Instructions for Visiting Our State’s Correction Facility

Jo Goren

  1. Put your disappointment where it can easily be found on your return home.
  2. Dress in modest clothing, nothing above the knee, low cut, form fitting, break away type pants, or clothing with inappropriate holes/rips.
  3. Leave your driver’s license and car key at the desk along with your son’s prisoner number, which you’ve written on the palm of your hand.  Put twenty dollars in the lobby box, that will spit out a debit card for the vending machines inside the visitor’s room.
  4. After the metal detector alarm sounds detecting your underwire bra, go to the dollar store; buy a sports bra; change in a cold bathroom. Say nothing when the correction officer reminds you to wear a longer skirt next time. Don’t think about the next time. Get through today.
  5. Squint under harsh fluorescent lights in the room, where one wall is painted with a mural of positive times ahead for the inmates, and another lined with vending machines. Hug your son, be thankful, his eyes are clear free of drugs and alcohol, though you know this condition is temporary.
  6. Don’t encourage his anger when he says, “The CO who hassled you about your clothes is a real dick.” Listen when he says, “Time goes fast here,” nodding his shaved head up and down in agreement with himself. Note, the hour will not go fast.
  7. Use the debit card to buy the burritos he points to while he stands behind the yellow line for inmates. Watch him eat with care, wiping crumbs from his lips with a paper napkin; remember how he looked in the mirror on rides to school, how he checked for a hair out of place, or food on his teeth.
  8. Do not look at the other inmates or visitors. Be grateful your son is over six feet tall and has a look that says, “Don’t fuck with me.”
  9. Regarding his dark eyes and handsome face, your mind will wander to the sweet toddler who built jails out of Legos and said, “Look Mommy, jail.” You feared then this play could be prescient. Blame yourself, the divorce.
  10. When he says he’ll never be back in jail, try to believe him.


Jo Goren writes and illustrates. A nominee for a Pushcart Prize 2021, her writing has appeared in Blink-Ink, Literary Mama and Inverted Syntax.





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