Ramon Labanino’s 74-year-old father, his younger brother, and oldest daughter were slated to visit him at the Federal Prison in Jesup, Georgia from December 23rd through January 11th.

This would allow him to have visits on 12 days, the maximum number of days allowed under the 8-point system at Jesup Federal Correctional Institution (FCI).

In June of last year, Ramon was told that. because of his cumulative good behavior, he would be moved to a lower- level security facility. On December 11th he was told to pack all his personal belongings and be prepared to move at any moment. Because he was afraid that he would be moved before his family arrived, or in the middle of their two -week visit, he decided that the visit should be postponed and airline tickets and hotel reservations were cancelled.

He was moved from Jesup FCI on January 11th and returned there on Jan 22nd after the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) admitted that he was sent to the wrong facility. Because he knew that the BOP would keep him at Jesup for a minimum of 15 days and because the visas of his father, brother and daughter were about to expire, he made a decision that his family should make a hurried visit even though it meant that they would only be allowed to visit on eight days.

His family arrived on January 27th and left on Feb. 9th. They saw him on the first two visiting days. When they arrived at the prison (a 30-mile drive) on day three, a sign said "Lockdown No Visits." The lockdown lasted for three visiting days. After the lockdown ended, his family saw him for a third day of visiting.

Ramon told them that he had been notified that he would be moved on Friday, Feb. 8th and therefore they would not be able to visit him that day. They arrived at the prison on Thursday, Feb. 7th, for what they thought would be their 4th and last visiting day, only to be told he had already been moved.

In total, they were able to see him on 3 of the 8 days he was eligible to have visits and they made two wasted 60 mile round trips to the prison and back. They returned to Havana on Feb. 9th. Being experienced visitors in the ways of the BOP they were able to say their goodbyes and have prison pictures taken with Ramon on the last day they actually got to see him.

Ramon’s oldest daughter, Aili, explained that as an older teenager, she traveled alone to visit him at the maximum security prison in Beaumont, Texas where he was jailed after the trial of The Five concluded. When she arrived at the prison she found it was locked down. Every day for 30 days she traveled from her hotel to the prison only to find the lockdown still in effect. After 30 days, with her visa about to expire, she went home without seeing her father.

In Jesup, visitors have had to wait for up to three hours before being admitted,  while prison authorities waited for a fog to lift (you read it correctly). Visitors have been turned away because someone said their jeans were too tight, or blouses too suggestive, or shoes were not the correct kind. Only a quick trip to a 24-hour Walmart nearby saved that day’s visit.

One wonders if Judy Gross, or any of Alan Gross’ other visitors, has to endure anything like this?

February 11, 2013