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A ten-dollar bill fluttered to the attic as I opened the letter from my old academy roommate. It was meant as a gift, but it acquainted added like a set-up. Alike admitting I was alone, I looked about my corpuscle to accomplish abiding no one was watching. I agilely shoved the banknote in an envelope and mailed it home, abashed to be angled with the contraband.
I couldn’t accept it had gotten through to me. Afterwards all, bastille mail, abnormally actuality at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women, is absolute by an intricate and evolving set of rules.
NO banknote or checks. NO stickers or glitter. NO greeting cards. NO Polaroid pictures. NO abracadabra brand or crayon. NO escape affairs or bomb-making recipes… Well, that one makes sense. (So does the ban on currency, I suppose, because it could be acclimated to acquirement access with guards or added inmates.)
But the prison’s added prohibitions are, shall we say, a bit beneath anon accessible in their rationale. Apparently the average average amplitude of a Polaroid is an ideal abode to adumbrate drugs. The folds of a greeting card, too, ability be concealing added than wishes for a blessed birthday. And glitter, stickers, and cement can beard spots of a liquified biologic squirted assimilate paper.
For decades, our mailroom has been primarily staffed by one person, whom we all alarm Miss Beatrice. I’ve never absolutely met the lady, but her spidery autography leads me to accept she is aged and possibly arthritic.
Beatrice endeavors to be by-the-book strict, but nobody’s perfect, appropriately the $10 bill. In her defense, these rules are countless. Back Beatrice determines that a accustomed allotment of mail is in abuse of one, she removes the behind allocation and replaces it with a “Withheld Mail Notice,” which in about-face appearance a bisected folio of “reasons” with tiny squares abutting to anniversary so she can analysis all that apply.
The anatomy itself is single-spaced, bleared and difficult to read, as if the aboriginal was misplaced, banishment the agents to always archetype a half-used, channelled one.
Once Beatrice adds her fluctuant analysis marks and all-a-quiver signature, the all-embracing aftereffect is to accomplish us feel that we accept entered a ancient era. I bisected apprehend to read, on my abutting mail-rejection form, “Your mail has been withheld because women charge not assignment alfresco the home,” with a checkmark abutting to it.
The Withheld Mail anatomy additionally includes a set of bare lines. Therein resides Beatrice’s accurate arbitrary power: She can abstain mail artlessly because she feels it is contraband.
Throughout the years of my incarceration, I accept been the almsman of abounding a denial notice. But I accept additionally accustomed the banknote and, in one instance, a claimed check.
Last Christmas, I accustomed a banned greeting card. Aback in 1999, I accustomed a brace of sample earrings tucked central a adornment catalog.
New to prison, I didn’t apprehend my acceptable fortune, but my cellmate did. She offered me bristles dollars in bartering for the earrings, which I took, stupidly. I could’ve gotten bifold that, easy.
More generally my luck runs in the added direction. Beatrice already cut the bookmarks out of a new Bible addition had beatific me. In the “other” space, she wrote that ribbons are contraband. There’ll be no six-inch pieces of bolt active amok on this compound!
A Game of Thrones book was withheld because it independent maps. Maps are contraband. I assumption I won’t be artifice to Westeros!
Pictures of my daughter’s bells accession were withheld because alcoholic drinks were shown. Alcohol is forbidden.
At one mail-call, my acquaintance Cindy accustomed an envelope. There was no letter inside, not alike a Withheld Mail Notice. The alone affair awkward about in there was a burst acknowledgment abode sticker, and the allotment of envelope it had been ashore on.
Cindy advised it providence. At atomic she was able to actuate who it was that she didn’t get mail from that day!
My acquaintance Saira is demography a chic in entrepreneurship. She asked her ancestor to go online and
research how to alpha a business in Maryland, book it out and mail it to her. But weeks later, she accustomed an contrarily bare Withheld Mail Apprehension featuring addition of Beatrice’s handwritten messages. The old adult had acclaimed that mail absolute added than 25 pages will be beatific back.
Saira alleged home. She and her ancestors had been communicating via the aforementioned mailroom for able-bodied over two decades—they were veterans of the system—but this aphorism was a new one to them. Apparently her dad had beatific 26 pages. One folio over the limit. One. Page.
Not alone does Beatrice appear up with anytime added complicated interpretations of the rules, she anxiously adheres to them. Imagine the tenacity: She inspected and counted the pages, alone to repackage and acknowledgment them, absolutely acquainted the aforementioned affidavit would appear aback to her, alone in two envelopes instead of one.
She could accept angled her self-imposed boundary, but not Beatrice, who about angled her own assignment forth the way.
As cool as all of that may seem, it isn’t alike my best story. My admired “other” came anon afterwards I’d donated money to the Arbor Day Foundation. I adulation those tree-huggers, out there angry for our environment.
I was puzzled back I accustomed an Arbor Day envelope absolute alone the Withheld Mail Apprehension featuring Beatrice’s instantly apparent penmanship. It read: Trees are contraband.
Was Beatrice adage that I couldn’t accelerate money to this charity? I’d never heard of such a rule. I affected that she’d assuredly entered a beat state, atrocious to absorber attributes itself from the confined population.
Then I accomplished what happened. As a acknowledge you, the Arbor Day Foundation had beatific me a seedling.
Kimberly Hricko, 53, is confined at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup, Maryland, area she is confined activity in bastille for first-degree annihilation and arson.
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