Prison. Just this one word can create so much anxiety, controversy, and pain.
Visions of a violent and hostile environment often leap to life in people’s imaginations. Surely this is not a place to take children!
Turn on the TV and you can find multiple shows depicting prison life. For many people, this is their only reference to what prison is like. So, it should not be a surprise when people get concerned when you talk about taking your children to visit their father in prison. Eyebrows go up- then the brow furrows before they ask the question, “Is it safe to take your children into that environment?” Don’t get defensive, just say, “Yes, it is!”
That is a true statement.
Taking your children into a prison visiting room is actually safer than sending them to school or the mall these days. I cannot find any report of anyone being hurt or murdered during a prison visit in the US. I so wish that were also true of our schools!
Prison severely restricts visitation rooms to keep visitors safe. There are specific walkways, entrances, restrooms and seating reserved for visitors only. The screening to enter the prison visiting area is intense. Think airport security on steroids! It would be impossible for a visitor to get a weapon into the prison.
Concern for my children’s physical safety dropped to the bottom of my list.
Not only are the visitors screened, but they have armed Corrections Officers to maintain safety and security. The rules are very strict about where inmates can go – and if an inmate doesn’t follow the rules, he doesn’t get to have visits. After our first few prison visits, concern for my children’s physical safety dropped to the bottom of my list.
There are no guarantees that nothing would ever happen in a prison visiting room to make it unsafe, but that is true of everything about living. You can slip getting out of the shower, fall down your own stairs, get into a car accident or get hurt in a million different ways. What I am saying here is to not let fear for your children’s safety stop you from taking them to visit their father.
Prison visits can be amazing. Wait! I know, I know. Having to visit your man in prison is, well… it sucks. I am not saying it is amazing to have to go to a prison to see your husband. I AM saying, that since you don’t have a choice about where you see your husband, you can make those visits amazing. Yes, even though it is in a prison visiting room.
Now, I am not saying that you do not have to be careful during the visits.
There are a few safety tips you need to follow to protect yourself and your children. The concern is not for the safety inside the prison, it is outside.
Here are some tips to staying safe in prison visits:
- Do not share your home address. I never even shared the city we lived in with other visitors or inmates. I don’t know their story—and I didn’t want to take any risks with my family.
- Do not share your child’s school name or city. Same reasons as above
- Never ask another visitor why their loved one is in prison.
- Do not talk to visitors or inmates of the opposite sex other than for brief, polite conversation (thank you, pardon me, you’re welcome, etc.) This will avoid any misunderstanding of your intent. Tension is often high and your kindness could be misinterpreted as inappropriate. Be kind—but not overly friendly
- Do not allow your children to be unsupervised. Yes, even in the “children’s area” of the prison visiting room. Either stay with them or make sure they are in your eyesight. Use the same caution you would use in any public place with strangers.
Having shared safety tips, I want to emphasize that the benefits of having contact with their father far outweigh the possible negatives of being in a prison. In the fifteen years Ron was in prison, we never had a single incident. This is your family’s time to connect, bond and build memories together. Take advantage of it.
I am rooting for you!