Erica, Aaron and I were visiting fresh on the heels of Alisha being released from Segregation; punished for articulating she would defend herself if attacked, and naming the COs who had been targeting her for continued harassment. We wanted to be sure to bring her some things to brighten the visit and made a stop to snag some magazines. None of us could remember how many we were allowed to bring, and of course the website for Decatur Correctional was of zero help. We grabbed Teen Vogue, Cosmo, Bust, Ms., and The Nation just in case. LeLe likes reading up on current events and fashion (she’s an amazing designer herself). Aaron has already ordered a couple of books to bring, Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson and Theif’s Journal. So we were banking on bringing the whole shot in with us like we had done at Logan Correctional.
Our drive always takes us past racist/sexist billboards, corn and soy fields and lasts about three hours. Every time we make this trip, without exception, we complain about the city economies that establish themselves around prisons–the false promises of “good jobs” which entail keeping people in cages, working in the trade of dehumanization.
I was anxious like always to see my friend. I have memories of how bad some of my other friends had been roughed up while in “the hole” and I was nervous to see Alisha’s physical condition.
I saw the same damn COs I always see at that front desk. I remind myself not to fall into the learned convenience of smiling at their familiar faces. I never smile in that place until I see LeLe. When I’m getting shook down I explain again about my small orthopedic lift (one of my legs is shorter than the other) in my shoe. I shake my hair out to confirm I’m noting hiding anything in it’s tangles.
She’s escorted to us so much faster than usual! We all laugh and scoff when the CO makes Aaron sit across from LeLe instead of beside her–her self-professed hardcore “dyking out” coupled with the fact that Aaron is her “big brother,” is more than enough to make our eyes roll at this arbitrary rule.
We spend most of our visit talking about what kind of new aesthetic she wants when she’s free of this place. She wants a new long and wavy weave, maybe with purple and blonde highlights. She’s got big plans for body art–a full leg sleeve (a comprehensive piece that twists and turns on her curves). She wants to wear high heels every day, and she wants to walk out of that place wearing a long flowing white dress. I can see her in and with all of these adornments as she paints this picture for us. I love hearing my friend talk about things that make her smile and feel beautiful. I wish I could give her all those things right then. I hate that she has to wait, stuck with ill-fitting white tees and grey shorts.
We’re not allowed to go outside on the visitation patio even though it’s vacant and the weather is beautiful outside. They claim someone was caught having sex out there… “good for them if they got some” we all say. But it seems like a bullshit claim by the COs, another thing to take away. We talk about her love, her sneaky tat, how legit that vending machine cheesecake might be (turns out she’s pleased with it), family updates, what’s been happening on the outside, and finally the hell that is Segregation. I don’t mean to make our conversations sound linear, they are everything but. We bounce around, joke about music, she dabs when she’s showing off and playing around. It’s really something else to see someone laugh while locked up. Talk about resistance.
Four hours flies by. It always does. We leave knowing the names of the COs who have been fucking with her, and having a better sense of just how insidious their policies can be regarding what inmates can/can’t say on phone calls or during video visits etc. We also leave knowing our grrrl is in love and resilient. She is full of fight and life and refuses to let that place stifle her. My next visit will likely be via the Video visitation service (I’m relocating to NYC) so I hug her three or four times, extra long, not wanting to let go. I already miss her before we’re out of the room.