Teala Volkamer, Wake Forest University School of Law JD ’23
Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women
8966 US-231, Wetumpka, AL 36092
I don’t even know why I’m writin’ you, I guess I don’t have anyone else to write to. I’ve been put in the hole and don’t have anythin’ better to do than write. The cage is so small if I stretch my arms out real wide, I can just touch both walls. Ain’t even got anythin’ but a mattress. The only reason I even have some paper is cause there’s a newjack workin’ the hole. I don’t think he’s figured out it’s just supposed to be me and my thoughts in here.
It’s funny, my first memory is visitin’ you in prison. Some karma. I remember Gran and I hopped a bus at 2:45am to make it to the prison. Gran didn’t want to risk her old clunker breakin’ down on the three-hour drive, so we took a community bus. I remember the bus makin’ tons of stops along the way to pick up other kids visitin’ their parents.
I remember the bus pullin’ up in front of the main entrance, you know the one, with Julia Tutwiler’s name hung low over the metal bars. I remember standin’ outside in the freezin’ air tryin’ to sound out the letters. I had just started learnin’ to read, though ‘prison’ hadn’t shown up on a spellin’ test yet. Gran wrapped her arms around me from behind spellin’ out Julia Tutwiler Prison for me.
I remember walkin’ through those front doors. However cold it was outside, it must have been ten degrees colder inside. Between the mean stares of C/Os lookin’ down on me mixed with the feelin’of sadness that sits thick in the air here, I was chilled through. I sat silently as someone read out the long list of rules: don’t touch the prisoners, don’t give the prisoners anythin’…the list went on for what felt like hours.
I remember you. You looked happy to see me, but you still seemed sad. Even at five years old, I could tell you were beaten down even though I didn’t understand why. I’m startin’ to understand, mom. I feel like I’m bein’ chatted out with no one to talk to. The only thing that brings me any peace is knowin’ my daughter is safe.
When we left the prison that day I cried. Gran said you couldn’t come home with us because you made a mistake, but I didn’t get what mistake could be so big that it kept you from me. I remember that night Gran prayed for you. Gran spent a lot of time prayin’ that God would forgive whatever mistake you made. And I know she prayed that I would live up to my name and not make the same ones.
I guess it’s too late for prayers now.
JannahContinue reading “Letters From an Angel”