat head of me for their wedding, attached it to a pool stick, and had people take pictures with it like I was there. I can’t thank you guys enough! From pictures it actually felt like I was there and for a minute not in prison.
Visits are always awesome, whether it’s just for an hour or three full days. I get to forget I am in prison, and hangout with someone who I know really cares about me.
I think some visitors worry about what we are going to do for 3-5 hours, 2-3 days in a row, but if you are going to visit someone in prison know that it doesn’t matter. Just know that the person you are going to see is happy to sit there in silence with you.
In Milan, I would smash junk food. I had about ten visits solely from my cousin Kim who I didn’t get to know until I was actually in prison. And I don’t know how many times she spent at least $8- $12 dollars just trying to get me one ice cream treat (their vending machines ate your money all the time). There wasn’t much for entertainment there, so talking and eating were the only options we had, and we always did plenty of both.
Visitors have always asked what everyone else in the visiting area is in for. In Milan, it was who’s a sex offender and who’s not. And in Yankton, it’s who’s white collar, and who’s drugs. Morgan still asks me about every single one, and she’s probably been over 10 times. Other visitor questions are what goes on in my day-to-day, and what sort of chaos I have seen behind the walls. My brother, Jesse, said he pictures it like “Orange is the New Black” but with less lesbian scenes. Haha! Visits at Yankton are more enjoyable as there are fewer restrictions, more games to play with your kids, and there are TVs. So, if all else fails, you can sit and watch whatever’s on TV with your visitor.
For those going into the system, don’t be discouraged by how tough visits are early on (you need to face it to overcome it), and if you know someone is going in, just know how powerful one visit can be.
From the inside,