What it takes to visit an inmate

 

Hello, everybody. I’m outside of the Globe prison. That’s not a private prison. This one is run by our Arizona DOC, and I just want to talk briefly about what it takes to be able to visit an inmate. Now … Let me put that on mute for a minute.

Now, visitation is known as the number one program, frequent visitations, for people that are incarcerated to reduce recidivism. It also happens to be free to the state, but if you’re a female that’s trying to visit someone that’s in prison, it’s entirely near impossible to be able to get through on many days, and I’ll explain to you … I’ve been here now three times. The first time I came here, they would not let me in because there was a wire in my bra. Now, today they gave me the guidelines, which I’ve read a million times now, and it’s required in the guidelines that undergarments shall be worn at all times, and it requires that women wear bras. However, it doesn’t specify that you must not have a wire in your bra.

So the first time, I came here in order to visit an inmate that was here, I had to literally cut my bra outside in the parking lot. And they only gave me five minutes because otherwise, visitation was going to be closed for the day. The next time … and sorry it’s windy here, but my hair is messed up from changing so many times today. So the next time I came, I was wearing jeans, and they said that was fine. Now, I was concerned because it says you can’t wear form-fitted clothing, but they said that was fine. So today, I came … Oh, also, women have to wear … It has to be up to your collar.

So today I came initially wearing a red dress that went up to my collar, and then I had jeans on, black jeans underneath, and they were just as equally form-fitting as the previous jeans that I had on. They had a zipper, and they had pockets. But today, that wasn’t allowed. And so I changed again, and I changed into a skirt, which they said would be okay. But then they said that because it had a slit, I couldn’t wear it. The slit was behind it. It wasn’t an obscene slit or anything like that.

So then I came back wearing this, just a regular business dress down to my knees. This was also not acceptable. And at that point, I was denied because I had already come to the door twice. And then they handed me the requirements and the guidelines. And I said, “Well, you technically didn’t deny me because it says going through the security. I haven’t even been allowed to go through security yet.” And they said, no, they’re still not going to let me come in.

So to be clear, this is in Globe. It’s two hours from Phoenix and so we have, on a regular basis, families that are coming here with requirements that are completely arbitrary and that are not clearly stipulated in the guidelines. And it’s especially onerous to women because the styles of clothing that we have are typically, one, it’s can be difficult to find things that go up to your collarbone. Two, I did have a brown suit in here, but you’re not allowed to wear anything with brown. Things that are considered normal and professional for the business world are not allowed in here, and the stipulations are not spelled out very clearly.

And so I find it to be very undignifying, one, to make women have to cut the wires out of their bras when they show up because the description isn’t clear. I find their description of form-fitting to be very arbitrary, black jeans versus blue jeans. There’s no difference in the form-fittingness of both of those pieces. It’s exactly the same. It doesn’t say you can’t have black jeans. They just said that the jeans I had today were considered leggings, even though they’re this same things. And then to have a skirt that went down to my knees, it said that the slit can’t go up past my mid-thigh, which it did not. But they said they don’t allow any slits at all.

So when conservatives say, “Well, don’t commit crime,” the person I’m here visiting didn’t commit any crime. In fact, the other two co-defendants were completely … the jury ruled them as not guilty. They were completely acquitted, and my friend was actually one of the victims in the crime, but the judge wouldn’t allow the same evidence in. And so the jury decided that he was guilty of something that he wasn’t actually even there for. So it gets to be a bit frustrating when you actually look at the criminal justice system and you see the way it operates and especially when you see the way that women are treated.

And it’s 2019 now, and so I think it’s time for us to, at a minimum, revise the requirements so that they’re crystal clear and they’re not so arbitrary. And at a maximum, I think that if it’s something that’s allowed in the regular professional business environment and it’s considered appropriate, then it should also be considered appropriate in the prison for visitation. So I am not allowed to come here today, even though I drove here for two hours. Tomorrow, I’m testifying. I don’t know if I’ll have time to bring this up, but I will definitely make this known. The thing that’s super frustrating about it is that the whole point of sending people to prison is so that they pay the price of the crime and then don’t come back.

But Arizona has one of the highest recidivism rates in the nation. And for us to take a program that’s so basic and simple, such as visitation, that has been proven over and over and over again to reduce recidivism, and to make it just so difficult for people to be able to visit their loved ones or friends these are simple things that are part of the problem. And so these are the things that I would encourage you when you’re thinking about criminal justice policies and what that means, that we look at changing things, especially things that are going to be onerous against women in particular, just because of typical fashions of the day.

So I am going to go back home, but let that sink in and just, I would say don’t be so hard on people that are trying to improve the criminal system because it really is not designed to be set up in a way that people are able to rehabilitate and not re-offend once they are released. And I would encourage you on Monday, tomorrow, to attend Representative Walt Blackman’s ad hoc committee that will be at the House at 10:00 AM in room HHR4. We have some fantastic law enforcement representatives that will be presenting there and talking about deflection programs, which are fantastic. They improve public safety considerably, and they save the taxpayers a boatload of money on our criminal justice system. Have a good day. Bye, everyone.

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