cruel and unusual: isolation

hating prison 2

by Alex King

Disciplinary Confinement (DC) is an abusive form of cruel and unusual punishment in adult and juvenile detention facilities. In certain cases, the use of DC is understandable. If there is some physical violence occurring, isolating the person or people involved may be required to maintain order. However, when DC becomes the punishment for common offenses, when no other form of remedy is sought, isolation becomes abusive and those using it, cruel.

I was in a PC Support program at Holmes CI. These educational programs are voluntary. They require an application. Many times, there are waiting lists. I wanted to acquire a trade, so I enrolled. The course was great for a while until an officer, full of a sense of importance and power, began harassing us. Already under a lot of stress, I knew I couldn’t handle additional problems brought on by trying to better myself. To avoid incident, I requested to leave the class.

The reason I had to give was that I couldn’t concentrate due to personal issues and I didn’t get along with my classmates. Neither were true, but to report an officer is to incur retribution. My request was denied. Future requests were put off, delayed or met with angry refusal. If I just stopped going, I would be sent to DC, so I chose a method that would gain me freedom from the class with the least problems. We had an email program that worked within the class. All emails were monitored. I sent an email disrespecting the instructor to another student.

For all my efforts, I was still sent to confinement. I managed to talk my way out of it at the Disciplinary Report (DR) hearing after a week, but most aren’t so lucky. The only think that saved me was the fact that I sent the email to another inmate rather than disrespecting the teacher directly. This is just an example of how easy it is to end up in confinement. By no means is this the only stint I’ve had in a place like that. I know confinement well.

Locked in a room nearly 24 hours a day, being denied any form of reprieve, causes common boredom to become extreme. Desperation and the sense of being lost, that devastating wanderlust that can’t be sated, wraps is icy fingers in a powerful grip around the human mind. This state is only worsened by the crushing weight of loneliness. The inability to interact coupled with neglect from guards and staff alike is enough to induce near insanity. Discomfort, boredom, loneliness, neglect… DC is a torture chamber.

I have seen guards yelling at and threatening people asking for help. Recollections of abuse and atrocities committed by guards for people only trying to have their rights respected by utilizing the grievance process brings me, even now, intense outrage and disgust. I have seen inmates beaten, property destroyed, letters “lost”, even the misuse of mace and pepper spray. Isolated and without access to due process, the depravity of the system is seen in the cruelty, the absolute power of the guards as they torture the helpless.


Groove of the Day

Listen to Metallica performing The Unforgiven


5 Responses to “cruel and unusual: isolation”

  1. 1 anonymouse
    October 7, 2014 at 11:08 am

    Your points are valid, Alex, but don’t expect that too many can relate or sympathize, outside of this and similar small groups. Dealing with such things is a balancing act that we on the outside have to deal with, and most would prefer not to think about it, beyond reading Dostoyevsky. All too often in our modern society, once the trial is over, most of us just go about our daily business. We blindly assume that in our “fair and just society” that what goes on inside our penal systems is also fair and just. No doubt reforms are warranted across the board, especially since we are a country which prides itself on being a beacon of freedom, arbiter of fairness, and protector of the weak and down trodden.

    “Empires do not suffer emptiness of purpose at the time of their creation. It is when they have become established that aims are lost and replaced by vague ritual.” – Frank Herbert, Dune Messiah

    • October 7, 2014 at 1:49 pm

      Thank you for expressing your opinion. Hopefully, this will help to illumine things for those who have not had the misfortune of experiencing these particular horrors.
      -Alex King

  2. 3 Daryl Watton
    October 7, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    What galls me most is that depending upon the lack of facility at some prisons, teenagers are held in segregation or isolation in adult prisons for no other reason than they cannot be allowed to mix with the adult population. They are punished for being too young. David Childress has told me briefly about his experiences before he turned 18. He described it as a torturous hell — he was psychologically disturbed by the experience.

    • October 7, 2014 at 3:47 pm

      Yes, this is a common practice in a lot of prisons with mixed populations. It is yet another abuse of isolation. My question would be: If an individual is deemed too young to be safe within a particular population, why are they housed in such a facility? I, personally, have… enjoyed… a couple years’ worth of such conditions, altogether.
      -Alex King

  3. 5 Jonathan
    November 16, 2014 at 9:23 am

    I have not been back on this blog for quite some time, but was most pleasantly surprised when I stumbled across your posts. I made a point of reading them all.

    Firstly, I am really glad that you have been given freedom again, it is something I have always felt you truly deserved, second chances are there for a reason after all. And I am immensely happy to hear that you have taken this step to Estrella Vista. Only good things can come from this, I am sure.

    It is remarkable, and a testament to your character that you have not allowed a warped, inadequate and wholly unfair system to pull you from your goals and alter who you are as a person.

    Your posts are brilliant. I say this as an English lecturer and as a self-professed nerd. You have a talent for writing and turning words into so much more – an image almost. Knowing your love of reading and learning, this is hardly a surprise.

    But I digress, my main objective here was to welcome you back to the world you were unfairly locked away from and to wish you all the very best of luck as you build a new foundation for yourself.

    PS : Good choice on the glasses frames 🙂

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