November 26th, 2017
Visiting hours at the Kenosha County Jail are generally from 1:00 to 3:00 PM on Sundays, but not for everybody. I have found that every jail, in every county, has a different set of rules for visits. Kenosha has a particularly Byzantine set of regulations, one that is possibly confusing even to the people who work at the jail. Karin and I can only visit our incarcerated family member on the 1st, 2nd, and 4th Sunday of each month. Other people get to visit their loved ones on the 2st, 3rd, or 4th Saturday. Some can only visit on the 1st Saturday of the month. Some get to come on the 1st Saturday and the 3rd Sunday of each month. I’m not making this up. You can go online and look for yourself.
Karin and I arrived a little after 1:00 PM. We passed through a narrow hallway full of people who were waiting. Some sat, but most people were standing. There were a few seats, but not enough for everybody who was there. We walked to the man behind the glass window at the end of the hall. He had us fill out a slip of paper and show him our ID’s. Then we sat down until somebody from inside the locked room called us.
While we waited, a heavy-set black woman came in with her three small children. She went up to register with the man at the window, and they entered into a lengthy discussion.
The woman asked the man, “So, when I go in, can I take all three of the children with me?”
The man looked at a sheet of paper covered with rules, and explained that the lady could only make the visit accompanied by one child.
She replied to him, “I called here before, and they said that I could bring them all. What am I supposed to do with two of them if I can only take one child into the room with me? I ain’t got nobody to watch them other two children.”
The man behind the glass shrugged.
Then the woman asked him, “Well, if I have to leave two of the kids out here in the hall, can I go in three times, once with each of the children?”
The man patiently explained that she could only make one visit for a total of ten minutes. One visit with one of the kids. She wasn’t allowed to have three visits for a total thirty minutes.
She went on, “When I called, they told me that I could bring all three children. I wouldn’t have walked all the way over here if I knew that I could only take one child into that room.”
The man got all bureaucratic and gave her the “rules are rules” speech. He wasn’t rude to her, but he was firm. She sat down and tried to keep her children quiet until she had her visit.
Karin got called to go into see the loved one. Now Karin and I had signed up separately, so we got have two visits for a total of twenty minutes. We couldn’t go in together, and that was just as well. Each visitation booth had only one seat and one phone.
While Karin talked behind the locked door for her ten minutes, I sat and observed. Once again, I was a minority among minorities. I was one of two white guys sitting in a hallway surrounded by blacks and Latinos. The other white guy was a lawyer. It was almost impossible not be struck by the twisted demographics in that hallway.
Karin came out, and my name was called over the loudspeaker. I went in and took a seat across from the loved one. We were divided by Plexiglas, and our histories. We mostly talked business. Being put in jail leaves a lot of loose ends. I am helping to tidy up all the aspects of life that the loved one can not handle under the circumstances. There is much to do.
The loved one asked me over and over to help her find a place once she gets released, whenever that happens in the distant future. I promised that Karin and I would take care of that. She would not be abandoned by us. I am not sure that the young woman behind the glass totally believed me, but I will do what I can.
As Karin and I left the jail, I thought about the other people locked up in there. Our family member has us to support her. We can’t fix everything for her, but we are there. I wonder if all the others have people on the outside. What is it like for somebody who has nobody? What is it like when nobody visits, and nobody writes, and nobody picks up the phone? What is it like to know that nobody will be there when you get out?
What is it like to be alone?