Prison Diary: Reunions and the Greeting Line

On Monday we weren't sure if we'd be having the study since it was MLK Day. But we got late word that the chaplain's office had issued the lay-ins for our class.

(A lay-in is an approval slip, sort of like a High School hall pass, allowing the inmates to leave their cell block to attend a program offering. So if the lay-ins aren't sent out, and sometimes they aren't on holidays, the men aren't allowed to leave their cell blocks to attend our study. This is one of the glitchy things about working at a prison. You can show up at the facility ready to go, but if someone forgets to process the lay-in paperwork you won't have a class showing up.)

I was so happy we had class. I'd been missing the guys. Due the Christmas holidays (lay-ins were not given for the two Mondays around Christmas and New Year's) and being out of town last week it had been a few weeks since I'd been at the study.

These reunions are awesome. After the guys get patted down by the guards (to make sure they aren't bringing contraband into the study) they are released to enter the chapel where the study is held. Herb and I wait for the men to enter, creating a sort of receiving line. We hug and greet everyone as they enter. There's over 50 guys, so this takes awhile.

But this receiving line, the 50 hugs given out, is my favorite part of the study. And it's the favorite time of the men as well. To be embraced, to stand and share in some small talk, to chat as friends. It's an incredibly humanizing experience for the Men in White. For many of the men, we're the only people from the "free world" that they ever get to see or talk with. The greeting line really is Holy Ground.

And these greetings, as you might expect, are even more enthusiastic when we haven't seen each other in a few weeks.

So Monday night this week was really special.

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