The drive to Susanville was gorgeous..at least hwy 32 was. I wanted to stop and go fishing!!
When we rolled into town, about 4:30 pm on Friday, we checked into a very nice motel which was right next to the road to CCC. We decided to drive out to the prison, just to make sure we knew how to get there, find friendship house, etc. We had a really lovely dinner at the The Sage Hen Restaurant next to our motel. The chef, Serge Marchale, grew up in France. He ended up in Susanville because he fell in love with a woman from there. The food was delicious. They get their beef from the same purveyor as Taylor's Market and The Waterboy....5 Dot!
So, per my previous post, we felt we were dressed for success and ready. We get to "The friendship house" at 7:45 and we are already #'s 56 and 57. The house is run off of a grant that these older ladies got to help families of inmates...in order to make visiting not "so harsh". Well, we had to change our pants. :) No denims of any kind allowed..doesn't matter what type of shirt you have on (unless it is white, deemed too low, too short, has the wrong straps, is blue or red, or if the guards can see your bra or (hard) nipples through it). Thankfully, the ladies have quite the array of clothing options! Dave ended up in a pair of old man pants that were too short, and I ended up in a pair of too short aqua colored sweats. At the last minute, they ladies suggested I change my shirt as well...because if the guards tried super hard, they might see into the side of my shirt. Trust me, it was not low at all. So, I changed into a much too large black t-shirt. I looked lovely with my black loafers on. Okay, so we got our passes and after 90 minutes, we were escorted 50 feet to the guard shack where they process you and we went through the metal detector. They sent 4 women back to the house to change their shirts and one her pants. I thought it was ridiculous, but I am glad I took the advice of the ladies over there and changed.
A van then comes and takes us (12 at a time) to the different "yards". We got off first...which was about 1/2 block from the guard shack. We go in and sign in again, they look at our stamps under a black lite, then we are escorted into the visiting room...which is about as big as our house...and is already packed! We found a table...with 3 chairs..and we had to face the guards who sit at a desk up front..on a pedestal. Kinda like you are in church...but not. It is now 9:40 a.m. I go up and nicely ask the lady guard when we might see Jer...as it is now 10:30 a.m. She says there was a scuffle in one of the yards so if they lock down, everyone's visit will be cut off. At 11:00 a.m., they opened the big door which led out to a grassy patio area with picnic tables and concrete tables. I ran like hell and grabbed one in the shade. First come, first served. The guard sits up high in a lifeguard chair with an umbrella.
Dave and I played Yahtzee for a bit..and then we saw Jer standing at the door looking for us. He was very happy to see us, as we were to see him. He was in very good spirits, happy for the visit. He did look like a refugee. He had on a pair of size 36 worn out denim pants (he wears a 30) and a shirt about 2 sizes too big. We played Yahtzee, talked, had a fairly decent lunch out of the vending machines...and even had ice cream. The guards keep a very close eye on everyone. Only on person at a time into the bathroom..which is locked and you get the key from the guards. It gets hairy when there are over 150 visitors!
Jer and I were up at the pop machine (inmates cannot use the machines..only visitors) and one family member asked if I was staying to visit on Sunday and Monday...as it was the labor day weekend. I said, "hell no". Jer laughed but that visitor looked at me like I was heartless. "Look, when my son made the decision to break the law again, and return to prison (DUI), we told him we were not going to do the time with him. We will be supportive in a useful way, visit when we can and feel like doing so, and will write. That's it. We'd much rather he stay out of prison and visit us at home." Jer agreed and we walked off..leaving this woman looking horrified. I could get into how I know the parole system is nothing more than a set up for failure....but I won't. You best be almost damned near perfect to make it off parole....and that's the truth. Most inmates are back in prison on parole violations...and that doesn't necessarily mean that they "re-offended". Case in point.
We had to leave at 2:30..got in line, said our goodbyes...they put the prisoners on the other side of the room. We get outside and have to wait and wait for vans. We can see our car...but we must be driven the 1/2 block away. We change our clothes, hug the ladies at the house and make a donation, and get the hell out of dodge.
We met some very nice families. One man and his wife have been going to see their son for 8 years. They live in Redding...he's an Engineer and she was a school teacher for 30 years. Lots of families like that. One lady, who had to change her pants, had driven up the night before from LA. She looked fine to me, but she came back to the guard shack after changing..almost in tears..."look sissy, I am wearing baggy polyester pink pants!" Her sis couldn't help but laugh...and so did we. I told her to have a gander at me..and we all laughed again. She said they had a garage sale in order to have the money to make the trip and stay in a fleabag motel for two nights...and they have those in Susanville.
Too bad there isn't a "Ronald McDonald" type house for those who have to make such a long journey. But, most people wouldn't care. Most people think the families of inmates are just as low as the inmates themselves when in reality, they are people just like you and me....as are a good share of the inmates.