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Life While He Is In Prison....Hell

On June 18th of 1999 the jury came back with a guilty verdict after two days of dilberting. Before they did, I remember Valerio's last words to me before we heard the verdict. He said "Do you think they did the right thing?" I replied I hope so. Now we know the answer to that question.....they didn't.

As the baliff's were trying to take Valerio away he kept trying to turn around to look at me and kept asking "can't I just say goodbye to her?" After alot of convincing by our attorney, the baliff's finally let me say goodbye to Valerio. They took me to a small room in back of the court where Valerio was in a ceil. He looked at me with tears in his eyes and asked "what did I do to deserve this? Please wait for me, write me letters all the time and please bring the kids to visit me as much as you can." Our last kiss that day was through metal bars. Tears streaming down my eyes, I now had to go to his fathers house to pick up my children and to break the news.

When I arrived at his fathers house, his father answered the door with a smile and I began to burst out in tears. His father grabbed me and gave me a hug. I told him the jury found Valerio guilty and he is in prison. His father kept shaking his head no and he kept repeating "No, why?" My children ran up to me hugging me and handing me tissues. On the ride home my children asked me "where is daddy?" I knew this would be one of the hardest things I ever had to do....tell them where daddy was. After we were home and everyone stopped coming over and stopped calling to comfort me I sat my children down in their bedroom. Daddy has to live somewhere else for a little while I said. Some bad people made him have to live somewhere else but he will come home one day, you will get to see him and daddy loves you with all his heart. My children looked at each other, then at me and then gave each other a big hug. "The police will let daddy come home soon mommy" my daughter said. She knew what was going on, at 5yrs old she knew. She remembered that horrible night at the fire station when those men made her mommy cry.

We have been through so much since he has been in there. We have fought INS with deportation. Valerio was born in Venezuela but has been in the US since he was 4yrs old. He has been here as a Legal Permanant Resident since he arrived here 24 years ago. He has worked here, had all his schooling here, paid taxes here and signed up for the selective service here. We have fought Valerio being classified to Dallas County Jail in Texas. Massachusetts, like many other states, now sends inmates to different prisons out of the state due to their overcrowding situation. We fought a prior conviction he had from 10 years ago that we had to reopen because of INS and now we are getting ready for an appeal with this case.

Everyday we are torn apart seems like an eternity. Visits and phone calls are our lifeline but can never compare to us being together as a family. Visits at a medium security prison are a total of 2 and 1/2 hours three days a week depending on when you get through the registration process. Once you have been processed you must wait for the name of the person you are visiting to be called. They call people in groups of 6 at a time. Once you are called you form a line with the other 5 who have been called and you enter the "trap" area. Once inside the trap area you must remove your shoes and pull down your socks, you are then patted down and must go through a metal detector. Once everyone in the group is searched you must get your hand stamped which you will have to show the gaurd on the way out in order to be allowed to leave. Then they open the metal door and you can proceed to the visiting room. The visiting room consist of 7 rows of chairs where visitors and inmates must alternate seats. Children must stay seated the whole visit unless the volunteer is there that day to open up the toy area.

Phone calls are timed, 15 minutes each time a call is made. You can not use call waiting or three way calling or you will be disconnected. One minute before the end of the 15 minutes an alarm will sound. When all the time is exhusted you will automatically be disconnected. The average 15 minute phone call costs about $3.00 because it is a collect call. It's getting to the point where I am paying more for my phone bill then for my rent.

But then there is always writing letters right? Well, when you write a letter and it is received by the DOC it will be opened and reviewed. When it is checked it will be delivered to its owner. Sometimes it will be delivered right away but sometimes it can take a week or two before they get it.

For the first 6 months Valerio lived in a small cell with a cell mate. The cell consisted of a bunk bed, a small desk and a toilet. There's no room to move around within the cell and the door was made of steel. Then he was one of the few who were lucky enough to obtain a job within the DOC and he was able to move to a modular unit. There he shared a room with 5 other men. He was now able to purchase a walkman, a t.v. and get magazines delivered. The door to this room is a normal door that can be opened and closed freely but everyone must be in their rooms for the night by 9:30pm. In August Valerio was moved from a medium security prison to a minimum security. Here is allowed more freedom such as taking walks along the compounds, working on an outside crew and being able to buy normal "street" clothing. Visits are 4 and 1/2 hours long on both Saturday and Sunday and the CO's no longer check "your person" but do search your car upon entering and exiting the prison compound. In the next few months Valerio will be able to go to a pre release.

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