For the almost-30 years since I left Menard, I have been unable to see Tom Henry because of a rule that former inmates cannot visit current ones. I’ve requested an exemption a few times over the years without success. Until now. Just this month I was granted permission to visit him, so I flew to St. Louis, drove to Menard, and spent 4 hours Tuesday and 4 more Wednesday visiting my former cellmate and friend.
The first thing he said was, “I know. I’ve got 10 minutes,” referring to an old joke between us. He was often telling an anecdote or piece of news, and when I would lay on my bunk to sleep I’d say, “I’m closing my eyes now. You have 10 minutes to wrap it up.”
Our visiting hours flew by too fast. It was interesting to note that, except for gnarled fingers from tightened tendons, a scar left from a prison-industry accident surgery, a dilated pupil in his right eye from a stroke 7 years ago, and persistent psoriasis, this 70-year-old is the same guy I used to know as cellmate and friend – albeit 30 years older.
Tom Henry has his parole plans in place and is hopeful, as he has been for the last few years, of getting good news from the Springfield en banc hearing next Thursday.