"At This Point, I'm Practically A Social Worker"
I've seen three correctional facilities in the past year and a half - Rikers Island, Otisville Correctional Facility, and one Juvenile Secure Center. I've written about all of them. After frequent visits I'm incredibly comfortable in all of the facilities I go to. When I get to the front of the building I feel an overwhelming sense of peace; a "this is where I'm supposed to be" feeling like nothing I've ever known. I get it every time I visit.
Not everyone feels the way I do when going to a facility. My reaction is powerful but not normal. I am also not immune to the stress of visiting one. Physically, it's hard to shake the toll facilities take on your body, which can look like something as simple as fatigue (I will always, always come home sleepy; often tinged with that particular sensation of emptiness that comes after you've cried) or as palpable as when the smell of the place gets into my clothing (a cross between cleaning supplies and grime).
I feel steady and composed when I visit. That does not mean I am emotionless. There is a deep pain that hums around the border of every facility I've ever seen. Sometimes I see things that make me so unhappy, it paralyzes me. Sometimes the stories I hear are so heavy I wonder if I'll ever resurface. Most of the time, I'd repress those feelings. (I've just now realized that this is a maladaptive way to cope. I do better with them now.) It also made me realize just how lucky I was to be able to leave at the end of the day.
I digress. I'm biased in a lot of ways, but everything I write here is as true as I remember it to be. If you still have questions afterwards, including wanting to know how you can work at Rikers, you can contact me.