In less than 12 hours Glenn and I will be in prison. Fortunately, it’s our decision to go and we’ll get to leave when we want. Santiam Correctional Institution is a minimum security facility southeast of Salem and is where the young man who killed Dustin is incarcerated.
On November 29th, we are scheduled to meet with Ashawntae through the Facilitated Dialogue Program. Tomorrow (today!) is our “practice run.” We were given the option of either arriving early on what I call “the big day” or visiting it beforehand, and I opted for this separate visit. I figure it’s going to be difficult enough for me to be in a prison much less experiencing that and then the “big event” just a short while later. Of course, I am picturing the halls with bright lights and clanging gates locking behind me every 20 feet, getting a pat down, rude correctional officers, having my belongings riffled, like I’ve seen on TV. I don’t even watch that much TV.
We were told by our facilitators to not wear blue denim – to not wear blue at all, actually; we don’t want to look like the prisoners – and to "keep the drugs and weapons in the car." I love Emily and Shyvonne! We’ve been meeting with them for several months now, usually every other week. At first it was for them to assess our suitability for the Facilitated Dialogue Program, I think. We have to want to visit with Ashawntae for the right reasons and it has to appear that doing so will have a good outcome for us all. On his part, he has to be taking responsibility for what he’s done, want to meet with us for the right reasons, and be in good standing with the prison.
Lately we’ve been focusing on the big meet itself and the time surrounding it. For the meeting, what am I hoping to get out of it? What do I want to ask? What do I want to say? What do I want him to know about Dustin? What pictures do I want to take? How am I going to be able to handle it emotionally? How open – vulnerable- do I want to be? What kind of support do I need from Glenn (who is not allowed to participate in the dialogue)? How am I going to take care of myself before the meeting? Afterward? How is Glenn going to take care of himself? Whew!
And all of that is why I decided to visit the prison an entirely separate time than just go a little early on the big day. Even just this visit without the meet is going to be very emotional, I’m sure. It’s a prison, where killers go. And rapists. Child molesters. Scam artists. (Now I’m trying to think of all the types of criminals who might be there; yes, it’s good I’ve decided to do this one step at a time).
So I should go to bed now, since we have to be up and out of here by 9:00. Hopefully I can sleep. I feel tired, but that doesn’t mean anything lately. I’ll be glad when this whole thing is over.