After waiting for two days for our father to call from federal prison, the phone finally rang. The counselor at Canaan Federal Prison Camp allowed our dad to use the phone to call us from his office, even though his phone privileges were yet to be set up. The conversation was brief, but we were glad for the first call and to hear that he was safe.

We soon realized that this call would be the first of daily calls. Waiting for a late afternoon “check in” is becoming part of our daily routine. The call takes precedence over most other things. Although our conversation was quick (he only has 300 phone minutes a month) and we just outlined what we did for the day, it was a reassurance for both our father and his family that he/we were safe and doing okay.

During one of our conversations we were able to discuss the protocol for visiting. While we did need to submit the necessary paperwork, we were fortunate enough to have an emergency approval for the first weekend he was there. The approval covered me, my sister, my mother and my husband. These small acts of good faith like the emergency approval and using the counselor’s phone make such a difference and really helped put our minds somewhat at ease.

Knowing that we could visit brought both relief and stress. The mixed feelings seem to be a norm with this entire process. Getting to see your father for the first time in a week, which already seemed like an eternity, is something you can’t wait to do, but the fear of the unknown sets in. Justin guided us to ensure we understood the visiting regulations, and to make sure we did not have any issues, like being turned away.

The morning of the visit we all changed about four times before we found attire that matched the guidelines. We were all so nervous we even packed extra clothing in the car just in case. The tension in the car ride there was equally as bad as the drive to drop my father off. When we finally arrived we filled out some paperwork and were given permission to go in. As we looked around we realized that they weren’t as tough with the dress code as we had expected.

After waiting for a few minutes we saw our dad. Everyone was so happy to see him and surprised to see how he looked. Ironically, he looked better than he had in years. We sat at a table outside and we were able to talk about how he settled in. Fortunately, his roommate took him under his wing and helped show him “the ropes.” There was so much to talk about and he was adjusting much better than we expected. We spent about four hours talking and sitting outside (it was a sunny day.)

During the visit we were all fine and happy to catch up, but the reality set in when it was time to leave and we all weren’t leaving together. The day, including the long drive, takes a toll on everyone and even though you aren’t doing much it is exhausting.

That night the purpose of his call was more to check in with us. I think that he realized how trying it is on our family and he needed to know that we were holding up okay. It’s such a conflicting experience because you want to know that he is handling things okay, but in a sense you can’t believe that he looks and feels better there than he did home. We have to constantly remember that the time leading up to this really changed him as a person and we haven’t actually had our dad present in a while.

While we are all happy to have had these few “firsts” and we are glad that it wasn’t as scary as we had expected, we now have to digest the fact that this is our reality. The initial scare and panic is somewhat over, but it seems like we have forever to go. At this point it is just one day at a time…

Get Ready for Early Release

If you've been following the news, you know that our partner, Justin Paperny, has been doing amazing work! Earlier this week, Washington Post reporter, Peter Holley, contacted our team. American readers wanted to learn more about how people prepared for prison. He was...

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Last Day In Federal Prison Camp

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