THE PRISON VISITOR
THE PLIGHT OF SOME PRISON VISITORS
In my more than 30 years in the prison service, I have been a witness to the dynamics of life in the prison community. There were dramatic occasions and there were lots of tragic ones too.
Incarceration is a test of will, of perseverance, of resolve and determination. Here is when relationships are subjected to extreme ordeal, to unmitigated hardship, to unqualified adversity. In other words, imprisonment is suffering for those whose ties were severed by penal prescription.
For the married prisoners, the trial of separation exacts a heavy toll. The man is helpless to assist his spouse and maintain his household. The family he left would have to fend for themselves and as it were, exposed to the elements. It is the initiative and creativity of the spouse to sustain what has been left and if possible, in the name of love or whatever has been forged during cohabitation, to conduct regular visitation. There were instances when there is a triumph over adversities. When after a period, the man is released and goes back to hearth and home, scars of imprisonment and pain written on his spirit, and fades away with his loved ones on the background. This is however is one dream a married prisoner idealize. Only a fraction meets this kind of scenario. The rest have broken homes, oftentimes the man perishes as a consequence of violence or illness, or as it has often been reported, the family has gone on separate ways.
The other half of the population are those who are not married, and those carrying common law relationship which among the majority of prisoners have this kind of status. Their visitors are a mixture. They are the choice subject of romantic flirtations. They are up for negotiation through pen pal (and recently through texting). They sustain quite a number of relationship at a time when prison administration has lowered the restriction on visitation rules. These visitors, mostly those infatuated with machismo projections, are easily cajoled and wheedled into a whirlwind relationship. Prison talk is sweet talk for those seeking romantic overtures. Imprisonment connotes limitation and in a homogenous setting, the entry of the opposite is gender is a welcome invitation. It is not a secret when one discovers a former nun doing errands for her imprisoned lover, and also a wife whose husband is abroad, a desperate professional in need of a companion, so on and so forth. The list is almost endless.
Once a relationship is forged, romance is almost instant. The visitor becomes dreamy, optimistic and whose head is in the clouds. The prisoner, the one visited, finally gets a respite, a connection to the outside world, and a runner at that.
This is where love is trivialized. This is where relationship is toyed. This is where bonding becomes brittle. For those starry eyed visitors wishing for a lifetime of a relationship would discover that after the person they would constantly care would be released, they would find themselves holding an empty bag. A released prisoner knows full well that any relationship is a baggage to be discarded at all costs, this notwithstanding the fact that he benefited from it for a considerable period of time in the penal facility.
What happens to the visitor is a repeat of past performance. The one who stayed behind, the friend, inherits the visitor and so with a new relationship would progress until finally, age catches up and poor visitor, she would never get a chance to recover her dream until insanity catches up on the person.