going to prison

Happy, happy Monday!

I had an entirely different post planned for today, but yesterday I had an experience I just had to write about.
going to prison

I went to prison here in Curacao.

To visit two young, 20 and 21 year old, girls.

It was one part overwhelming, one part intimidating, and all around kind of scary.

I think it’s safe to say prison here in Curacao is not like prison in the US. Not that I would know.

And not that I can explain it. More … primitive maybe.

When I was making our appointment a few weeks ago and was getting the description of what to wear, the conversation went something like this:

Lady I was making the appointment with: You have to wear a shirt that covers your arms but it doesn’t have to be long sleeves, long pants and no slippers, they have to be closed shoes.
Me: Ok, so no tank tops and no flip flops and closed toed shoes.
Lady: No, shoes closed around the ankle … incase you need to run.
***crickets***
Lady: Oh, and don’t dress sexy.
Me: Ummm, ok.

And today, after a lengthy and confusing check-in process, when I was set free in the prison (quite the oxy moron) to find my way to the visiting room, one guard yelled after me “Don’t worry, nothing can happen to you here.”

Ummmm, for some reason that only made me nervous … and I picked up my pace … and was thankful for wearing my sneakers.

And for the next two hours I made conversation with strangers in prison.

I asked about their families and what they’re studying in college.  They commented on the constant heat and the paper-thin mattresses.  We talked about the Olympics they had missed while in prison and places they’ve visited or have family in the US.

One of them explained to me how to play net ball.  The other mentioned that she had never even heard of Curacao before she came.

One wondered aloud how this will affect her criminal record in her home country.  The other got a sad look in her eyes when she explained that she was an only child and this was the first time she had traveled on her own.

And we hugged when our time was up.

And I couldn’t help but think about when I was 20.

And living in Switzerland.

And … if you’re the kind of person who has never made a questionable decision, you might not understand.

But man, I can only imagine how much I would have appreciated a friendly face if I was ever confronted with the situation these girls are in.

Not someone to judge. And question. And point out the idiocy of said decisions.

It’s pretty clear they have the time on their hands to do enough of that on their own. Day in and day out.

That’s why I went, really.

Because that’s what I would want someone to do for me in the same situation.

And this is an experience that I will never forget. And am so happy I had.

And makes me so very thankful for my freedom.

And for compassion. And acceptance. And genuine efforts of kindness.

I don’t know exactly what the girls did to end up in prison. And I don’t know how long they will be there … they are awaiting trial.

But I do know that it made me feel really good to do something so simple for someone in such need.

And I’m happy to report that at no point did I ‘need to run’. :)

So tell me, have you ever been to prison?  Either voluntarily or involuntarily?  Do anything a little out of your comfort zone over the weekend?

And if you weren’t a reader back in January you might be interested in my 12 Days of Kindness.  Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here.  And anyone looking for an easy way to share some kindness can check out my Pass it on Project.

Kindness … pass it on.  :)

Comments

  1. says

    I can only imagine how encouraged they must have been by your visit! And now the two of them have a common experience they can talk about that doesn’t have to do with thin mattresses, bad food, the heat, or upcoming court days, but rather the kindness of a stranger they both had chance to meet. I bet they so appreciated not being asked what they did to find themselves there as well!

    I went to the county prison once as a neighbor was arrested and I went to visit once when the family couldn’t go.

  2. szinteriors says

    This felt emotional to me, definitely. I’ve never been to prison… on ither side of the bars, and admire the act ofkindness you shared. I’ll be thinking about this post for a while…

  3. says

    There are 5 prisons in my hometown. Federal, state, military, women’s(used to be), U.S. Marshalls holding. My brother in law was warden at the Federal Pen., my niece has worked at the jail, my other niece works at the US Marshall’s jail and when I was little, my mom worked at the Women’s Prison. Now get this, she took me to work everyday and the inmates basically watched me. We played softball, did ceramics, cleaned, walked around the campus(it was very pretty) ran from snakes (big black ones) and ate in the cafeteria. Now I know this is not what most would want for their little girls, but I loved it. There was a library and beauty shop, and ceramic studio, gym and they even had dances. I met Johnny Cash when I was 5. So yes, I have been to prison, but not today’s prison, full of corruption and drugs. The one I was at was more of a campus you couldn’t leave, each person had there own room, t.v. and the food was great.

  4. says

    I heart you, Karah. What an amazing act of kindness and compassion you showed those girls… and I would hope/pray that they will never forget that and be able to pass it on in some fashion down the road. Bless your big ‘ole island dwelling heart, friend. You rock.
    xo Heidi

  5. says

    I am sure their mothers back home were extremely grateful for your kindness. Wow, how very, very sad. 20 and 21. I shudder to think what that would have been like….wait a minute, I did go to jail at 21. Not really,but I had an outstanding traffic ticket, and in Provo, for kicks they police track dummies down like me and actually handcuff them and take them off to jail!!!! Luckily, my boyfriend at the time had more money than I did and came and bailed me out. It was the most pitiful thing ever. I think the entire ordeal was over in about two or three hours, but it scared me straight. I have never lapsed on fees of any kind since! (at least not the kind you could potentially be sent to jail for).

    I did do a kindess today. A good friend has found herself a single mom. Husband up and left and decided to try on “bachelorhood” for a while. I took her to breakfast for a short, but yummy distraction. I passed on a kindness, but not the calories. -K

  6. says

    I believe you’ve given me an idea for a post my body can’t stop me from writing–no physical work involved, unless you count typing, lol. Yes, I visited a few times a few maximum security prisons and to do so I had to get fingerprinted, have my past explored, really can’t imagine walking in like you did. I haven’t visited in waayyy too long. Someone I grew up with. One HUGE mistake.Visitors have assigned days and times, sit on one side of bullet-proof glass, prisoners on the other, talk through a phone. I think it was 10 min.
    Janet

  7. says

    How scary it must be for those girls and how awesome of you to brighten their day. I’ve never been to prison, but I used to work as a counselor with Juvenile offenders & their families so I’ve been to my share of Juvenile detentions and they are horrid places.

  8. says

    Google plus-ed it, not sure how to pin it, but I love stories that warm your heart. Thankfully none of my youthful misadventures landed me in prison (or even close), but I love your generous spirit in going there to bring a bit of hope and normalcy to those two girls.

    Jessica

  9. andrea cammarata says

    you are awesome my friend — thank you so much for sharing that experience with us — I have never had a one on one like that — how great that was for them…I am sure you will remember it all your life. it’s true — sometimes we forget how great we have it! thanks for the reminder but most of all thanks for sharing compassion with no judgement to these girls in need! hugs…hugs to the m&m gang too! : )

  10. says

    I’d like to think that if my kid ends up in prison because he or she has done something stupid (because no one is perfect), someone like you would come visit.
    The only time I was ever in jail (lock-up, not prison), I stood in the corner and sang “Roxanne…you don’t have to put on the red light…” )It was for a video, not for real.)
    Keep being your amazing self.

  11. says

    Karah….no one has to tell me that you are a kind, warm hearted, generous soul….Always thinking of the other person…looking for ways to make someone happy…and that you did…you made those two girls happy…happy that a stranger took the time to visit them in a very scary, unpredictable space…and doing what you did that is certainly out of your comfort zone justifies who you are….a true angel!!!…Loved this story!!….

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