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Tuesday, 6 November 2012


Some words have both a positive and a negative connotation, and security is one of those words.

Sometimes security means a source of comfort; where or what makes you feel safe, and also the word Yes. For me, one source of security is often knitting, and on my travels in Texas last week my friend and I found a great yarn shop near to Spring called The Hen House. We'd already been into the local Hobby Lobby and I'd bought some yarn that I thought would make some pretty socks, but they didn't have any individual patterns for sale. So by word of mouth, we found The Hen House and what an Aladdin's cave it is! Not only do they have an amazing selection of traditional, specialist and novelty yarns and yarn equipment, but they also have a large stock of quilting fabric and equipment and a range of finished quilts on display. The ladies there were very friendly, and I would absolutely recommend the shop to anyone in search of yarn in Texas. In fact next time I visit, I intend to save some extra cash to spend on some of their yarns.

For other people, the word security is more related to restrictions and closely related to the word No. We experienced that kind of security this weekend when I went to visit my husband. Usually we get 2 x 4 hour contact visits - always with the proviso that if it gets crowded we may have to have the visit cut short. This time, my husband's wing had been placed on security lockdown because allegedly a gun and some bullets had been discovered. This is not a new situation at this particular unit; they have been on various lockdowns for similar reasons all through the summer this year.

However, this time it meant that not only were we not able to have our usual contact visit (which is only contact in as much as we get to hug and kiss briefly at the start and end of the visit and can hold hands across a wide table), but that my husband was not permitted to sit in the open run with the other inmates behind the glass but had to sit in a cage instead, like the inmates in Ad Seg do. No contact absolutely means no contact. We could have had photos but we chose not to, given the circumstances.

While we dealt with it as an inconvenience (albeit an upsetting one, as I can't just pop back in a week or so and get a hug and a kiss, this is it for us for the next year now), we discovered on the Sunday that some of the inmates who were supposed to be participating in the Day With Dad event on the Saturday from my husband's wing had been told at the last minute that they could not now take part. The couple next to us were one such family; the lady had 2 small children of about 2 and 3 years old, and had been told she would have to wait up to 3 hours for a regular visit instead on the Saturday. She decided to find a motel and come back for a visit on the Sunday, adding considerable expense and inconvenience to her weekend. The children were obviously used to seeing their dad in the contact area as neither understood why he couldn't open their packets of sweets for them or why they couldn't sit on his knee.

Some will say, I'm sure, that the bottom line is if the inmates had behaved in the first place then this would not be an issue. I agree to a point, but when the inmates do behave while incarcerated, and then still receive extra punishment for something that they had no part in, how is than an incentive to keep behaving correctly? And more of an issue is the punishment of innocent people like those two children and their mother. Visitation is not just about the inmate.Phone calls are not just about the inmate. TDCJ states that it works to encourage friends and family to stay in touch with the inmates, but one has to wonder just how hard it works to enable this when it comes to explaining to a 3 years old why daddy can't give them a hug this weekend.

TDCJ and many other similar organisations fall into the habit of only seeing the inmate. Peer pressure is all well and good, but when the target has not done anything wrong, it simply breeds resentment and reduces co-operation from others that are affected by the punitive measures. Inmates rarely talk to other inmates in the visit room. Inmates, even locked in single line cells, have far more opportunity to talk. The reasoning behind the severe segregation of the inmates in my husband's wing this week was, on the surface, flawed.

For those who think we should just be thankful that we were able to have any kind of visit at all, I would ask what kind of person would you prefer to return to society - one with the support of friends and family who finds work and contributes through taxes, or one with no support who very quickly returns to crime and continues to cost the state and tax payers money? Have you ever tried to spend a whole year away from your wife or husband, with no phone calls? My husband might have broken the law, but I haven't.

We did have a good visit, despite the high noise level. I also had more of a holiday this time, instead of just flying in and out either side of a weekend. And now I am back home and ready to refocus on building our own security further by buying the flat that I live in. Positive steps usually work better than negative ones.

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