Second Prison Visit

My sister Norma and her son Mario

I decided to visit my nephew Mario this past Friday.

Norco Rehabilitation Center is a little less than a half-hour from my home so I decided to make an unplanned visit.  I arrived at 10:15 a.m. for a 12:00 noon visit. You do not have to make an appointment, just show up voila’ you’re in. I was greatly mistaken! There were already about 20 people ahead of me and, for the most part, they had appointments.

Since I consider myself  an expert small-talker, I struck up a conversation with two women ahead of me. One tall black lady with the most beautiful smile was sharing how she learned the hard way about the strict dress code for visitors. “No way, I wasn’t taking any chances this time.” She wore a long, gray dress with the words “Black and Smart” written over her chest area. Another lady arrived; she had flown in from Idaho to visit with her son. She was nervous because she forgot to wear her sports bra. Not me, I made a special effort to invest in a wireless bra.

The Bra

“As long as the bra is wireless, you should be fine,” I counseled her. She replied that she was wearing a wireless bra but with metal hooks. Again, I assured her that she was fine.  After all, this was not my first rodeo.

When the officers started to check in the visitors, two women with heavy Indian accents did not pass the magic wand test (metal detectors). They were  instructed to go to the infamous shed to purchase sports bras. Believe it or not, the prison provides sports bra dispensers! I kept a watchful eye on them and felt their pain for being delayed in their visit. Thank God I was in a better prepared state of mind.

The two women came back to announce that the dispenser was not taking their money. Turns out that these sports bras are bartered with one-dollar bills. They turned to the officers and said, “Now what! We came all the way from Poway, what are we to do?” The officer smugly looked at them and  told them to go to Target. I was quickly checked in, but because I had forgotten Mario’s booking number, I had to wait for all the other people who had appointments to go ahead of me.

Then I did the most stupid thing ever! I went to the officer and asked her if my wireless bra was permitted. “Not if it has metal hooks,” she answered. By this time 25 more people  needed to be cleared for their visits, so I decided to take a run to Target to avoid the red tape of the bra bureaucracy. The two Indian women offered me a ride to Target, but I was not about to get in a car with two strangers with whom I had only one thing in common: stupid bras!


I have been boycotting Target for over a year, but in this case I made an exception. I ran in and picked out a sky blue sports bra, used the self-checkout, then ran back to the dressing room to change. When I put it on, it had some type of coffee stain spatters! In the meantime Mario called me because I was so delayed. I reassured him that I was on my way. By the time I arrived back at the prison, I was the only one left to be processed.


White shirt and black pants and still got it wrong

Two Young Men

Maybe it’s not my business, but I noticed two young men who arrived in a Tesla. I, too, was driving my husband’s Tesla, so perhaps that was why I was all up in their business. More on them later.

The Visit

Mario was already sitting at bench 34 when I arrived. An inmate wearing an orange mess vest came up to me and said, “I’m Mario’s friend Turkey, let me help you.” I was flustered because there was only one fried chicken left and the machine was not taking my one-dollar bills; the chicken cost $20. This is one of the reasons I came back – for the chicken! It’s delicious!

Mario introduced his friend “Turkey”; he is from Istanbul. I have visited Turkey four times, so we had a wonderful chat about his homeland. Turkey had already reserved a Catholic Bible for us, so we immediately got into the Word of God. Mario shared that he attends three weekly Christian services. Of course that made my heart glad.

The Wisdom of Ben Sira  (New American Bible)

We read from the Wisdom of Ben Sira. This is one of the “wisdom” books that Martin Luther decided to removed from the Protestant Bible! This is one of my favorite books, also referred to as Sirach (in other Catholic bibles).  I was pleasantly surprised when I read this verse:

Turkey seemed to be knowledgeable about many of the inmates.  When I got up to purchase water. Remember the two young men? I noticed that they were visiting their father, who was about my age! The man was wearing a yarmulke, which meant that he was Jewish. I asked Turkey, “What crime did that man commit?” Turkey looked back at me and laughed, “I’m not sure.” “Okay, when I come back you need to find out,”I answered. Turkey assured me that he would find out. Mario, on the other hand, was aghast that I was such a busybody. “Tia, we don’t go around asking inmates why they’re here.” We laughed and, by the end of the day, I became Turkey’s Tia.
The Good-bye

We read five full chapters of this rich book on wisdom. We would apply the advice to our lives, especially the chapter on gossiping.

Praying For A Transfer
Mario mentioned that he wanted to be transferred to another area because of the violent behavior of the younger inmates. He said that the tension between the Blacks and Latinos was out of control, with vicious fights breaking out on a regular basis. These young inmates all have a common background: gangs, drugs and are adopted sons of Satan.
My Prayer
Dear Lord, thank You for allowing me to visit Mario and for the beautiful Bible study we shared. I pray for him to get into the last few classes to earn his AA. Lord, let Mario’s mind stay on You and fill the loneliness of the days. Amen.

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