Some mornings when I enter the parking lot, the full moon perches on the tip of a silhouetted pine – enormous and pale, gray and ephemeral. Over the gatehouse and Medium security buildings, it is unseen, and unappreciated. In the Minimum security facility, when sunrise is late and sunset is early, the women may catch a glimpse of the moon and early stars in the moments it takes to walk between buildings.
With October, evening yard comes to a close. During the winter months, there is no chance to see the night sky. Overhead, there are clouds or rain, and the purpling buzz of flourescent lights. If they are lucky, people living in prisons see the sky during approved daylight hours, but only then.
Women incarcerated in the Medium facility are restricted to sunlit hours. The few daily hours of yard time happen while the sun rides high. Shining bright, or clouded and dim, it looms in the blue or gray air, defining the limited outdoor environment.
There are no opportunities to view the sunset or sunrise, or the times in between. Their entire physical world is contained in one building, where they walk and walk; the same glossy gray floors and unchanging beige corridor. Women who spend their years in Medium custody will likely never see silvery moonlight, or midnight blue sky. There are no walks in soft twilight or twinkling star-crusted nights.
The loss of these simple pleasures, the gentle indigo of evening and blushing rose of morning, is just another in the endless litany of losses, never-ending and ever-present through their time in prison.
The freedom to walk when and where we choose is always deeply wound with laws, boundaries, social mores, and decisions about safety, but this is what it is like to lose that freedom entirely.
The moon transforms into a ghostly memory, floating above razor wire coils, no longer part of the world they know.