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  • Rob Will

The Visitation Process

Before I came to Death Row I would never have imagined how it is here. I thought the only people who came to Death Row were serial killers and mass murderers. As far as the conditions go, the media and television shows promote fictitious ideas of Texas Death Row. I remember seeing an episode of the Fox Television Show “King of the Hill” that showed Death Row here in Texas. It showed a character in the show coming to help an inmate learn to read. They sat down at a table, he wasn’t cuffed and shackled and they had a good time. People in the free-world see stuff like that and think that’s how it really is. They don’t understand that we don’t see any teachers and we don’t have access to any games to help people learn to read like in that show. We NEVER get any human contact. Those of us who get visits have to see our visitor’s through thick plexiglass and talk to them over a phone attached to the wall. The entire visit, officers are watching and walking back and forth behind the cages we’re in.

I guess I should explain the visitation process: we’re only allowed to change our "approved visitation list" once every 6 months. Even though all other inmates in the prison system are allowed to do so every 90 days. We submit a maximum of 10 names to the Warden’s office for visitation approval. They do a background check and approve those that don’t "pose a threat to the security of the institution". If they simply want to be assholes they can usually make up a reason to deny a visitor. By policy a criminal record doesn’t automatically bar a person from being on someone’s list. Hold up! Breakfast… Inedible pancakes! That was a quick breakfast!

Well when I was protesting down on F-Pod they denied one of my good friends because years ago he did some jail time. That’s one of their many little oppressive tactics. So once people are approved on your list they can come during the approved hours and you can get a visit once a week. When visitors drive in they are sometimes stopped at the outer gate and their car and belongings are searched. Then they come inside and are made to walk through a metal-detector and sometimes searched with a handheld metal-detector. This process is very hard on the people the first time they visit. It’s like they get a taste of our world and they’re treated like criminals just for visiting us. Some officers are decent and don’t harass our visitors but many are downright rude. After the officers at the front building get the name of the person who has a visit they’ll call the death-row building and say, for example: "Inmate Will, C-81, has a visit". Then, the officer on the pod will come over the intercom and yell: "81 cell, get ready for a visit".

Most officers refer to us as cell numbers instead of using our name. I guess it’s easier on their conscience to treat "a number" bad instead of a person.

In continuing to use myself as the example… after they call me for visitation I’ll start getting ready. It takes anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour and a half for them to come get me: "81 cell, you ready for visitation? Alright, get out of ‘em!". That means to strip down to be searched. At this point the escort team would be standing in front of my cell. Some officer’s absolutely love to make strip searches as hard as possible: "Give me your shit". One officer will search my clothes while the other officer conducts the body search: "Run your fingers through your hair. Arms out, turn around. Lift your feet one at a time. Bend over, spread your cheeks. Turn around, lift your nuts. Alright, here’s your shit! Hurry up and get dressed!"

Then they’d take me for my visit and my visitor would usually already be out there waiting behind the glass. On that note, visitation is absolutely wonderful! Sometimes, I’ll be out there and it’ll feel like I’m not in prison but at a restaurant somewhere in the free-world talking to my friend. The three main things that make this place somewhat bearable are visitation, letters and commissary. Well this will be a short entry cause I’m actually tired and feel like maybe I can get a few hours of sleep.

So haller at you next time!

Robert Will

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