Orientation at WHV: October 13, 2019 (MALE IN THE AREA)
The sunny day felt frigid as the wind shifted the seasons. I arrived at the correctional facility and I was excited to enter. I waited in the lobby at 4:15pm. The lobby was cold, the sun that seeped through the high windows didn’t seem to warm up the area I was sitting in. The area was quiet, the water fountain in the lobby was loud, then the sound turned off and the only sound that echoed through the lobby was the sound of the gates that let the visitors in and out.
4:30: Mrs. S.H met us in the lobby, she instructed us to leave are belongings in a locker. The other volunteers and me were patted down by the first officer. We were escorted and asked to go through the metal detector and to take off our shoes and socks for a thorough check. We walked through to receive our PPD (Personal protection device) it’s a device for the volunteer’s safety. We walked through the facility and made it outside, the walk way was steady, the grass rippled as wind fluffed it. We walked towards the program building as we were greeted by the walking inmates. We walk into the building. I was introduced to one of the participants in the poetry workshop, Dorothy was gentle, she walked, counted the steps that she hasn’t taken yet. We were introduced to our point officer.
4:45: we were asked to sit in the room to watch a short film that expanded on procedures and guidelines in the prison. The video was a converted VHS video into a DVD disc. The video had the nostalgic static, ribbons of static noise that took over the screen. Shifting the antennas in order to find that quality. The video was much older than expected.
-What looks like a crotched blazar that didn’t move with the body language?
-Static strips moving upwards on the screen
Finally, the video was over, 6:05pm came around and orientation was over. We walked toward the restroom for the inmates. We were instructed to shout out “MALE IN THE AREA” whenever walking past the area. I was by the officer and he told me about what happens in the facility.
“Like nothing I have seen before” seemed to be the following sentence after every description. He was pleasant, he was friendly with all the inmates and addressed them by “Mrs.” and “Ms.”. It was admirable, he treated them with a profound respect. 6:30 was approaching and I stayed behind to meet with Rob and Adam.
I felt comfortable; familiarity was the sense. The dynamic of the programs building didn’t feel like an inmate/prison setting. All of the inmates were treating it as any occupation, there were many roles in the building. Some did housekeeping, a few were escorting and getting the rooms ready for the evening programs. It was comforting to know that it wasn’t just a typical prison.