Paralegal by Day…

“So what are your plans for the weekend?” asked my friendly paralegal office neighbor as she popped her head in my office on her way out for the weekend.

“Going out of town to see my husband,” I replied.

“Oh. Is he out of town for business?”

I paused briefly before answering.

“Yes. Yes, he is.” I mean, I was not really lying.

He was out of town because of business.  Ok, so it was because of  illegal business.

FINE! I was stretching the truth a lot. Why? Well, I was going to be spending the next few days playing endless games of UNO and whatever various board games and card games were available in the visiting room at the prison my husband was “vacationing” at for his small side business selling marijuana.

I was a “prison wife.”

But, really, I honestly wasn’t really lying. That actually was his “business” and his punishment is what had him “out of town.” I just left out the fact that he really wasn’t allowed to leave that town…or even that facility, or a lot of times even that room.

About once a month I left the office on Friday with my suitcase in tow and went right to the airport. Attorneys were always going on business trips with their small rolling suitcases, so no one would bat at eyelash when I had one, despite me being a paralegal.

I would arrive, head to the hotel and get ready for my visit tomorrow morning. I had to make sure that my bra did not have ANY metal (the first time his mother went, she didn’t realize and because she was from out of state, they made the exception and they just confiscated her bra until the visit was over.  but the rules state that women MUST have all undergarments) so I had to make sure I had a sports bra, a shirt that was not fitted and did not have any writing, or metal.  Then, I had to make sure that my pants didn’t have any metal, BUT also could not be form fitting, so no leggings. Jeans have metal buttons and studs near the pockets. If you can’t wear an underwire, you absolutely couldn’t wear jeans.

After barely sleeping because it’s been about a month since we had last seen each other and I’m worried about what he looks like this time, (with each visit he looks more and more worn), you wake up and head over to the prison as early as possible so that you are let in at the very beginning of visiting hours and you can stay all the way to the end. After traveling several states for these visits, you want to make every second count.

You get through security, similar to security at the airport with metal detectors and such, then hand the person on the other side of security the form that allows one felon to visit their spouse in prison. The wait for the guards to get him from the back seems like forever. You can’t stand still and keep shifting weight from one leg to the next. All you can do is remember how much he had changed between the last 2 visits and are hoping that he has not been any more worn down with even more gray hair than the last visit.

Still not being able to stand still, I decide to make use of the nervous energy and go over to the wall closest to me with shelves of prison approved games and activities that are appropriate for not just adult visitors, but for those who bring their small children to visit.  I find a deck of cards and continue to wait.  When he finally emerges from the back, she stands in the doorway scanning the crowd of visitors until we lock eyes, I see his forced smile. You know, the one he puts on because he doesn’t want me to worry. We are allowed a brief hug (any longer and the guards are very eager to let you know you’ve had too much contact) and then we walk over to the tables and chairs and find a spot in the back where we think we will be bothered least by all the loud sounds of the children playing.  We settle in and start with some basic, everyday chatter trying to make it feel like we are anywhere else than a prison visiting room. The only food that is allowed is from the vending machines that accept quarters only. You have to arrive with them, a big ol’ bag full of it.  There is no change machine, so no quarters, no food or drink.  A lot of times this is the only time the inmates get a chance to eat treats.

After a 6-7 hour day of playing cards, or children’s board games to pass the time, the guards tell the inmates it’s time to go. The inmates must leave first so they don’t try to walk out with us (not like they actually could)  and they are searched completely to make sure no contraband has been smuggled in from the guests they were visiting.  They then allow us to leave and we head back to the hotel for dinner or to catch a flight back.

During the flight back home, I usually spent part of the flight crying and the other part was spent staring out the window at nothing but darkness or the tiny lights of the cities below. Arriving at the airport was also quite sad because I knew it would be a long couple of weeks before I would see him next. I would get home from the airport in enough time to fall asleep in the half empty bed making your arrival that much harder. It’s a final reminder of his absence before it is time to head to work the next morning and begin the facade all over again; pretend that your husband is hard at work, while you are hard at work at the law firm on your cases.

I was a prison wife for about a year, but not many people knew because the facade became so easy after while. You get into a routine.  Now when they get out, that’s a whole other story…


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