Like an onion, most topics have many layers to them. The subject of prison visitation is no exception. A series could be written on the various aspects of the visiting experience. Everything from transportation issues to entry procedures and back again.
I’d like to address something different, something I call “visiting room sabotage.” It’s that thing that happens when you were hoping for a good visit and it suddenly goes south. It’s when, by the close of the event, both parties wind up hurt and angry and later feel guilty for sabotaging their own visit.
It was the same when I was in prison, and it’s the same now. How often, for example, have you and your visitor overheard these selfish phrases coming from an adjoining table or booth? Maybe it was yours?
“What took you so long? I’ve been waiting for two hours! You said you’d be here at 6:30.”
“Did you call so and so? Why not? I told you to take care of it. Why didn’t you?”
“You don’t care what I’m going through! You can just get up and walk out of here when we’re done!”
“I thought you were going to send me that care package. I ain’t received nothing!”
“Can’t you leave more than 30 lousy bucks in my canteen?”
“How come you haven’t been answering the phone?”
“Who’ve you been seeing?”
“And on it goes. What happened? Where did all that anger come from? How did they wind up hurting the person they most love? Why did the visit have to end on such a sour note?”
Or sometimes it’s the visitor who brings in the negative focus:
“You don’t know what it’s like having to take care of the kids by myself.”
“Joey’s doing lousy in school. He won’t listen to me. He gets in fights all the time.”
“Can’t you send me more money? I can’t pay this month’s rent.”
“Your phone calls cost too much. I can’t accept them anymore.”
“I heard someone else has been visiting you. Who is it?”
“How dare you accuse me! We wouldn’t even be in this mess if it weren’t for you!”
And on it goes. What happened? Where did all that anger come from? How did they wind up hurting the person they most love? Why did the visit have to end on such a sour note?
Some visits are rightfully doomed from the beginning, as when a wife and a girlfriend show up at the same time. Others just seem to take an unexpected turn for the worse. I’m thinking of husband and wife visits, or those of parents and children.