Visiting Their Cells Emotional. Energy.

Gail Davis, 05 March 2011

We were met by a great guy, David Wortham. David runs a character program at the prison. There were many tiers to the security. We were seriously patted down. We went through metal detector and metal doors that loudly locked behind us. I was getting more and more uneasy.

Finally, David unlocked a metal door and there were 120 inmates seated. There was a podium at the front of the room with chairs for me and my friend, Vivian, to be seated. Two women in front of 120 inmates. It was intimidating, yet somehow, not nearly as uncomfortable as I expected.

The facility has motivational sayings on the wall and Andre grabbed the microphone and started right in - immediately building rapport.

You know what was so strange … they were all dressed alike but they all looked so different. There were black, white, Hispanic, young, old, clean shaven, bearded, tattooed.

As I settled in, realizing I was safe, I began to do what I love to do. Watch the audience’s response as a speaker speaks.

There were laughs and head nodding. But what I really keyed in on were the eyes. I really did see sparkles of hope. I saw sadness. I saw remorse. I know I am treading on controversial political territory here but when you are sitting there, and the kid on the front role is the same age as your son, it all seems different that something you read about in the paper.

At the end of the talk the inmates were allowed to come and talk to us. Of course, they all wanted to know how they could become speakers. Isn’t that always the case? But how do you blow off someone who might be the next Andre? I told them consistency was key. I told them when they get out they need to give a lot of free speeches to hone their skills. I also offered to donate some old books and speaker videos. You cannot imagine the excitement.

The guards came and they were all sent back to their cells and our host prepared to escort us out.

Andre asked, “How are we on time?” We told him we were okay and then he asked if we could visit them in their cells. He said they expect us to leave like all the other visitors and he did not want that to be the case.

So with more guards and more locks and more metal doors, we were inside a unit.

Oh my goodness, it was like an episode of Oz. Some guys playing chess, others just hanging. Super tiny cells. My kitchen pantry is bigger.

At this point, you did not see the cell, you just hone in on the eyes. These guys all started out as someone’s son.

I would love to think that every prisoner was touched and motivated today. I would like to think that one day, I will get a call from Michael B and he will be on the outside, he will have taken the advice and he will be our next exclusive. That is inspiration.

From the road,