Prisoners Should Have More Access to Family and Community

By · Sunday, March 1st, 2009

Ankineh wrote a comment asking how my lack of interaction with my family and community has affected me, and also asked what suggestions I could offer to improve family interactions for prisoners. I feel privileged to have this opportunity to respond.

Prison policies limit me to fewer than an average of 10 minutes of telephone time per day. They limit me to no more than one visit per week. They prohibit me from access to typewriters for correspondence, and offer me no access to e-mail or computers. Such policies significantly impair the ability I have to nurture relationships with family and community; they interfere with preparations I must make to overcome the challenges that will follow 25 years in prison.

With such limited access to the telephone and visits, I must restrict myself to talking only with my wife. She has made significant sacrifices to marry and devote her life to me. As a consequence of our marriage, Carole effectively serves this sentence with me. She must relocate when prison administrators transfer me across state lines, and she must suffer through all the indignities that accompany my imprisonment. Accordingly, I feel compelled to reserve all of my access to community for the nurturing of my marriage to Carole.

A price comes with that decision. Such policies have meant that I cannot talk on the telephone with my mother, with my sisters, with my nieces or with my nephew. I am alienated from my family. One of my nieces was born when I was beginning my term in prison and she is now well into her university years. Prison policies have prohibited me from having any kind of relationship with her.

Besides loss of family ties, I am prohibited from using the telephone to interact with others in my network of support. I cannot talk with friends, mentors, or prospective employers. I cannot accept visits from anyone without sacrificing visits with my wife, which I am not willing to do. I cannot use technology, or even typewriters, to augment the preparations I make for a law-abiding, contributing life upon release.

To overcome the obstructions erected by prison administrators, I begin my day of writing in longhand before 3:00 each morning. I write for several hours each day, and I depend upon my beloved wife, Carole, to transcribe and publish my work. We are a team, and well suited to conquer the obstacles of confinement. The system of so-called corrections, however, should help rather than hinder prisoner efforts to prepare for success upon release.

My suggestions would be to eliminate telephone restrictions, to expand visiting policies, to provide prisoners with opportunities to earn access to technologies that will help them emerge from prison as law-abiding citizens.

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2 Responses to “Prisoners Should Have More Access to Family and Community”

  1. brandon says:

    hey michael i realy like your book iinside
    that book kept me out of alot of truoble
    and it is very interesting to me
    thanks for keeping me out of trouble
    and giving me education on prison that i might
    have had to go to if i didnt changr
    thanks alot

  2. victoria says:

    hello! Michael Santos i have read your articles on the “Prison Policies Block Families from Nurturing ties with loved ones in Prison” as well as “Prisoners Should have more access to Family and Community” and as a family oriented person i can not imagine myself being restricted to talk or be with my family the way you and other prisoners are restricted. i know from own experinces that in hard times family are the number one thing that allow the human person to keep going and not to give up. my questions to you are:
    1) If congress has shown a high correlation between the family as a means to better nurture the offender into transition, but at the same time you have prison authorities eliminating these nurturing ties with familes, how does this affect you and what time of feelings arose from hearing that family ties are important but yet your limited to exposure to family? 2)you as being inside bars upon your release what type of things are you prepared to do in order to make changes in policies restricting family ties?
    3) what resources have you used to keep ties with other family members besides your wife to keep those emotional ties still alive?