Today I had breakfast at the Griddle restaurant and then wend into campus and met Cassandra and Lincoln to go for a final prison tour. Cassandra had arranged this and she drove us all down to the Everglades near where I had gone with Karen and Alan on the tour there. We visited the Everglades re-entry facility there which is a prison specifically for inmates who are almost ready for release. The place was very impressive and a huge contrast to the jail I visited before. All inmates have education and intervention programmes all day long, on every corridor and in most rooms there are inspirational and quite spiritual-oriented statements to keep the inmates focusing on the positive. We met the prison chaplain who talked about the work he does, we heard about yoga and mediation programmes etc. There are around 400 inmates at one time, and many of the staff are female – there is a much lower staff-prisoner ratio and inmates are referred to as ‘residents’ to de-stigmatise them. Apparently there are 4 of these re-entry facilitates across the State and they are very unusual here in the USA – after all the issues I have heard about in my research, the enforcement work going on and experiencing firsthand some of the enforcement work last friday as well as seeing the quite primitive and punitive focus in the county jail a few weeks ago, this whole place today just gave me a real sense of hope. The greatest moment was when we walked into one of the large dorms and were met with a sea of around 25 inmates who all stood up by the side of their beds when we entered – rather than begging confined to solitary cells, they are integrated and mingle with each other and are clearly treated with humanity. Reflecting the nature of life sentencing here in the USA, one of the women staff who showed us around indicated that some inmates had been in the prison system since the 1970s and do not even know what a mobile phone looks like, while others have been in much less time. I could see for myself that some were much older than others. All of them are due for release within months, and there is also a ‘portal’ nearby that does intensive work with these guys once they are release to prevent recidivism. Cassandra and Lincoln are currently engaged in doing an evaluation of the work in the portal.
We left the facility in the pouring rain and drove to the nearby casino where there is a restaurant attached. It was interesting to hear from Cassandra that casinos are only permitted in areas populated by Native Americans, since it is the Native Americans who own them and run them. We went inside and went into the restaurant where there was a huge buffet lunch for 11 dollars – as much food as you could eat, and it was all very nice – I had the nearest thing I have had to roast beef since I came to the USA (sirloin beef) and horseradish sauce which really put me in the mood for home! I then had a taco and then a election of puddings.
We left there and Cassandra drove us home. I slept on the way back – I m feeling rather out of sorts, with what feels like a virus getting the better of me – I am taking aspirin and olbas oil pastels to try and combat it before my flight home; not sure if it will come to a cold or a sore throat. we arrived back at campus and I went in my car to the town centre mall (my first visit there) – it was a bit of a nightmare to find my way around but I managed to get Alan some Gap jeans and then went and got some wine for Evelyn. I went back to campus and the rain was on again – then when it stopped I discovered the pool are was closed. Most students moved out over the last few days and there is something wrong with the chemicals in the water so they don’t want anyone using it. So I lay in the grass for a while to enjoy my last Friday after work.
I had chilli for dinner and then did some more packing – everything is almost finished now. I have 11 boxes of household items and food/drink to give to John and I need 2 extra bags to go on the plane, I have accumulated so much stuff. I took a walk across campus after tea and then went to Dunkin Donuts for tea and a donut! I came back and did some more work on my packing – tomorrow I have a breakfast appointment and Daniele’s social event in her house at night so I need to get the last of the packing done and then just leave my bed clothes to wash and dry on Sunday morning. Just two nights now to go in this apartment.