Two Days of Visiting
My husband didn't have too much to say about me going to visit my penpal on death row. If he knew one thing about me, it was this: I was hard headed, stubborn and when I got an idea there was no changing my mind. My plans were in place. So with tickets in hand, reservations in place, I made my way South.
I had never ventured this far from home on my own. I didn't know anybody that had ever been in prison. The closest I had gotten to a jail was when I drove by. And here I was going to death row, to meet a man I didn't really know, over 1,000 miles away from my home.
Once I got to the local town, checked into the motel, and I looked around at the emptiness, it really began to sink in. Was this something I could really do? Well, I had come this far. I wasn't one to back off on anything so I guess the answer was "Yes!" I got a good night's sleep, woke up early and after getting ready, made my way to the prison gates.
In no time, I had been checked in, driven to death row and was waiting in a room for my penpal to be brought in. Everyone I encountered during the process was very friendly and made small talk, asking if I was related to him, where I lived, and so on. I waited in a huge room that was in a corner, right inside the door that lead to death row. Inside the room was a table with an ashtray, and 4 metal chairs. The room had windows from ceiling to floor on both sides. I later learned this room was used for attorney visits. Why we were set up in that room, I don't know.
My penpal soon came. He had handcuffs with the belly chain around his waist and leg irons on. The guard removed the handcuffs, left the room and here we were-- face to face!
Our visit went well. I could tell from the beginning the poor man had some kind of mental illness. He talked of things I really couldn't understand. Plus, he had a southern accent which also made it difficult. But we (or should I say he?) had a good time. I left in the afternoon, telling him I would be back the next day.
Same routine the next day. At one point, a group of young adults came by. I later learned from the badman that they were college kids on a tour. I couldn't hear anything going on outside the room, but they all stopped outside the windows and stared in at us while someone (the professor?) spoke. It made me feel weird, as if we were on "display".
Both days, I saw lots of activity outside the room we were in. Many guards walking by. Trustees mopping and cleaning. Other inmates being led somewhere. I watched the inmates with the belly chains and leg irons, wondering if one of them was the badman. Except for a slight smile not one of them made an indication that he was.
After two days of visiting, I was in a rush to get home. Not to be home, necessarily, but to talk to the badman. I knew he would call me and he would fill in some blanks for me.