Tuesday, June 12, 2012

trip to prison

Monday morning of last week I got a phone call that my host dad's mother died.  She had been ill for a long time, but any sort of death is a loss.  So, as my host family prepared to take in a lot of family from out of town, I went over to their neighbor's house -- my host grandparents.  They were an older couple in their early 80s who graciously opened their home up to me for the week.  It was an interesting experience to transition from one house to another right when I felt like I had just gotten settled in.  However, moving to my "next door" wasn't as drastic as the residents who come to the next door.

From what I remember someone telling me, The Next Door founders decided on the organization's name after hearing the warden of a jail explain the exit door -- the "Roll-Up One" -- it is the door that she will exit from at prison and begin her new life.  The Next Door is basically the next stop -- the next door that a resident will enter through -- after leaving prison.

I went to the Tennessee Prison for Women this past week to pick up a new resident and got to witness how The Next Door got its name. That particular day had already started out on a crazy note:  there was a bomb threat at the federal building just across from where I work. No big deal. 

A few hours later someone asked if I'd be willing to go pick up a new resident at the prison. Immediately after I say yes - I realize what I've committed to do.  It's not just going to the prison part that was intense -- it was driving in a vehicle I had never driven before on roads that I didn't know with another human being in the care whose safety and first impressions were in my hands.

I was told before I went to the prison where I needed to go and what I needed to do.  I was told to not get out of the vehicle upon arriving there because a security guard would run up to me with his/her gun and yell at me to get back in my vehicle. Thankfully, when I arrived to the prison, The Next Door had already informed someone that I was coming and a security guard met me in the parking lot I needed to be in.  I cracked my window just enough so that I could talk with him and he told me just to back my car up into this little waiting area and stay there until our new resident walked out.

After waiting for about (what seemed like) 10 minutes, I see this woman emerge with three security guards.  They were all talking and standing by this door -- really a large door -- a fence/gate thing that rolls up to let people in and out and has barbed wire seemingly everywhere.  So, the door rolled up and she walked out of it and headed over to the van I was driving.  She didn't know me and I didn't know her.  We awkwardly introduced ourselves as she loaded the her two small bags of belongings into the van.  Fearing that a security guard would come running at me, I stayed in the vehicle without offering to help her.  After she got in and buckled up, we were off to The Next Door.

She had been in prison for five years.  Can you imagine that?  I do not know what she was in prison for and I didn't ask. If she wanted to tell me, then I would have certainly listened; however, her past is her past and she wanted to be a part of The Next Door.  That's all that mattered then in that moment.  So, having no clue as to what to talk about with her -- I started out talking about the Queen's Jubilee that was being celebrated that day.  While it may have not been the best topic delve into initially, it worked out and conversation flowed naturally from there.  She also thankfully knew where The Next Door was located and helped me navigate a bit through Downtown Nashville.

Well, that is all for now.  I'll leave you with a picture of the Customs House, which used to be the old federal building but it apparently now where bankruptcy court is held?  Not completely sure about that last part.

Until Later,

1 comment:

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