#15MinutesIsNotEnough

#15Minutes Is not Enough Time to Talk To Family In Federal Prison. by Khalid Barnes After being locked down for 21 days, the buzzing and tension around the phone is analogous to Black Friday. "Yo Ahk, I had next!" One of the other prisoners screamed, after I'd been patiently waiting for 2 hours. There are 82 people in the housing unit, yet only 6 phones. Having stringently sanitized the telephone, I proceeded to call my mom. After dialing her number a Siri like voice says, "Please enter your PAC number, followed by the pound sign." Once I've complied, "Sharing the PAC number is against BOP policy and subject to disciplinary actions. After the tone please say United States of America." Seriously? In my smoothest baritone voice I repeat, "United States of America." Convoluted? Prisoners are some of the most un-patriotic members of society. Do you think that it's coincidental that in order to speak with our family, stating "United States of America," is a prerequisite? Beginning in March of 2020, per the Corona Aid Relief Economic Security (CARES ACT) the Bureau of Prisons made all the phone calls free while giving prisoners an additional two-hundred and ten minutes. This is on top of the three-hundred minutes we normally get monthly for a total of five-hundred and ten minutes. Congress appropriated $100 million dollars for the cost of all calls throughout the entirety of this declared "National Emergency." Five-hundred and ten minutes is the equivalent of thirty-four 15 minute phone calls monthly. My friend Rico's 7 year old daughter asked, "Daddy, why do you always hang up the phone on me?" Before he was able to explain, the phone hung up. Dejected, Rico stated at the receiver traumatized, clearly in anguish, he looked at me and said, "My daughter thinks I'm intentionally hanging up on her." Once that 15 minutes is over, the phone abruptly hangs up with no warning. I gave Rico a hug and whispered, "It will be alright." Prisoners @ USP Canaan have several ways to communicate with family and friends. Trust Fund Limited Inmate Computer Systems (TRULINCS) which is a highly restricted form of web-access that permits communication with loved ones via Correctional Links (CORRLINKS). E-mails move at a glacial pace usually arriving between 1-3 hours after leaving this facility. This service cost us .5 cents a minute. Physical mail? Molasses! The pandemic has overwhelmed the United States Post Office exacerbating a system which is fraught with ineptitude. Moreover the BOP is severely understaffed and thousands of pieces of mail move in and out of the facility on a daily basis. We refer to the mail-room as the "Bermuda Triangle" since mail is routinely lost while moving at a snails pace. My friend Chris has been waiting for a photo-book for the past two months, "My wife told me it arrived at the facility on 10/16 and nobody is writing me back from the mail room," he told me after today's mail call. Sluggishly shaking his head, sulking as he walked past me to begin his hours long languish on the phone line. Social-visits. Canaan is a 2.5 hour drive away from New York City located in Wayne County Pennsylvania in a small town called Waymart. Please do not come here with a Biden/Harris sticker on your windshield. We are what political pundits call "ruby-red" in Trumpian terms. Visits are sporadic, contingent on the local community spread and the perpetual outbreaks at the facility. The Warden implemented "non-contact" visits. Oxymoronic? Does this sound real to you? Non-contact visits during a pandemic, while the correction officers fervently protest the "Vaccine Mandate." These visits are for 2 hour intervals, "no physical contact allowed. Prisoners are separated by what appears to be a filthy shower curtain. Chris's daughter ran to the curtain to hug her dad and was immediately chastised by the Officer, "One more time and the visit will be terminated!" he threatened. How do you tell a 6 year old not to move and stay seated for 2 hours? Please let me know so we can have a class on that in here. Perplexed at the inhumane policy, Cheri told the Lieutenant, "I'm fully vaccinated and so is my husband, I drove from South Carolina. I should be able to give him a hug." Not at Canaan. The easiest most reliable means of communication is the phone which will never replace human contact, yet that is all that we have. It is sacrosanct to us. We worship it. This is the only consistent life line that we have to friends and family. It's instantaneous contact which helps us deal with the vicissitudes of life in the throes of a pandemic. The phone makes parenting and comforting easy. #15MinutesIsNotEnough. You see most of the guys @ the phone with a stopwatch, rationing the 15 minutes, speaking to family members for 2-3 minutes. How do you watch the clock while talking to dad? In actuality what the 15 minutes does is causes the dearth of time to be an inconvenient driver of the conversation. Self-consciously we rarely let our families speak at all and by the time they do the call is over! Prisons are predicated on this anachronistic concept of "Safety & Security" and the "orderly running of the institution" which completely misses the mark when it comes to preserving the mental and emotional well-being of prisoners and staff. I recently got some pictures of my older brother Ibrahim after eighteen years of being incarcerated. I didn't even recognize him. We are slowly becoming strangers to those that we love and care about the most due to the Family separation policies which create the thinking that brings us back here. Recidivist thinking begins in the United States Penitentiary dayroom. If you think that this is were you belong and no one loves you but your fellow convicts, then this is where you will return. Lack of transparency and oversight create an environment of non-stop trauma. P.T.S.D. is real. (Penitentiary Traumatic Stress Disorder), the daily deprivation that prisoners and their families go through on a perpetual basis. This trauma, these triggers lead to an environment which is rife with violence, leading to prolonged lockdowns. The cruelest thing that society can do to an individual is lock him in a cell with his own thoughts. The BOP has an overarching responsibility to facilitate this process in a manner which is conducive to maintaining family ties. In this post-industrial society prisoners should be afforded ample opportunities to speak and see their loved ones. Thirty minute phone calls coupled with video-teleconferencing (Face time, Skype) on a daily basis should be available. Cell phones can be modified with no internet access and sold in commissary rather than being smuggled in and sold for exorbitant rates by corrupt officers. From a Human Rights standpoint its is against every American moral and value to keep people separated from their families during a pandemic. Be mindful that 95% of the prisoners incarcerated in the BOP will be returning to society. These incentives makes the prison environment safer for officers and for convicts. This will also lead to more programming which in turn make communities safer. Mass Incarceration seems to be the hot button topic of the moment. What are we really doing about? Pardoning turkeys? Change is necessary and it starts Inside. Khalid Barnes is a writer who is currently @ USP Canaan. He is pursuing his B.A in Sociology you can follow him @barneskhalid321#MassiveIncarceration

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