A 15-Minute Phone Call

From October 30th to November 17th, 2017 we had no phone calls due to a prison-wide state-ordered search of Corcoran State Prison. The entire prison was put on lockdown for 18 days in order for this surprise search to be completed. The following was written by Sean during this period.

“In today’s modern society with so many advancements in technology and instant communication, many people may not understand the pain of being denied something as simple as a phone call. In the real world there are so many forms of communication, many of them are instant. And if those fail you can always just go see someone. We do not have these options in prison.

All we have to communicate with our loved ones from inside these prison walls of concrete and steel is a 15-minute long phone call and snail mail. Here traditional mail only goes out 5 days a week and takes about 4 days to reach home. Any response takes a week or more before being delivered to my cell door because first it must be processed by the prison mail room. Receiving a response to traditional mail easily takes two weeks which brings me back to the 15-minute long phone call.

In prison the 15-minute phone call is our life-line to the free world and those we love. In a building of 200 men there are only 4 phones to share; every available phone time on the sign-up sheet is always taken. Men in prison thirst for communication with their loved ones. It gives us strength, hope, and much needed love. In the cold, hard environment of prison, love from family is often the only light we see.

To be denied this light, this connection to the love that holds me up, can be excruciatingly painful. The longer I am denied, the deeper the pain cuts, the further it sets in, and the more harm it inflicts.

Currently CSP-Corcoran is on lockdown for a “mass institutional search”. The administration calls it a “modified program” to justify it but it is a lock down. During this lockdown we (the inmates) are denied all of our earned privileges. And while many in society may feel those of us in prison don’t deserve any privileges; one: they don’t realize how sad and basic those few privileges are and two: these few privileges are a key tool in behavior management within these walls. When they are stripped away without any justification or cause, it is hard for those of us in prison who are behaving to understand and accept; especially being denied communication with our families. When nothing bad happened why are we being punished? When I am behaving like I should, why are they taking away the only thing keeping me alive?

It has been 9 days since I last heard my wife’s voice. 9 days since I have been able to tell her I love her and ask how she is. It could easily be another 5 days that I must wait before getting a letter from her written the day before the lockdown began. There is no way of knowing when this lockdown will be over. It could be another 9 days or even longer. All I am able to do is worry about my wife. Such isolation eats at the soul, the pain is even worse knowing the woman I love is suffering too. I may be the one in a physical prison but we are truly in prison together. We are both denied each other and the freedom to simply know we are both safe and doing ok.

In the darkest hardest times all we have is the promise of our love.”

written by Sean O’Brien

“My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life.” Psalms 119:50

November 12, 2017:  I went for an unplanned visit due to the lack of phone calls

About Sean & Emelia

In 2003 Sean O'Brien was wrongfully convicted in El Dorado County, CA and sentenced to Life Without Parole at the age of 16. We have been friends since grade school and are now married. Sean and I move forward together with the knowledge of his innocence, our faith in God, and hope that he will rightfully regain his freedom. Until then we embrace our journey wherever it may take us, cherishing each moment we have together and staying true to ourselves. This blog is about the past we share, our fight for freedom, life as it exists for us, and our path toward the future, whatever that may hold. Thank you for allowing us to be heard. God bless.
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