Just as we turned into the parking lot, I saw prisoners on the front sidewalk , and it jolted me a little that they actually were wearing stripped outfits–orange and white, these were, and I thought: They definitely would stand out if they tried to make a run for it, and anyway, although I couldn’t tell, those prisoners may have been shackled. Jerry parked the car, and we went in.
I don’t want to do jail-time, I’ve definitely decided. Last Tuesday we went back to the Mohave County Jail in Kingman and visited, for the second time, a young lady, who, during the past few months has been coming to our church, but because of a previous parole violation must now spend 60 days in jail. It’s an awful place–ugly, cold and depressing, especially inside: The exterior displays a different face from that of the interior. From time to time I hear of pampered “guests” who loll around luxuriously in prison cells, but this place seems cut of different cloth, and is not at all attractive.
We could visit with Alyce (not her actual name) at 12:00 and we had to sign in at 11:30, and we must be there 30 minutes before that, so at 11:00, we walked into the small room, where two persons were already waiting. Across one side of the room, attached to the wall, was a hard bench, at the end of which stood a water cooler and a cup dispenser. A young man was slouched against the opposite wall; another sat on the bench. Jerry and I joined him.
I looked about. A barred window, behind which could be seen personnel and typical office equipment, was the central point of the room. Signs were posted on the wall. I thought of my cellular phone and asked the young man beside me; “Are you allowed to have cell phones in here?”
While still in the car, I had thought to leave my camera, but had not considered the phones, so now I turned to Jerry and asked if he wanted me to take his phones to the car, too. “Sure.”
More people had come into the room when I returned, and, by looking around, and a bit of conversation Jerry and I were “learning the ropes,” adding to the bit of information we had been given by Alyce’s husband. We already knew we would be seeing Alyce through a glass and talking by telephone, and that there were only 7 booths available for each visiting session. Now in the anteroom, we understood there to be an unspoken code of observing the order in which people had arrived. Once, someone came in and went straight to the window, waited to speak to the clerk, and when told she couldn’t sign in yet, she laughed, looked around at the rest of us, and spoke.
“You guys didn’t say a thing…just let me walk up here ahead of everyone else.”
A couple of the guys smirked and said, “We had our eyes on you.”
11:30 The sign-in begins. At our turn, Jerry and I showed our ID and handed in a couple of books for Alyce: All the information was recorded, handwritten into a log book. We were given back our driver’s licenses. “Number 4,” said the friendly lady.
“Uh, but where do we go?”
“Through that door right there. Find booth number 4.”
The visiting room was constructed of drab white cement blocks, Rorschach blobs of peeling paint supplying the only decoration. Lighted by fluorescent bulbs, a gray-green light cast the scene. Black, heavy phones were mounted on the side walls of each booth, attached by coiled steel cords. Jerry had told me to visit first. He sat down on the back-wall bench; I took my place on the round short stool and faced the thick glass.
The second week, I was smarter, and sat with Jerry on the wall bench until I saw the prisoners filing in, but the first visit I had the better part of a half-hour to stare into the 12×24 glass. There were things to read though; notes, lessons and prayers scratched into the “battleship gray” of the booth: Why?–I (heart) u–Jesus loves you–a drawing of a heart with wings–Pray–He listens.
Around me I heard conversations: “This glass is better.” “She’s getting out at 2:45.” I could see the sky reflected in the glass, I stared at neon orange globules of paint on the steel frame that held in the glass and observed that overhead was a dropped ceiling, stained of course, and that the beams were of that same “battleship gray.”
Do institutions get bargain prices on “Battleship Gray” paint?
The clerk came in the room and called for Mr. Waters, who had already been admitted. I turned to look as he rose, left and did not return. I wonder. Why?
12:00 Wide-eyed and smiling, Alyce came in, surprised that we were there to visit her. She’s doing great, praying, reading the Bible, and witnessing to other women in her pod. In 34 days she will be home!
This past Tuesday, as Jerry held our place, I wandered around the grounds across the street and took pictures of the old Mohave County Jail.