It had been a week since I last saw my husband. I made the usual 164 mile trip at six am to be sure to get a good number. Getting a good number usually means a swift (Attica standards) entry, and slightly more time with my husband. As newlyweds, we crave as much time as we can possibly get. Much time usually means four to five hours per week.
Visitors began being processed fairly quickly, though still after the start of visiting hours, and I was hopeful to have a few solid hours with him. As I made my way through the metal detector, getting my hand stamp and pass, I stood waiting for the gate to open to the next security check point. I was joined by several plain clothes detectives. Not thinking much of it, I continued to make my way into the visiting room. I was number six.
I dropped a few things off at our table, 6-3, and made my way to the vending machines for early bird shopping. I was so excited to see salads, and better yet, my husbands favorite vending machine treat. I couldn’t wait to surprise him with the oversize iced cinnamon roll he loves. They only make their appearance once every couple of months.
Satisfied with the eats we could romantically share, I made my way back to our table. I began conversing with a few wives I had developed relationships with. We patiently waited until the “inmate” door began to open, releasing our loved ones one by one. The sound of the door clicking open had become a familiar and pleasing sound. It signified small freedom and rescue for our encamped men.
As a people lover and watcher, I enjoyed watching as each man made his way to his table to embrace his visitor(s). My husband was always ready, and quick to arrive, so when he wasn’t showing up anxiety began to rise. I opened the bible laying on the table before me. I meditated on Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering…”
Yes, God, I will humble myself in patience.
I looked up at the clock, around the filling room of conversation and joy, at the microwaves that were heating other husbands cinnamon rolls, and at the food for two sitting on our table. I began to wonder where my husband was. Hoping he was ok. I caught a glance from one of my favorite prison wives and her husband. They informed me that my husband was waiting patiently himself, outside in the rain, as his entire block was being searched due to an incident earlier in the week. The search was conducted by officers and dogs. My heart felt both relief and sadness.
I was relieved to know that he was ok, and I was confident he would continue to be as his cell would prove to be “clean.” But I was sad he was enduring the rain, as well as the pain of knowing his wife was so close, and yet so far from him. I was sad because our time together was dwindling away while we were yet apart.
The room grew louder as more men came to their visits. I made every effort to maintain an attitude of praise and prayer with patience and thanksgiving.
I watched another familiar wife wait for her husband, assuming he was on the same block my husband was on. I turned to ask her, but she denied my assumption. He was on another block that was being investigated. Her husband could not leave his cell until investigators collected all evidence and other inmates cleaned up the blood that remained spilled on the floor from a stabbing just a couple of hours prior.
That information increased my thanksgiving, praise, and prayer.
It was after eleven when the most incredibly handsome face finally appeared from behind that familiar clicking sound. After he reported to the officers at the desk he came to embrace me ever so tightly. We both desperately clung to one another.
We sat down and I listened as he described the events of his morning. My heart ached for him as he poured out the frustration he persevered. The choices of another inmate had dramatically impacted all those around him, and the ripple didn’t stop within the facility.
The choice of one person develops a tsunami effect.
Decisions that had been made by two individuals rippled out picking up other inmates, the wave grew as it reached out past the facility and swallowed up the family members of those caught in the ripple. Two different individuals, two different choices, two different blocks, one huge tsunami.
For every one of the 2.2 million people currently incarcerated, there is at least one person incarcerated with them. Their prisons might look different, but the bondage is the same. That’s minimally 4.4 million people enduring the fate of the uncertain, unforgiving American prison system.
My husband is my hero.
He continues to endure the consequences of his own choices, as well as others. He endures with the humility, gentleness, and forgiveness of Christ. Living in such a cramped environment of chaos and maintaining peace, faith, and joy is no easy feat. He, we, endure with thanksgiving in our heart and hope for choices of change for a better tomorrow.