Meeting LeLe (Part 1)

I’ve visited people in prison before, but not since Texas really. It’s hard to describe the mixture of rage, anxiety, and excitement I was feeling at the idea of visiting someone I already loved, though I’d never met, in a place I think has no business existing.

I prepared myself the way I used to get ready to visit Livingston, TX (aka Hell, aka Death Row): packed a shirt that would cover my shoulders, a ziploc baggie to hold my ID and money to buy snacks for my friend (who I call friend but was still unsure if she’d like me, pen pal). I told those visiting with me to do the same, pack two forms of ID just in case, bring a piece of mail if you ID doesn’t match your address, etc–paranoid the COs would find any reason to turn us away.

We met at my place early, it was already raining. We’d be driving for almost 3 hours, we packed coffee and some breakfast food into our bags, cleaned out Aaron’s car, picked him up, pulled over for a smoke before we left the city and then we were off.

Erica brought the shirts she’d made for us, screened with the drawing Cathryn did of this woman we’ve yet to meet but admire, care about, write to, fund-raise for, talk about constantly, etc. We hope out loud that she’ll like them, her mother has assured us she will like the shirts, but more importantly, us. We’ve decided to live-tweet our trip, we take photos on our journey, but as we get closer to Lincoln our stomachs are in knots and we’re all pretty nervous–none of us have visited Logan Correctional before–we only have other people’s descriptions, and our given hatred of prisons to go off of.

We hide the accidentally brought along self-defense items three of us have on us (because we’re women and give the self-defense weapons little thought as anything other than necessary, like our keys, or lip balm) in case there’s a car search (I’m used to Texas operating standards). We discuss the humor and depressive aspects of this.  

We stop to piss at a gas station and change clothes. We are now visibly nervous to one another.

It’s in the middle of a cornfield. It looks like a concrete and redbrick plantation. We’re confused about where to park, the lot filled with signs designating spots for “Officer of the Month” and other various class-betraying positions of authority. This is infuriating. The signs are confusing, we walk around the back of the building before realizing where the check-in is. everywhere paint is peeling. The ceilings are leaky, it smells like mildew.

We’re told Cathryn’s bandana isn’t allowed (which we suspected), that we need to be verified, that we brought too many documents, too much money–we make many trips back out to the car. Then we go to another building where our appearances are inventoried. They laugh at our piercings and tattoos. We’re frisked, and left alone in rooms. We’re finally being led through a manicured lawn area with razor wire all around it, flower beds carefully watered–who the fuck is this for? Signs that tell us to sit if we hear shots fired, with little green stick figures squatting with their rounded non-hands behind their green dot head. We walked across this insulting lawn to a small redbrick building designated for visitation. This building is even more dilapidated than the last one we were in. We’re barked at by COs, and they tell us where to sit and “wait for the inmate.” They never use her name. Only her number and the word “inmate” or “offender.” We hate these COs. I can feel my comrades vibrating with anger beside me.

We assess the room. It’s filthy. There’s no air conditioning, the windows are sealed and there are two large fans pointed away from us–to say it’s hot is a serious understatement. It’s sweltering. There are puddles of gray-ish water on the cracked tiled floor, a crummy looking children’s play area in the corner. Every surface is sticky. Families are sitting around plastic tables, with loved ones who are trapped here. We wait for Alisha.

When she’s led through the door, we immediately stand up and start waving. We all hug for a while, some of us cry a lot, others will do that later. All of us are beaming, wide smiles of finally embracing someone you thought impossible to touch before this very moment. Her smile is big and brilliant. She’s smart as hell, but we knew that. She spends most of our visit asking about us. Three hours fly by filled with conversations about surviving behind bars, resourcefulness and what’s happening outside. She recounts details about her roommate, her job in the kitchen, the ingenious recipes and methods of sewing, tattooing, DIY air conditioning. The food in the vending machines is overpriced and junk–but way better (we are told) than what they’re fed in mess (same as Texas). We all swap stories, talk about working and what we’ll all do once she’s out and free. We’re angry that the COs basically get to dictate when you’re able to leave–this practice called “line.” They don’t like leaving their posts to allow you to leave when is convenient for you, so instead they do a “line call” at random intervals that they determine and this forces you to either leave your visit early or risk being stuck and potentially missing your time window for returning home to work, see other family etc. They make it so you remember you’re not free while you’re there. We hug, two times each, and make a promise to come again soon. The COs make her stay there after we leave.

We’re queasy with heat and hunger when we leave. You can feel our anger again. We’re walked down that fucking flowerbed lined sidewalk again. We wait, are inventoried, and have to return to the other building to check-out. We’re cursing as we leave. We change clothes again, and we trade-off crying on our drive back. We fantasize about the day we can bring her home. We message Sherri, we’re in a kind of shock. Still kinda are. She shouldn’t be there. No one should.


If you want to support Alisha (commissary, visits, legal needs) & help us and her family continue to visit please contribute here:–2

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