A Geek in Prison — Part 9 — My Visit to the Prison Dance

A Geek in Prison is Bitcoin Pioneer Charlie Shrem’s account of his experience going from being a force for increasing adoption of Bitcoin before the world had heard of cryptocurrency to a 15-month stint in federal prison for selling it to the wrong people. In his excitement to spread the word about Bitcoin, Charlie fell afoul of the law and acknowledges that he committed the crime. He has since gone on to found Crypto.IQ, an educational and investment firm.

— Thursday —

This Saturday is my first visit.

I’m really nervous because I need to get Courtney and her mom on my visiting list before they can show up to the prison, which is a 3-hour drive for them. That’s close compared to other inmates whose families have to drive 10 or more hours to visit them.

Visitation happens every weekend; however, only one a month is your weekend, and it rotates.

Weekend 1 — Last Name A Through M — Last digit of your ID ODD

Weekend 2 — Last Name A Through M — Last digit of your ID EVEN

Weekend 3 — Last Name N Through Z — Last digit of your ID ODD

Weekend 4 — Last Name N Through Z — Last digit of your ID EVEN

My last name being Shrem, and with an ID of 92164–054, I am weekend 4.

It’s Thursday, and my counselor still hasn’t approved Courtney and her mom yet. If he doesn’t approve it by today or tomorrow, I won’t get to see Courtney for another 5 weeks, and I’m already losing my mind!

The issue is, if I bug him too much, he will throw me to the bottom of the pile. He may not have gotten it yet. It could still be sitting in the mail room.

I have to learn that I can’t always get what I want, when I want it.

I’m going to relax for now. There really is nothing I can do but pray that tomorrow he approves it.

— Friday —

YES!!!

Today, on the loudspeaker, I hear:

“INMATE SHREM TO THE COUNSELOR’S OFFICE.”

My counselor has approved the visit tomorrow. Should be amazing.

After work, I take my uniform and iron it. I could have paid someone two MAKS to iron it for me, but I might as well learn now.

My shoes are pretty dirty, so a fellow inmate lends me his visiting sneakers that he keeps in a plastic bag.

Everyone keeps asking me if I’m going dancing tomorrow. Apparently, the visiting room is the dance floor, and a visit is going dancing. It’s like in high school when you get all spick and span for the school dance.

Tomorrow, I’m going DANCING, baby!

— Saturday —

I wake up really early in the morning and do early morning Yoga. I speak to Courtney, and she’s already left the house around 6 a.m. to get here by 8:30 a.m. when visiting opens.

I get dressed around 8 and walk over to the admin building and wait on the bench for my name to be called. After 30 minutes of waiting, they call me into the visiting room.

At first, I go into a small room where a CO asks me for my ID card, and if I am bringing anything into the visiting room. I am not allowed to bring any papers, my watch or anything from inside the prison.

Once he lets me through, I see Courtney sitting on the bench and we embrace. The feeling is amazing. No words can describe the feeling when your loved one comes to visit you in prison.

The visiting room looks kind of like a clean, multipurpose room. It’s actually the education room during non-visiting days. There are no glass walls or telephones; however, there is a CO who sits on an elevated platform and watches everyone.

You can embrace at the beginning and at the end of the visit, and, depending on the CO, you can hold hands during the visit. Some allow it, and some do not. It’s not a good idea to try to test them because you can get written up and lose visiting privileges.

I once saw someone try to get frisky with his wife, and he lost visits for 3 months. There are no conjugal visits in Federal prison.

We sit at a table, play cards, Scrabble, and all sorts of games. Courtney stays for the maximum 8 hours, but it flies by!

They sell these vending machine burgers that are not bad. We get a jalapeno one that we put potato chips inside. It’s pretty good!

This is the first time I am able to drink orange juice in a month! They don’t sell orange juice in prison.

An inmate has the job of taking pictures. He takes your picture and a few weeks later they get developed, and it costs $1.

When the visit is up, it’s very sad, but I know I’ll see her tomorrow, so it’s not so bad. We embrace again, and there are tears, but I don’t want her to see the pain I have of going back into prison.

When all the visitors leave, all the inmates line up and they give us a full cavity search, which really sucks.

My bunkie Omar warned me that the post-visit would be a very sad time. He said that immediately after the visit I should take a nap because when you leave the visit, you are in “normal mode,” and you need to transition back to “prison mode.”

Someone inmates prefer not to have visits because they can’t deal with the pain. Visits can be more painful than they are worth. Other inmates don’t even tell their kids they are in prison. They tell their kids they are on a real estate project in another country. If the kids are younger, they understand.

At first, I was very against that idea, but who am I to judge or tell someone how to raise their kids?

What do you think?

-Charlie