The Prison Visit

I went to visit my nephew Mario in prison.

Preparing For The Visit

It all started in September while Mario was in Chuckawalla Prison in Blythe. I had to get the ball rolling by submitting an application to visit. Blythe is a three-and- a-half -hour drive from my home. I did not want to drive alone because by the time the visit would end, it would be nightfall. I prayed and asked Rong, another nephew, if he wanted to join me. Rong was so accommodating he agreed to take me. That meant that he needed to get government clearance as well.

I received a phone call from Mario informing me that he was being transferred to Norco. Norco is only one-half hour from where I live. Mario insisted that we wait until the transfer for the visit.

Visiting  Rules

Mario suggested that we not make an appointment,  that it would be easier if we showed up around 9:30 a.m. for the 10 a.m. visit. This was our first time at this facility; since  we were not certain of the protocols we got in line. Of course it was the wrong line. By the time we figured out what to do we were one of the last ones in.

Miss Know-It-All

I suffer from know-it-all syndrome. Although I read through the dress regulations and was confident of what to wear, I got it wrong. As Rong and I sat, we witnessed a woman being turned away because she was wearing green. In a low voice I told Rong, “She has double green, her undershirt is green too!” Poor thing! She was sent back to a small building to change into proper attire that is provided by the facility .

When it was our turn, the officer looked at me and said, “You can only wear one bracelet. You need to take one off.” I did, and Rong had to lock it in his car. Then it was time for the second inspection, where they wave the wand and check the clear plastic bag we use to bring money.

I had a total of $54, twenty dollars in quarters and the rest in dollar bills, but I also had a five-dollar bill. An officer in a tightly wound-up bun looked at me sternly and said, “You can’t wear blue, you need to change!” I responded, “Change? I have no other clothes.” She pointed to the same building that the green sweater lady went to.

Poor Rong, I was holding up everything! We walked in and I explained that my stylish mock navy blue turtleneck was the wrong color. This lady looked at me and said  what I was wearing was an acceptable color. I did not have time for a tit for tat conversation, so I asked the lady for an appropriate top.

I was getting upset because we were holding up Mario as well. The lady brought out a dingy black t-shirt along with a gray one. I changed into the black one and walked back for the final inspection. Again, the same woman officer opened my plastic bag of money, found the five-dollar bill and said, “You can’t take five-dollar bills in!” So Rong had to make another run to the car to drop it off.

The Visit

Mario had mentioned that if weather permitted we could sit outside on some picnic tables. With only two options, Rong and I decided to sit outside. As I was handing my driver’s license along with personal information, I asked the lady officer if we could sit outside, but if  it got too cold, could we come inside? “No! Once you pick you stay for the entire visit.” Her authoritarian voice made me realize that this is not an ordinary visit.

The Food

While other inmates and their families were settling in, Rong and I noticed the various food choices. Rong, a novice visitor, had only brought $20 in quarters.

We were assigned table 47.  I brought $20 in quarters, and the rest in dollar bills.  Literally, I was Miss Money Bags with all the dollar bills and quarters totaling  a whopping $49. We were set.


I told Rong to purchase fried chicken. That took all his money! Remember the Snapple drink? You don’t see it  advertised or displayed on the shelves of grocery stores any longer. Not to worry because this was the main drink available to us. We ate fried chicken, munched on Doritos, and for dessert Mario had Hostess chocolate-covered donuts and cheese cake. It was a sweet picnic!


Rong asked, “Can we hug him?” I was not sure either, because at some facilities that is not permitted.

We watched as other inmates arrived.  They were warmly greeted with loving arms, so we did the same. Mario stands over six-feet tall; he is handsome with a beautiful shade of brown skin to match the deep hue of brown in his eyes. I love how he sometimes covers his mouth when laughing.  It had been a while since our last visit, so we were all in a state of rejoicing,

The Bible Study

Yes, that was the plan! So when I went into the building to ask for a Bible, another inmate helped me find the “Good News Bible.” I asked for a piece of paper and pen to take notes. I  also asked, “Can I take the notes with me?” “Not really,” he answered. But what I heard was, “Yes, be careful.”

The Apostle Paul

We read from the Book of Acts the transition of Paul. Mario was familiar with this story and added that St. Paul was many times in prison, and how he wrote many of his epistles while in jail. We also read about how God used St. Paul until the very end of his life. The Holy Spirit encompassed our little area as we continued to discuss godly matters.

Mario’s Plan

Mario talked about the last time he was released and found a job at the Staples warehouse. He worked  for three weeks, but after a background check he was fired. Without work and no real direction he fell back into his old lifestyle.

With the piece of paper in hand, I told him that he needed a plan when he gets out. “Give me five things you want to accomplish when you get out.”

  1. Praying that I should go to a transition home;
  2. Enrolll in DUI classes (this has been on his record for over 15 years);
  3. Get a driver’s license;
  4. Find a job; and
  5. Get off parole and live a normal, simple life.
my notes

I believe that this time Mario will accomplish these hurdles and that he will live a normal, simple life with a great story to tell.

Saying Good-bye

It’s never easy to leave, especially when the visiting hours were scheduled for a 3 o’clock departure. But because we are in a controlled environment, the call for us to exit was at 2 o’clock instead.

We could hear the tiny, loud voices of children saying, “We love you, Daddy! See you soon!”  As we waved our last good-bye to Mario, a few yards away we could see and hear the Little League baseball game that was taking place at the sports complex. It was a paradoxical experience.

My Prayer

Dear Lord, I pray for Mario and all the other incarcerated individuals who need another chance in life. Lord, You created Mario for a purpose, and with dignity. Please help Mario accomplish his plan. Speak to him through Your Word, and, when he is discouraged, appear to him in his dreams. Amen.

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