Alisha was nervous about us driving in the rain. She called twice to check on us while we were on the road. It’s about three hours without traffic or under normal weather conditions. It took us a long while to reach the prison because the torrential downpour forced us to take it slow almost the entire way. Using phone calls (anyone who is used to how expensive and precious they are will tell you) to check-in on us was beyond considerate, and was not thrifty. It was touching to be checked-in on, something that we wish we could do for her, whenever the want or need to will arise. Unfortunately calls from prison are just that, from and not to. You have to wait to check up on your loved ones. When a few days go by and there’s silence, you are forced to infer the worst, because of the shitty prison mandated phone usage protocol.
The rain flooded the low roads practically the whole way to Decatur. It was nerve wracking and I felt terrible–we were panicking our friend.
We have not seen Alisha since her (incredible) Shakespeare performance in April and were beyond excited to catch up. We brought zines (Support Ho(s)e Year One, A Survivor: Alisha Walker, and Client & Co-Conspirator) as well as the comic book about our first visit with Alisha called “No One’s Victim,” published by Vice Versa Press, to try and include them in a property drop off (as a property officer had advised me over the phone) since the past four times we’ve tried sending them, they’ve gone missing. We also brought more money for snacks during our visit. As we pulled into the visitor’s parking lot it was really pouring. We grabbed all of our identification, cash, vending machine money card, zines and shoved everything down our shirts as we hurried in the cold rain toward the processing area.
I hate this place. We hate this place. Everyone should hate this place.
We walk in: “What’s that under your shirt?!” A CO yells out as soon as we come in from the storm. A has all of the precious print material we’ve brought for Alisha protected from the rain under his shirt. We look up, “it’s raining, they’re publications we’re dropping off.” I’ve met these COs on duty at least half a dozen times and they still ask if I’ve visited before. I say yes, they hassle me about my expired driver’s license and my renewal print-off. They hassle us about the zines and comic. This really infuriates us. The zines and comic look “homemade” (they are). We can’t drop them off…we have to mail them in…only “publications” are admitted this way. I plainly explain that they were purchased (they were not) publications. They say that doesn’t matter. I ask what constitutes as “publication.” They say a professionally produced magazine or book. I explain about Vice Versa Press publishing the comic…they say it still looks “homemade,” and the won’t approve it. They tell me I have to mail them.
I raise my voice. I rarely do this.
“I have tried mailing them in. Four times.” They tell me I must be mailing them wrong…Then they look through them more and see a photo of LeLe that appears to be a screen shot of her during a video visitation. They start lecturing me on how this could get her a citation and list-off creative punishments if this is the case. I ask them if they’ve ever used skype or known someone who used skype before they were locked up. They didn’t get my inference so I said I didn’t take a pic of her during a video visit and removed myself from the intake area to go piss before the full screening/inventory. I splash water on my face, I look like shit. I am so fucking angry. We lock up the zines and comic in our locker with our IDs, and it’s A’s turn to take a piss. I go through screening first. The CO begins lecturing me again about video visitation protocol.
I’m better at playing dumb and nodding this time.
She sends me through to a room where she touches my breasts and makes me take my shoes off. She grabs my hair bun and yanks, “just making sure!” …Of what, if I feel pain?
A is screened next, I can hear the CO who’s screening him offer a similar lecture. A is better at keeping calm, he always is. We go into the visitation room and LeLe’s wing mate is there having a visit with her brother, his kiddo and another friend. Alisha comes in shortly after this, a complete 180 from our last visit where we waited hours to see her after the play. The kiddo is very interested in us and Alisha for most of our visit, asking questions and dancing around, showing off her daisy barrettes that make truly wonderful sounds as she throws her head around dancing– they click and clack into each other.
We take a photo. We laugh wildly because LeLe sprang this on us, and quite frankly A and I were not our most photogenic–but of course LeLe was! She had on some gold eyeshadow she had made.
LeLe had her hair done-up differently, in a half-bun; it’s lighter, the sun bleaching it more and more because she’s been working outside, a new job cutting grass that she’s really liking because she’s left alone and gets exercise. She makes $30 a month doing (at least) 8 hour shifts per day, every day. She does the entire prison grounds over the course of the week. Essentially she gets $1 per day for her labor.
She’s giddy and nervous, in a good way. She likes a fellow visitor in the room and it shows. More on that when that fact doesn’t threaten either of them…
She spends the visit mostly talking about wanting to go to college, and talking about the research we’ve been doing on correspondence courses and how she can best get an Associates degree while inside. She updates us on what she’s reading, she’s deep into “Invisible No More” by Andrea Ritchie and she’s revisiting “Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson.” We talked about afrofuturist sci-fi (a genre she adores) and how she’s basically doing upper level college reading already. She reminds us she’s still got like 60 books from supporters for her birthday to go through, and how thankful she is for this.
As an aside–after she reads a book, she donates it to the prison’s library which is woefully understocked and most features self-help books (she despises these) and romance novels (she tolerates these).
We talk prison medical treatment (we agreed it’s bogus to use the word “care” in relation to anything in a prison) and how fucked it is. She started taking birth control and now she really can’t stand chow hall meat. She’s been craving fruit and juice and yogurt. Things she can only get when we visit and buy them from the vending machines…and that’s if the machines are stocked. Thankfully they are, so we can. She gets her fruit and yogurt fix.
We do our normal organizing debrief to wrap up our visit, filling her in on project ideas, taking cues and inspiration from her thoughts. We talk about the other folx we’ve been talking to inside and what they’re thinking and feeling. She reports back on her contacts some more. It’s like working with someone who can read your mind or at least anticipate the capacity/building/organizing needs. It’s pretty fucking remarkable. That’s gotta be what’s meant by the saying “find your people.” She says she’s ready to be free–she’s been ready. She’s “got work to do.”