COURAGE IN THE FACE OF FEAR
The DOC in Florida (indeed in most states) maintains their secret world by punishing not only inmates who report abuses, but will just as quickly turn on their own guards who try to report unprofessional behavior. Because of the threats and retaliation, there is a great reluctance to speak out.
There is another group of DOC victims other than prisoners and guards who talk.... They are an easily forgotten group, millions strong, who are suffering in their world of self-imposed silence. The families and friends who walk on eggshells, hoping negative attention will be not be focused on their prisoner are held in check by the fear of
DOC retaliation on them and their prisoner in the form of blocked mail, transfers to remote or cruel locations, and worse.
The families of prisoners, are more often than not shunned by their communities, ignored by those in power, and treated with disrespect by the DOC. What have they done to warrant this distain? They dared to continue to Love someone the rest of society threw away.
I want to introduce you to five courageous women who have broken the DOC imposed barriers to truth this week. I urge you to support them in their efforts, because we can't keep calling everyone liars who go up against those 'honest' guards at the prisons.
Despite the efforts of DOC employees to cover up the truth, I can see the big picture and know that the walls really are becoming transparent. The only thing slowing us down is the reluctance of good people to stand up and tell their stories for fear of the risks involved.
In the first story, three ladies with husbands in Columbia CI report on being groped while being intimately searched. The improper search is glossed over and quickly dismissed in the following article. Their husbands have been quickly moved and not near enough words are spent on the retaliation that is in process because the wives went
to the press. This is standard coverage. Abuse is reported, the media calls the DOC, the DOC denies all, end of story. Family and prisoner are punished so it doesn't happen again.
DOC spokeswoman Debbie Buchanan earns her living defending the DOC and is quite good at it. Many of us have learned to see past the denials of impropriety, but many still want to believe that DOC personnel never lie.
The intimate search was uncalled for, all but one of the husbands have been moved to separate them from their families - again, and still the public doesn't and may never know the details. And all of this is foreseeable. DOC standard behavior when truth begins to leak out is to isolate the prisoner from the outside, get control of the families using fear so that other families don't speak out.
These ladies don't even have access to the internet, so their efforts are very courageous. They have no idea how much support there is out here. The best thing this reporter did for these ladies is to include their phone numbers. They may get threatening calls from errant guards, but if you are on your toes, they will also get many
calls of support.
Mrs. Griffis at 754-4169
Mrs. Hudson at 961-8757
Mrs. Montgomery at 961-9684.
April 5, 2001
Love behind bars presents unique challenges for inmates, wives
By JOHN WRIGHT
Lake City Reporter
April 5, 2001
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Tammi Hudson, Debra Griffis and Anne Montgomery have something in common: They've never seen their husbands outside of prison. But the three women all say their marriages are as meaningful as conventional ones, if not more so.
"We have to work double hard," said Montgomery, whose husband, Charles H. Montgomery, 48, is an inmate at Columbia Correctional Institution. "That's what makes it extra special."
Mrs. Montgomery, 56, has been visiting her husband for 10 years since they met through her son, who was incarcerated with Montgomery. They got married six
Montgomery is serving a 40-year sentence for armed burglary and kidnapping, according to the state Department of Corrections. His scheduled release date is Sept. 29, 2007.
"I want to have a life with my husband before I get too old," Mrs. Montgomery said. "We love our men. He has made me happy. Why can't I stand by him? I don't care if people hate me."
The women can visit with their husbands for 12 hours a week on Saturday and Sunday. They hold hands and walk around the visitation park, sit and talk, and play hangman or cards. According to DOC regulations, they're allowed one kiss and hug at the beginning of each visit, and one more at the end.
The women say they know their husbands have made mistakes, but everybody deserves another chance.
"All inmates aren't bad," Hudson said. "They do straighten up."
Hudson, 38, said she met her husband, Roger W. Hudson, also 38, through Sheila Woods' "Have a Friend" club, which runs in the Examiner newspaper. "I just wanted a friend to write to," she said. "We just got closer and closer."
They met last April and were married Dec. 9. Hudson, who used to live in Ormond Beach, moved here so she wouldn't have to drive so far to visit her husband, who is serving a 40-year sentence for burglary, robbery, kidnapping and attempted sexual battery. His scheduled release date is Dec. 28, 2015, according to the DOC.
Mrs. Griffis, 44, and her husband, Roy A. Griffis, 36, have been married 21 Ž2 years. They met in November 1996, when he was a cellmate of her son's in the
Okaloosa County jail. He was sent to prison in March 1998. Mrs. Griffis also moved to Lake City so she could be closer to her husband.
"I've followed him all the way," she said.
Griffis is serving a 15-year sentence for burglary and assault, according to the DOC. His scheduled release date is Jan. 24, 2004.
Mrs. Griffis, who was married once before for 19 years, said she isn't afraid that Griffis will leave her once he gets out.
"I'm confident that it's going to work," she said. "I know he loves me with everything in his heart."
Although they love their husbands and enjoy their marriages, the three women say it's difficult being married to someone in prison.
"The wives outside of the prison have to stick together," Mrs. Griffis said. "If they know you're associated with anyone who's incarcerated, they don't want anything to do with you."