Journal excerpt — early 90’s

The wind hounds Framingham. It is one of the most constant reminders I have that this, indeed, is a prison. The wind’s vigor, its selection of the compound as a place to rush through and rush through some more and the way it flaps the antiquated metal slat ventilators all serve to make one feel diminished, inconsequential, and exposed.

When it’s calm elsewhere, like in Newton, Natick, or Weston, the wind barrels through the grounds of the prison with persistent force. An additional punishment. When a light breeze graces my leafy suburb, a harsh wind scours MCI/Framingham. There’s no logic to it. Just like there’s no logic to a mother of three being handed a mandatory term of five years for committing a crime of poverty.

More than the glint of sun on barbed wire coils, more than the assessing looks of officers garbed in blue, more than the drab disrepair of the old building, the wind reminds us where we are and that we are exposed, lonely, inconsequential. I get to leave. They do not.

I know nothing of another worker there except that she loves to fly kites. She shared this as we were crossing the yard that separates the old building from the new, a place where the wind blasts as if down a desert canyon. This personal disclosure seemed not so much evoked by the wind as blown out of her. The wind demanded it. Her sharing reminded me of an abandoned burger wrapper that after several tugs of air gets lifted into a current and carried an uncanny distance.

I don’t know what the wind does to the souls of the inmates.

One woman who had the chore of cleaning dead pigeons out of the old building’s rafters mentioned ghosts, at which point I made the rather stunning observation that it had never occurred to me to imagine what the place felt like after nightfall. She heard howling. She speculated about spirits.

*. *. *.

These paragraphs were from torn pages found in a casual file in the basement over the weekend. Most of it was about the frustrations of serving inmates when I didn’t have much to offer them.

Aid to Incarcerated Mothers’ primary mission was to arrange visits between children and their inmate mothers. The prison, notably, is located about thirty minutes from where most of the incarcerated women came from. I was the staff attorney for a while and reviewed petitions to terminate parental rights and social worker plans and I can’t remember what else.

I vastly preferred being in a medium security women’s prison to working in a posh law firm, that I do remember. That and how the women kidded me for looking like a soccer mom (I didn’t have kids yet).

15 thoughts on “Journal excerpt — early 90’s

  1. Ellen Lubell

    Another amazing post. Thank you for writing this originally and for sharing it now. So powerful.

  2. Tina

    Just another reason for me to feel proud to call you my friend. Five years for committing the crime of poverty 😢 sadly I’m sure that is still happening. Thankful for people like you bringing help and hope to so many.

    1. deemallon Post author

      Unfortunately I found these few pages ripped out of a notebook. I could go back and look at other journals from the time though. I don’t remember writing this at all.

  3. deb

    Odd how we have adjacent experiences with the penal system. I worked for AT&T from ’87 to ’92 as a telephone operator. On the day shift, nearly a third of our calls were collect calls placed by inmates in all the prisons and jails in Westchester, Putnam and Duchess counties including Bedford Hills Correctional for Women. Those were the hardest. When I could help by bending the rules about if or how long a call could be, I would. The saddest were when collect charges were coldly refused. “Is there another number you want me to try?” Long silence. “No.”

    1. deemallon Post author

      Those refusals must’ve been hard to hear. We could place calls for inmates but if they spoke Spanish I could get in trouble since I didn’t understand.

  4. Marti

    I have had a hard time wrapping my head around the penalty for poverty. How anguishing to want and at times, not be able to have your children visit or to have your rights removed. You do not say how long you did this aid work but I can imagine, it wore down on your soul, as the wind,a reminder of flight bore down on the women who could not leave their jail cells until their time was finished…

    1. deemallon Post author

      Marti the crimes of poverty were often serious. Like dealing drugs. But the mandatory sentencing rules afforded judges no discretion and often the women were pretty desperate.


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