Hi, everyone! I thought that since Kelly is still a little under the weather (no pun intended), I would pull together some information about “LIFE ON DEATH ROW”.
Each prison has its very own “personality”, what may be allowed in one prison, may be “contraband” in another! My “friends” on Death row are: Toney D, Union Correctional, FL,, Wayne P., Chillicothe Correctional, Ohio and Travis R., Polunsky, Texas. Travis is allowed a typewriter, Wayne is allowed to have a small job, and Toney is allowed letters which include stamps. None of the three are living a “lush life”, but they all do the best they can, under the circumstances.
Both Toney and Travis are allowed to receive monies into their commissary account through “JPay”, Wayne is allowed to receive money only from the people on his “Visitor List”. I am listed on Toney’s visitor list, I am allowed to visit anySaturday from 9 to 3. I’m planning to visit next month, close to his birthday, assuming my corneal surgery allows me to drive the 4 hour round trip. Toney looks forward to my visits, but I dread them!
After corresponding with Toney for some time, I asked him in one of my letters if he would like me to visit. I had NO idea of what I was getting myself into! Of course, he was elated at the idea that someone would come and visit; after all, he is only allowed out of his cell 3 times a week for a shower, and 3 times a week for recreation! He is fully shackled and chained from his door to the shower and back, to the “rec cage” and back…so, to him, spending time OUT of his cell, in a “regular” room, without shackles and belly chains is a valuable experience!
The first step was to add me to his “visitor list”. Different prisons have different rules, some allow an unlimited number of names on the visitor list, Union Correctional allows 5. This wasn’t an issue for Toney, because his parents have passed, and he has no siblings, but there are men who must be very selective about who they have on the list, because, to quote Toney, “you can’t waste one of the openings on someone who never comes!”
To get on the visitor list takes some intestinal fortitude! Toney sent me a 2 page application which must be answered truthfully, “under penalty of law”, and the application allows them to run a full background check. After completing the application, the applicant sends it to a special processing unit.
What can disqualify a visitor?
To list a few, a criminal history, providing false or inaccurate information on a visiting application, mailing an incomplete application, etc. Possessing a criminal record will not automatically disqualify you for visitation. The nature, extent, and recency of criminal offenses are taken into consideration. However, as of January 8, 2007, offenders must be discharged from community supervision for at least one year prior to being eligible for consideration.
Additionally: A visitor will not be permitted to be on more than one inmate’s approved visiting record unless they are immediate family members. If you are already on the approved list of a non-family member, you may be added to the list of a family member. However, you may not be added to the list of a non-family member if you are already on an approved visiting list, family or otherwise.
The State of Florida states that it takes up to 30 days to process applications, and mine took EXACTLY 30 days! After my application was approved, they notified Toney that I had been approved to visit on SATURDAYS. The State reminds you in many ways that Visitation is a privilege and as such is subject to suspension/revocation if circumstances dictate!
There are plenty of rules involved, for the inmate and the visitor, and the smallest infraction can mean that the visit will NOT happen!
For the Inmate:
1) During visiting, inmates shall dress in accordance with Rule 33-602.101, F.A.C. Permanent inmates assigned to reception centers may wear a white shirt and white trousers during visitation. Inmates at work release centers whose work assignments are at the center may wear white shirts and white trousers during visitation.
(2) Inmates shall be strip-searched before and after visiting. Staff will conduct searches in accordance with Rule 33-602.204, F.A.C.
(3) Inmates shall not visit with anyone other than their authorized visitors.
(4) The inmate shall not pass items to another inmate or to a visitor or accept items from another inmate or a visitor except as specified in Rule 33-601.727, F.A.C.
(5) Inmates shall not be loud, boisterous, threatening, or disorderly during a visit or while in the visiting area.
(6) Inmates may briefly embrace and kiss each visitor once at the beginning and end of each visit.
(a) Inmates may hold their small children or the children of their visitors.
(b) Inmates and their visitors may hold hands if the holding of hands can be observed by visiting park staff. However, the holding of hands in either the visitor’s or inmate’s lap is prohibited.
(c) No other forms of affection or physical contact between inmates and visitors are authorized.
For the Visitor:
It’s always a good idea to dress conservatively. The following is a list of some of the clothing deemed inappropriate: Tank tops, skin tight or spandex clothing, shorts that are more than 3 inches above the knee, skirts, fish net style clothing, clothing with offensive language/pictures, military style camouflage clothing to include jungle (green), urban (grey or black), and desert (tan or brown), and see thru clothing.
