This weekend I visited Clallam Bay Corrections Center. I’ll share my story from this visit when I’m finished with it. However, it reminded me of the last time I visited the prison. That was in 2008. I was with group of media that was the first allowed in the “Intensive Management Unit” (AKA the maximum security part of the maximum security prison.)
There were two women on the tour — myself and the reporter from the Seattle PI. As soon as we walked into the unit the yelling began. It never did calm down. I think some of the men were yelling just to yell. Others were yelling vulgarities. Still others began stripping down and pressing their near-naked bodies against the narrow windows, which mercifully ended about waist high.
But that stuff I expected. I expected to see some guys who were “normal” and looked like any guy I might meet on the street. I also expected the guys with tattoo sleeves and shifting eyes while speaking of their “former” gang activity.
What I didn’t expect was the feeling of being there. I spent about five hours in the prison, visiting all three levels of security and interviewing about 15 people including about six prisoners. The prison felt heavy. I don’t have a better description for it. The anger, frustration and charged emotions were overwhelming. By the time I returned home, I was exhausted. Being such a naturally solitary person, I had never understood what would be so bad about being in jail (besides the danger one encounters of course.) But that day I understood. It is the feeling, the knowing there are so many walls and rolls of barbed wire. The negative energy emitting from every person and thing around you.
After that trip I considered how crazy isolation can make a person. Even the self-imposed isolation I created for myself for a while had a detrimental effect. Perhaps in a way I was imprisoned myself. There are still some areas that I think I trap myself. My fear or lack of preparedness or tight grip on the past or even procrastination sometimes imprison me in “impossible” situations. I was on the phone with someone the other day who I was suggesting alternatives for the paths that might be taken in life. There was a “but” at the end of every path, trapping this friend in a life with no possibilities. I do this too sometimes. I shall try to think outside the box. Or outside the self-created cell at least.