Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A New World

The new world is the California State Prison System.  I've learned a lot about it in the last 24 hours.  A lot more than I ever thought I would need to know.

I finally tracked down a long-time friend whom I lost track of when I moved to Hawaii, she changed jobs, and then moved.  Now I find her a widow (younger than I was when Ray passed) and a guest of the State of California in one of their women's facilities.

What have I learned about prisons?  C., who wore shorts when we walked but otherwise refused to wear slacks, now wears denims on a daily basis. I guess I knew that, but now it is more real. She will have little use for the vocational training offered through the prison system. They give basic stuff like earning a GED some vocational education.   She is a professional, qualified by training and experience to teach in at least two areas of their curriculum.

Inmates cannot receive a package unless it comes from a vendor approved by the California Dept of Corrections & Rehabilitation.  That's a short list.  Except for books.  Any book vendor who routinely sells by mail order is automatically approved.  Covers are removed from all hardback books before they are given to the inmate.  If the book falls apart, they have to give you cording or a rubber band to hold it together, but otherwise, tough -------.  The books may not include maps of any area within 10 miles of her present location.  Or instructions to build bombs, or ways to escape from prison.

Several different styles of earphones are for sale on the approved vendor sites.  Does that mean that inmates can listen to an iPod or similar device?  Are they restricted to music, or can they listen to audiobooks, too?  Can they download them from the Internet, I wonder?  Something to ask, later.

All incoming and outgoing mail is read by (designated?) prison staff.  C. can receive a blank envelope that you buy from the post office with a pre-printed stamp, or blank envelopes and a sheet of stamps.  She cannot receive an envelope onto which I have placed a stamp from the post office.  Even mail from her attorney (always confidential) is opened (face down), and each page shaken to assure there is not contraband included.

Books may not contain pornography.  I suspect that anything described as "explicit" on a romance novels qualifies as porn under the CDCR definition, which is pretty narrow.  I'm pretty sure "Shawshank Redemption" by Stephen King would not be deemed acceptable since it talks about a successful prison escape.  So I wonder about other popular authors like James Patterson and JA Jance, Julia Spencer-Fleming and Nora Roberts, John Gresham or Kathy Reichs.

I am shaken by C's imprisonment, and her crime.  It is non-violent, but a 2nd offense.  The victim was a friend who trusted and respected her.

Pray for those in prisons around the world.  Pray for C.
Hug your partner, a friend, a child or grandchild.
Give thanks for your own personal freedom.

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