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Family Separation before Donald Trump

Updated: Nov 12, 2021

By: Khalid Barnes

On September 15,2009 I was sentenced to Life plus thirty years. My court appointed lawyer asked the Court to recommend a facility as close to the metropolitan area of New York as possible. District court Judge Stephen F. Robinson recommended to the Bureau of Prisons that I be placed as close to my residence as possible "to allow the for the possibility of as much contact from friends and family over this period of time." Bureau of Prison's policy which is predicated on the "safety & security" shall place the prisoner in a facility as close to practicable to the prisoner’s primary residence, and to the extent practicable, in a facility within 500 driving miles of that residence." On 2/2/10 I was transferred to Pollock, Louisiana which was 1,418.6 miles away from my primary residence of Peekskill N.Y. Confounding? The Penitentiary at Pollock at this time was referred to as "Bloody Pollock" and was perpetually on lockdown, due to the sporadic nature of these lockdowns visiting was suppressed. Lockdown? No visit! An endemic feature of life in the penitentiary is "Lockdown". This is also based on the ubiquitous concept of "safety & security". The mind is never put in this equation. Lockdown in the Federal Penitentiary is when administrators at the prison deem that the institution needs to be locked down based on violent interactions between prisoners which most often lead to severe injury or death. I did not have the time to ask why I was 1,418.6 miles away from the house, it seems like the same quadratic equation that administrators use to lock these facilities down, Grand Prairie uses to designate prisoner regardless of what Federal Judges feel. I was just too busy trying to survive at the time.

In the fall of 2016, I was transferred to the United States Penitentiary at Beaumont. Can you guess what they called this facility? “Bloody Beaumont" this institution was 1,582.4 miles away from Peekskill N.Y? Beaumont is a 4/1, this means that they have four institutions in one. Bloody Beaumont was also perpetually locked down. When an institution is consistently on lockdown arranging visits is difficult because if your people come all the way from New York during the lockdown. No visit point blank. A waste of money which most of our families do not have. In December of 2019 I was transferred to the United States Penitentiary at Thomson, and administrative Pen, which is the home of the Bureau's SMU (Special Management Program). I was in the Cadre, these prisoners were selected due to years of maintaining "good conduct", and responsible for the general running of the facility. After 3,658 days I received my first contact visit. My dad came to see me at the cost of$750.00 for the weekend. Most prisoners at Thomson were thousands of miles away from home and could not afford the "Luxury" of a weekend with their sons. This visit it was just me and my dad on the visiting floor out of 1,200 prisoners.

Today is June 13, 2021. I am now housed at the Penitentiary at Canaan in Pennsylvania. I just recently came off a visit with my mom. This is the first time I have seen her in 4,289 days. Can you conceptualize that? I am an avid watcher of the news, and I saw the strain that "Family separation" had on this country during the pandemic. What effect do you think this has on us? The pandemic 400 days at the most. The last time I saw my mom was September 15,2009. 4,289 days ago. Seems like the Trump policy of "Family Separation" gained notoriety while the BOP's policy is standard. I stayed up all night wondering and worrying vicariously with my mom. This morning it was raining torrentially, the fog on the mountain resembled steam on broccoli. "Barnes" the CO called I walked along with several other prisoners to the visiting hall. My heart was racing anxiety melded with apprehension thinking what could go wrong. Time stopped the same bright face illuminated the booth. Yes, due to the pandemic all visits are non-contact. I looked listened seemed like a fleeting dream 8:30am-11:00 am "Visits Over" The officer yelled. I did not want to leave but I had to. We touched the glass, and the visit was over. Why did I name this article P.T.S.D.? Because the life in the penitentiary is traumatic, and the daily depravations we as prisoners face tend to be overlooked by society. Our families go through these deprivations with us just because they love us. Families are separated to the tune of 2.3 million prisoners and this trauma extends to newborns. In a time where we are concerned about foreign policies and neglect domestic policy, we tend to normalize the Trauma associated with being incarcerated. This trauma extends to our families who wait in the pouring rain and traverse the whole country just for the ability to see their loved ones. I am asking President Biden when will this "Family Separation Policy" be addressed?

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