Families visiting incarcerated loved ones throughout the country have to go through numerous challenges just to see a prisoner, according to the Marshall Project.
Those without transportation, as well as with those who drive, have difficulty getting to the prison sites because of where the prisons are located, usually in remote areas, the Dec. 18, 2019 report noted.
In the 1980s the need for more prisons across the country became apparent as more people were being sent to jail and more remote areas’ economies needing new life.
“The rural prison boom in the United States really coincided with the farm crisis and the loss of manufacturing in rural America,” said Tracy Huling, founder of the Prison Public Memory Project, which studies the history of rural prison towns.
“Siting prisons was an apparent quick fix. The land was cheaper, and people either wanted them because they were so desperate for anything to keep their communities from collapsing, or it was easier to overcome opposition in a small place, with fewer people and fewer connections to power.”
One parent, who goes to see her son as often as she can, stated that visiting him requires a 10-hour trip. The son is in prison in another state, so she has to change her work schedule, drive three hours to an airport, catch a plane for a three-hour trip, then rent a car to drive to a hotel. The next day she drives an additional hour to the prison site.
Once at the prison, if not attired properly, she can be turned away without seeing her son. This happened on her first trip when she wore a dress with black and khaki stripes. One of the prohibited colors at that prison is khaki.
“Most of these prisons are out in the middle of nowhere, so you can’t run out and get a new outfit,” she told The Marshall Project reporters. “You learn really quick to fill your trunk with clothing.”
Having to travel so far to see loved ones and encounter rejection or humiliation before you see them is extremely frustrating for most families. This is why only a small percentage of those incarcerated receive regular visits.
It can be particularly discouraging for Blacks and Latinos visiting their incarcerated relatives, the report said. There is the ordeal of traveling to remote locations, where they may be looked upon with disdain by staff or White residents of the town. This can weaken family ties, the report noted.
Most prisons do not have public transportation nearby, so a lot of families try to rideshare. It is not uncommon for the incarcerated to be as far as 500 miles or more from where they were sentenced.
The Marshal Project reported some advocacy groups are working with public agencies to create low-cost transportation options so that more prisoners can receive visits from their families and friends.