Life is about choices. Making good work can lead you down the path of a happy, successful life. But being bad can have consequences that you may never get over. Having the freedom to make your own choices—big or small—is one of the best parts about being human. Some would argue that being an American is the best part.
It wasn’t until I was in prison for four years for possessing and growing marijuana that I realized how important it is to have the freedom to make choices. It never occurred to me that I would find myself in a situation where I didn’t have the power and freedom to make choices for myself.
For years, I couldn’t choose where to live, what to do for work, what to wear, what to eat, when to sleep, when to communicate with family and friends, or even when to go to the hospital. bathroom. It’s hard to explain what it’s like to be deprived of your liberty. I felt like my life stopped for years as the world passed me by.
I say all this because today’s blog post is about choices. Specifically, the questions that need to be answered are about the prisoner’s choice of prison to spend their time in. I sent this question to my friend Mistie Vance who has served over 10 years in prison. Next year, she will go to the parole board and is expected to get a release date.
So, let’s get into today’s question: Can you choose which prison you go to? Mistie’s posts will cover the following topics:
- Prisoners can’t choose which prison to go to
- Some states try to keep inmates close to family
- Prisoners are often moved to different facilities
- Every Prison Offers a Different Experience
Prisoners can’t choose which prison to go to
Unfortunately, prison is not like fast food, you can’t have whatever you want. Which jail you end up in depends on several factors. These include your agency level, the state in which you were charged, whether your charges were state or federal, and whether you had protective grounds for transfer. Personal preference does not play a role when assigning to any particular institution.
Take my situation as an example. I am a woman charged in Missouri, 5th degree when I went to jail, and 1st degree now. Since there are only two women’s prisons in Missouri, and both are Tier 5 (maximum security) institutions, my level of detention was not a factor in determining which prison I would be assigned to.
Since there are twenty men’s prisons in Missouri, different prisons have different levels of detention, and male offenders are assigned to institutions of the same level as theirs. When an offender’s guardianship level changes, they are transferred to another institution based on their new guardianship needs.
Some states try to keep inmates close to family
Another consideration in determining where a prisoner will be housed is proximity to family and other outside support. Most institutions try to keep offenders as close as possible to their pre-incarceration residences so they can better receive visits from loved ones.
This is very important in the recovery process and recognized by the institution. One of the exceptions to being closer to home is employee familiarity. Offenders are prohibited from being placed there if their immediate family members or close friends are employed by the institution.
Prisoners are often moved to different facilities
A prisoner may start out in a prison but end up being transferred one or more times while serving his sentence. In addition to being transferred when an offender’s level of detention changes, there are other reasons why a transfer may be necessary.
If an inmate is threatened by other inmates for gang-related or other reasons, they may be transferred to another prison for their own protection. Another reason a diversion may be necessary is an inappropriate relationship between the staff member and the offender.
Sometimes, as in my case, a person is transferred because the prison is closing or being used for a different purpose than before.
My incarceration began at the Texas County Justice Center in Houston, Missouri. I was charged in Texas County. So I was held in the Texas County Jail until I was sentenced and transferred to the jail.
Although there are two women’s prisons in Missouri, only one of them has an admission and diagnostic facility, so every female offender in Missouri must first be sent to WERDCC in Vandalia.
After the admission and diagnosis process, some women were held in Vandalia prison and others were sent to the prison in Chillicothe. I spent nine years in Vandalia Prison before being transferred to Chillicothe six weeks ago.
Of the ten and a half years of my incarceration, I spent a year and a half in the county jail, nine years in Vandalia, and six weeks in Chillicothe.
Every Prison Offers a Different Experience
Although I couldn’t choose where I was incarcerated, I am grateful for the experience I gained in all three institutions. Each location offers different learning and growth opportunities, the chance to be the kind of person who gets out of prison.
I have had the privilege of meeting hundreds of different women, hearing their stories, benefiting from their life experiences, and helping them grow by sharing mine.
There is something to be gained from every experience in life if we are only willing to accept it. Whether in or out of prison, always remember that you may not choose where you are, but you can always choose who you are.
Can you live with not being able to choose where you live? Let us know in the comments below.
Sources: Inmate essay from Mistie Vance