Lockdowns are when the inmates are restricted to their cells and there is no visits or programmed activity such as Bible Studies, AA meetings, and so on. Lockdowns are frequently called when there have been incidents of violence. The lockdown may only impact a particular unit or it could be the whole facility. It could last just a few minutes or go on for several days or weeks. One institution was on lockdown to 2 months following a riot.
A lockdown is another uncertainty encountered by those who visit inmates. Imagine living out of town and driving several hours and perhaps staying in a motel overnight in order to get to the facility where your friend or family member is serving time. Imagine the disappointment if you are unable to visit. If it happens too often you may stop trying to visit.
I have usually encountered lockdowns when I arrived at the facility to visit, or for programming such as a Bible study. We are told the facility is on lockdown and no one is allowed in. At that point the best things is to just leave the facility because it is very unlikely that they will resolve the lockdown in a short period of time.
I have only had a lockdown called once while I was already in the facility, and that was just a few weeks ago. I got to the unit and, as I usually do, I asked the CO (correctional officer) how the day had gone. He indicated it had been quiet.
I went in and set up as they invited the guys to come to Bible Study if they wanted. They turn on their light and the CO unlocks their door so they can come out, so there are a few minutes between when I set up and when the guys start arriving. There were nine guys that night. We went around and did introductions. At that point the CO came in and said, “Need to cut this short. We’re going on lockdown. Everybody back to their cell.”
A lockdown can be called if there has been some sort of incident. When a lockdown is called I don’t invite the group to sing one more song, or close in prayer. It means stop whatever you are doing immediately. As a volunteer my responsibility is to comply with whatever the CO directs me to do. The COs want to keep the facility safe and secure, in this case it was to get me out of an insecure environment. I knew not to stand around asking a bunch of questions.
When I got out to the main area of the unit there were about half a dozen COs getting organized. There had been an incident in an adjacent unit and they were determining whether they needed a nurse on the scene.
The reality is that some or all guys in the maximum security unit can be capable of violence. No matter how often I go in I cannot become complacent. But I am reminded about Luke 7 where Jesus teaches that those who are forgiven little love little, whereas those who are forgiven much love much.