Home Is Where the Inmate Is

by and

This story was first published in the Idaho Press on December 2.

  • San Antonio Express-News
Of the 500-plus Idahoans who now reside in Eagle Pass, Texas, Annie Cheney is one of the few who is allowed to leave without shackles on her hands or feet.

“I went ahead and signed a one-year lease on an apartment,” said Cheney. “I’m about 16 minutes away from the prison.”

Cheney moved to the Rio Grande border in order to have regular, in-person visits with her boyfriend, Jared Deveraux, who lives in the Eagle Pass Correctional Facility. But when Cheney first walked through the prison gates, she quickly learned that officials weren’t ready to accommodate a visit.

“They weren’t prepared at all. The guards joked that they weren’t expecting anyone until at least Christmas, so the visiting room wasn’t even set up,” said Cheney. “They had to remove a whole bunch of stuff that had been stored in that room.”

Cheney said she considers herself fortunate because her work — she manages an online digital content team of graphic artists and she owns an online Washington state-based cannabis business — allows her to work from home.

Jared Devereaux and Annie Cheney - COURTESY OF ANNIE CHENEY
  • Courtesy of Annie Cheney
  • Jared Devereaux and Annie Cheney
“I do my work in the morning and head to the prison to visit Jared every afternoon," Cheney said. "Quite often, I’m the only one there to visit.”

Jared Deveraux calls his girlfriend’s ability to visit the facility 1,500 miles away from Idaho “extraordinary.”

“If they had 10 people show up on any given day, it would probably overload the system,” said Deveraux. “That space is a 20-foot by 20-foot cinder block room.”

Dwight Irving said he’s familiar with that same space. He traveled to the Eagle Pass facility in October to visit his son Patrick, another Idaho inmate/transferee.

“They weren’t ready at all," Irving said, "It was obvious they were scrambling like crazy. They were still figuring out what the visiting room was going to be like."
His son, Patrick Irving, also used the word “extraordinary” when describing his own visit from his dad.

“When we had our visit, there was one table in there,” recalled Patrick Irving. “Two people showed up and it took them about an hour to find another table to bring in. I think the capacity is six tables. What’s going to happen when people show up at Christmas? I asked, ‘You’re not seriously gonna turn people away, are you? You can’t limit their time or kick them up because you didn’t plan for the visits, can you?’”

  • San Antonio Express-News
Holiday or no holiday, an appropriate accommodation for visiting is a concern that officials at the Idaho office of the ACLU say needs to be addressed sooner than later.

“It just goes to show how unprepared this facility is to provide long-term housing. This was a detention facility that wasn’t meant to be a long-term prison,” said Kathy Griesmyer, public policy strategist at ACLU of Idaho. “For these folks to be so far away from family, and so far away from a community in which they’ll return to … well, we’re really setting them up, in some regards, for failure.”

Asked about the visitation room, Idaho Department of Correction spokesman Jeff Ray provided the following statement over email:

"The visiting room at Eagle Pass is large enough to accommodate all visitors to the facility. No one has ever been turned away since Idaho inmates have been in the facility because there was not enough room. There is a secondary area available for visiting next to the room being currently used if it is needed."