I’ll never forget the first time I visited prison.

I was waiting with my grandmother in the waiting room of the Ionia (Mich.) Correctional Facility. I’ll never forget the sights and sounds of the place: the wailing cries of newborn babies, the way a light bulb would flicker right before it lost power, the pleas of inmates who wanted more time with their loved ones. But one sound in particular I’ll never be able to forget.

That buzz.

When you’re in the visiting area at Ionia and you hear that buzz, it means a prisoner is on his way in, to sit across a table – and behind a pane of plexiglass – from his friends and family and talk to them on a telephone. In my case, the prisoner on the opposite side of the plexiglass was my father.

I was four years old.

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