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).