On my very first visit, I had to leave Union Correctional and drive to the closest Dollar Store for “proper” underclothes! I wasn’t very sure that the Dollar Store would be of much assistance…after all, I wear a 40DD bra, which is difficult enough to find at Nordstroms! But, I guess I wasn’t the ONLY person sent over to the Dollar Store, they carried sizes 32AA to “I could use one cup as a hat”! AND they had a full line of underpants for both men and women, so it appears that I wasn’t the only one to “flunk out” during my entry shakedown!
They have RULES for EVERYTHING! You can bring up to $50.00, in $1.00, $5.00, $10.00 and $20.00 denominations only or silver change, per visitor, regardless of age, to purchase snacks and beverages from the canteen or vending machines. All snacks and beverages must be purchased and consumed in the visiting area. A small wallet or pouch may be used for containing the bills and any change received from the canteen or vending purchases. YOU must handle the money, the INMATE CAN NOT!
You may bring the vehicle key necessary to operate your auto, BUT keyless entry devices are not permitted unless the duty warden or designee determines that the device is the only means for the visitor to access the vehicle AND it does not pose a threat to institutional security. IN OTHER WORDS, if it is a Swiss Knife sans car key, forget it! They aren’t as strict on this as they once were, because most new cars have only keyless entry… Horror story #2 involved the day I showed up there with TWO car key fobs…I couldn’t lock one inside the car, the car doesn’t allow you to lock of the fob is INside the car…I had to explain it to guard #1 that I accidentally had BOTH fobs, and explain it AGAIN to guard #s 2, 3 and 4…and then tell the story backward (just kidding). It COULD have been hilarious…if it hadn’t been so frightening! I ended up with 4 guards watching me explain the same story to the Assistant Warden..l think they were taking mental notes to see if telling the same story 5 times made sense! They FINALLY let me in! (THAT was Visit #2)
After you park your car, you walk over to the first guard shack. You must show them the Prison Visitor Card your inmate sends. Then, walk across a huge paved area between two VERY tall guard towers-which remind me of the towers you see on airport runways…you can’t see anyone inside, the windows have a reflective coating…but you are just SURE that rifles are trained on your heart or brains! As you approach the building, there are two VERY tall fences, with WARNING signs proclaiming that the fence is electrified. I certainly wasn’t going to test it to find out if they meant it!
I wasn’t sure if I should ring a bell, or….? So, I just stood and tried to figure out what to do…obviously, they WERE watching me, because I heard a buzzing notice and the huge gate began to open. I walked into a “no-mans land”…a strip of land between the fence/gate I just walked thru, and another just like it ahead of me. I’m guessing those two fences were 20-25 feet apart. The gate closed behind me…it took about 2 minutes to close, and 30 seconds or so later, the next gate buzzed and began to open.
After getting thru the two gates, I followed the path out to the building. A huge glass window (like a bank, perhaps) had a sign which instructed me to put my drivers license up on the magnified portion of the glass….which I did…and 2-3 minutes later, the next fence gate opened.
After going thru the gate, I followed the arrows to an open door and stepped in. Three men Correctional Officers and 2 women were waiting…they all wore rubber gloves, which caused me to wonder what I was in for! I stepped up to the desk, and the CO there took an inventory of everything I was holding, (pouch with money, car key) then an inventory of glasses, jewelry, etc.
A sharp “FOLLOW ME” moved me to a small room…where I flunked out…on my first visit, I did not KNOW that both a “proper” bra and “proper” panties were mandatory…so, I had to reverse the above procedure, go to the dollar store, buy a bra and panties (no, dollar store didn’t have a ladies room and I couldn’t find a gas station on the way back!) (So, I parked between a big truck and a van and put on my new underthings!). (I barely got done in the nick of time…just as I finished, the CO with the drug sniffing dog was making rounds in the parking lot!
So…rerun all that I did before, zoom, zoom, zoom, and back to the CO (with no sense of humor) approved of my “proper” underthings,…I had to pull the bra out, away from my chest…and “shake” in the prescribed manner (to dislodge contraband)…empty all pockets, inspection of shoes and socks…and out…to the next station.
Yet another inventory of possessions…and then go wait at another gate. Finally, a CO arrived to escort me through a huge MAZE of tall fencing, topped with razor wire to yet ANOTHER Set of gates.
After going thru the last set of gates, I entered the building and followed the arrows to the Visiting room!
In the next guest blog, I’ll tell you a little about my visit!