Can you find joy in prison?
This question resonates in my mind each day I pass through the prison gatehouse. The gatehouse is a physical barrier and a mental one, separating the outside from the inside, seceding the lives of people who guard and care for inmates from the lives of those within.
Each morning, the gatehouse is abuzz with activity as people file into work. It’s like going through airport security. Every single day. If you don’t time it just right, you’ll be in line for a while.
Amid the pandemic, the isolation of the prisoners grew; it paralleled the isolation I felt. Visitation had ceased, and inmates were confined to their quarters. To make matters worse, because of a safety issue surrounding cell phones within prison walls, these were considered contraband. My digital isolation amplified the physical and mental one.
Rumor has it that the SARS-CoV 2 virus was brought into the prison by inmates who were on a work-release program. Allegedly, they boarded a city bus with a driver who was ill. From there, it crept beyond the work-release camp and wafted over to the general prison population. The pandemic had reached this impenetrable fortress; a tiny virus with no proper consideration of human incarceration rules. It had failed to stop at the gatehouse.