We hail our Inmate Voice Focus Group member, JEWIE TRYON, author of this petition, that stands in protest of Florida prisons creating demeaning policies that inhibit family visitation instead of enhancing it. Visitors are being treated in humiliating fashion at many of Florida’s prisons (there are exceptions like FSP & Baker) as more self-made rules are imposed and enforced. Visitors are real people who need not to be told where to sit and in which direction to face. They are family and they are friends and do not deserve to be treated in condescending fashion. Spontaneous new rules would be easier to swallow if there were a history of harm to children on the visit parks or a rash of safety violations. But that just “ain’t” so and officers are being paid to make sure these things do not occur.
The regulating policy for FDOC, Chapter 33, sets the standard for visitation which obviously does not go far enough for some Florida prisons. FDOC’s policy is silent when it comes to the capricious practices that are popping up like wildflowers at the different prisons. Families are not allowed to touch, hug or hold hands while taking a picture even under the watchful eye of officers. At some facilities the outside visit park remains closed all year because officers prefer to sit grouped in an air conditioned room. At other facilities, inmates must change into smelly clothing, pre-worn by other inmates still emitting a body odor, prior to entering the visit park. Again some prisons search visitors entering and leaving? while other facilities will ask early arrivals to leave to accommodate late comers before the seating capacity has been reached. There are visitors that take a careful count. However, there is one practice that is standard throughout all of Florida’s prisons, the amount of money visitors are allowed to bring in – $50 per person including children. So a family of 3 can spend up to $150 at the canteen buying unhealthy processed foods and sodas (that’s fodder for another post). But once they’ve made their purchase, they must return to an assigned table, sit in an assigned chair facing a pre-designated direction (for up to six hours at some prisons) and consume all of their food. Left overs cannot be taken for the long drive home, they must be thrown away. And the list of pop-up practices continues. It is time for a petition that speaks loud and clear to these practices that are designed to discourage visitation. The literature proves that family contact is the most important critical factor in the rehabilitation of any offender. Forgotten Majority invites FDOC Administration to take an unannounced Saturday or Sunday stroll onto the visit parks of the most problematic facilities and just observe, step up and speak with the families. Many no longer fear retaliation, they just want things to change and will be open and honest. However, at some facilities, severe retaliation still exists and understandably, silence equates to self-preservation. We entreat FDOC to encourage their Wardens to redirect the negative energy spent on frivolous rules that serve only to disengage and disenfranchise and work toward building a positive, progressive environment that will be of benefit to inmates, families and officers.
The petition reads as follows:
To: Michael Crews, Secretary
Florida Department of Corrections
Seating at inmate visitation: Prevent Forced seating of visitors Families only get to sit on a visit with their loved ones a few hours a week. Some of us Drive for hours and actually sleep in our cars on the side of road for hours prior to even being allowed to see our husbands, sons, fathers and friends. Without going through the proper procedure it appeared that overnight the FDOC decided to make it so that at Okeechobee Correctional and Hardee Correctional (the only two we know of for now) mothers, wives and children are no longer allowed to sit beside their loved ones but are forced to sit across the table from them. In the past we have always been able to sit side by side and must keep hands above the table. With this way of seating we have never had a visitor harmed or a child harmed in any way at any institution. There is no reason to change this and force us to be apart. Please help us to insure we are able to sit side by side. Inmate ability to be close to their families is detrimental to the rehabilitation process in which the FDOC has said they are in favor of. Please help us by insuring that this much needed time is not taken from us by placing a table between fathers and their children, parents and their child, and wives and their husbands.
You can find the full petition at http://www.change.org/petitions/seating-at-inmate-visitation-prevent-forced-seating-of-visitors. Your signature is powerful so exercise your personal power now. Follow the link and sign this petition, post it on Facebook and tell everyone you know to do the same.