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Boulder County Jail inmates and husband-and-wife soldiers in Iraq share a common value. They value touching their loved ones. As proof of this point and possible policy ramifications, juxtapose for consideration two of last week’s Camera stories.

The March 31 story, “Jail may curtail ‘contact’ visits,” reported inmates value face-to-face meetings so much so that their interests motivated them to engage in good behaviors. Division Chief Larry Hank, who oversees the jail, said, “We use it strictly as an incentive — it’s a good kind of pressure.”

That’s good news for inmates and for the jail. However, Hank also said inmates get tense when there isn’t enough time to schedule as many visits as needed. The official answer could be video-conferencing, which jail officials are investigating. In so doing, however, officials may miss the inmates’ true incentive, that of touching their wives, families and friends.

That point likely would not be lost on husband-and-wife soldiers in Iraq. The Army recently made a policy change to allow married-couple soldiers to live together in the war zone. The report came in the April 1 story, “Army lets couples live together in Iraq.” Couples in their own little trailer can finally touch one another and even sleep together. Elsewhere, they cannot as much as hold hands.

The Army needs lots of praise for giving a few husband-and-wife soldiers a space of their own. More trailers are needed, of course. But, the Army is trying to save marriages and raise morale. As a result, it could also see increasing re-enlistment rates.

Vivian Hamilton, of Broomfield, responded for this column. She said of touching her husband, Ray: “I was so in love with the guy, I would get shivers. It was like electricity when I would even brush against his arm or his leg.” She quickly added that without touch, “there’s that warm, emotional bond, but there’s not that actual electricity.”

Married soldiers serving together in the war zone deserve both. Laying down their lives on a daily basis is tough enough; they don’t need to be housed in separate living quarters.

Lea White, of Lafayette, speaking for this piece, said she values body works such as massage, reflexology and Reiki. However, she said her “really amazing experience” was when she held her goddaughter minutes after her birth. She added that in the following months when the baby fell asleep in her arms, she felt “such a feeling of peace to have this sleeping infant that trusted me.”

No video-conferencing is going to provide all that.

Still, the Army worries about pregnancies with couples living together. It has a valid point. Babies and war zones don’t go together. Another valid point is that inmates are in jail because they broke the law. Shouldn’t they give up something as a punishment even if that means only seeing their wives and children rather than holding and rocking them?

In response, I urge those with the authority over inmates and soldiers to look for ways to protect the innocent and help families grow closer in spite of their difficult circumstances. Reaching out and touching someone actually does help.


Source: Published April 6, 2008, under “The power of touch” Daily Camera


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