Editor’s note: Ajay Dev was in my view wrongly convicted in the summer of 2009. One of the greatest injustices of all the injustices in this case is because he was convicted of a sex crime on a minor, he was unable to have contact visits with his two young sons. But in a sign that the prison officials view Mr. Dev as a man who does not pose a threat to his sons, that has now changed. Here is his story.
Seven Long Years Later My First Contact Visits With My Sons
by Ajay Dev
I have good news to share! After experiencing seven long heart-felt years without being allowed to hug my own children, I was finally granted contact visits with my two sons! I am extremely grateful for this appropriate correction to my undeserved situation, not only for myself but for my family as well. This represents a huge step towards fatherhood that I have always hoped for and dreamed of since my children were born. No more visits behind thick glass bars!
I could hardly sleep the night before my first contact visit. I was nervous, excited, and anxious. It was 2011 when we first appealed for such visits. But it was denied. Five years later, we re-appealed. Now the outcome has kept me wide awake. I was about to see and hug my sons for the first time since all this began more than seven years ago. I entered the visiting room that Sunday morning with a fresh new appreciation of life. Then, when I approached the table where my precious sons were sitting with their mom, I felt a warmth rushing through me. It was difficult holding my composure not wanting to show the people around me the emotions rising within. But there was no denying my heart for it was beating faster and faster with every step I took.
I approached my older son, Kishan (age 9), first. On my knees, I held his face in my hands, looked into his eyes and then hugged him. He gave me a big hug in return. I held him tightly and told him how much I miss him and love him. The last time I loved him this way was when he was just 15 months old. I kissed him good-bye while he slept peacefully. I was on my way out for my trial deliberation. Then, I turned to my little Jahnu (age 7), whom I had never yet held. He looked up at his daddy with his big brown eyes. I lifted him into my arms and held him for a long, long time. After 7 years of restrained fatherly love, my younger son was finally in my arms. Being able to love my sons this way is hard to describe with words. The female officer watching this scene later told me that she was expecting tears all over me. I put my hand on my chest to gesture that I am crying happy tears inside.
What a day it was with my boys. I showed them several card magic tricks that I learned. They were fascinated and giggled playfully. Then I showed them how one of the tricks was done. And to my surprise Kishan learned it very quickly and is now showing others how to do it. Jahnu amused me as I watched him create his own game and rules. What an imaginative mind. My younger son and I share the same birthday in the month of February. I just turned 50 and having contact visits with them was the best gift I received since being placed in prison.
That first contact visit will remain with me forever. Since then we have had several more wonderful visits together and I hope to see them on a bi-weekly basis. Of course, I am deeply grateful to Peggy who played an instrumental role in making this happen. Peggy strongly supports my contact visits with our children and would never request anything that might put them in harm’s way. Although Peggy lives more than a 2 hour-drive from the facility, she has been involved with the prison and invested her time in helping any way that she can. A heartfelt “thank you” to Peggy.
Today, I’m hopeful for the future because my sons have given me the strength and courage to continue on. To pursue my dream of being their father in ways that I couldn’t before. To interact and be a part of their playful ways. To love them as they deserve to be loved. My heart is restored with joy. The pain of my experience seems more bearable to me now. The lonely days are fewer, and by their presence my sons heal me.
It means so much for me to share this good news with you. You have stood by me and supported my cause while the world I lived in, over the past 7 years, were void of good news. Most recently was the California Court of Appeals’ decision to affirm my conviction. Yet, I stand firm in my innocence. As I bring my case to the next judicial level, the California Supreme Court, I hope you will continue to support and stand by me. Believe in me. In the meantime, please join in my overwhelming joy to finally receive contact visits with my sons. It has truly satisfied the father within me.