On Sunday, I drove the backroads to California State Prison, Folsom. I’d missed my February visit with Travis because I was sick, and I was eager to see him. The day was wondrous — blue sky, inspirational clouds, bright green grasses growing on every available patch of soil. Water poured, with force, over the dam at Folsom Lake. I tried to not think about climate change and to enjoy the earth as it was presenting, gloriously, before my eyes.
As I pulled into the prison parking lot, I reminded myself of the routine — fill out a visitor’s pass, replenish the prison credit card for the vending machines, check in at the desk, show my driver’s license, get my right wrist stamped, sit down, and wait for Travis’s name to be called.
As I waited, I read a chart on the wall. Not Allowed: sunglasses, electronics and cell phones, scarves and gloves, hats and beanies, underwire bras, skinny jeans and leggings, jewelry, blue or green clothing. An officer appeared and called out “Travis Christian.”
I stepped to the door to enter the scanning room. “You can’t come in,” the guard said to me. “You’re wearing blue.” I was wearing blue — navy blue slacks and a navy jacket. The prisoners wear light blue shirts. “Light blue,” I protested. “Sorry, no blue,” came the reply. “You’ll have to leave and change clothes.”
Oh, boy. “I drove from Lincoln. I can’t go all the way home and back again.”
“We have a friendship center across the parking lot. The white building. You can go there and get a change of clothes.”
Thought I was becoming a pro at this prison-visiting thing. Guess not. I walked across the parking lot to a small building with a wood ramp leading to the front door. Inside, a woman sat at a desk. “You need clothes.” I signed in. Ten people had already signed in ahead of me because they needed clothes. A man came out of a back room and handed me black sweatpants and a black top with IZOD printed on its long sleeves. “We close at 2 p.m.”
Back across the parking lot in my new prison attire. One other woman joined me on the shuttle bus. After she departed, the driver said, “She’s pissed. She’s had to change clothes three times this morning.”
Okay. So things could be worse.
At 12:15 p.m., Travis entered the visiting room. We hugged. “This visit’s gotten screwed up,” I said. I explained the clothing fiasco. “I’ll have to leave earlier than usual to get back and pick up my clothes. Let’s get you something to eat.”
Travis selected pre-packaged quesadillas from the vending machine and a coffee drink. “I’m really glad to see you,” he said. “I was worried about you.” We talked quickly because there was lots to catch up on. Rooster, the previous cellie, was gone. Lawrence, the new cellie, “is a really nice guy. I’m taking a college history course, by mail. I got an A on my first paper. I was having trouble concentrating, but I’m feeling much better since my doctor changed my meds. She lowered my lithium and increased my thyroid prescription. My mom came last week and we had a really good visit. A friend here loves bridge. I told him you sent me bridge information. He wants to borrow it. I got some mail.”
I told Travis he looked good, better than he did at my last visit. He asked about my book. I brought him up to date. “I’m hoping to get it out there for Mother’s Day. It’s a learning curve and an adventure. We’ll see where it goes.”
Time to leave. Back across the parking lot to change into my own clothes. A woman walked with me. She wore black sweatpants and a black top. “It appears you shop where I shop,” I said. She visits her husband every week and, today, the guard declared that her dress was “too short. Your husband may be respectful, but we never know about the other guys. We don’t want any situations, you know.”
To return to his cell from the visiting area, Travis walks between buildings. As I left, I’d said, “When you’re outside, go slowly. It’s a beautiful day.”
“I will,” Travis said. “I will.”
You can read more about my visits with Travis. They’re listed in the Archives on the right.
Travis looks forward to receiving mail. You can write to him at this address:
California State Prison-Sacramento
P.O. Box 290066
Represa, CA 95671