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My First Five Hours in Prison

Abstract painting of woman in bushes

Resting Garden Two by Betsy Walton

Finally visiting my old friend, a murderer who plea-bargained for life without parole.

I arrived in rural nowhere at 10 a.m., well inside the 8-to-3 visiting hours. I left my ski parka in the car, realizing its many pockets would be a hassle to search. As I walked through the cutting wind, a passing guard told me visitors are not processed from 9:45 to 11:00. I’d brought a book to read; may I sit on a couch in the lobby? He told me there were couches but that no books were allowed in the visiting area. He suggested I drive to a nearby mom-and-pop convenience store. The store turned out to make a pretty good chicken sandwich. I arrived back at the prison at 11:00. When I finally got to the front of the sign-in line, I didn’t know my license plate number, so I had to walk back to my car. I also didn’t know my friend’s ID number. I waited almost an hour to find that out.  When I was finally called to the office, the woman behind the desk typed in my friend’s name. “He’s not here. He’s in Unit Two.” I drove a half-mile further down the country road and then walked even further in the cold, following the signs to Visitation. Inside, I was told I must first go to the other building to …

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