The following comes from Jesse Wilson, who is incarcertad at United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum (ADX) facility in Florence, Colorado. Initially sentenced to five years in prison when he was 17 for grand larceny, he was given a life sentence for the murder of a death row inmate in Mississippi’s Unit 32. He has been in solitary confinement for eight of the last 12 years. He describes describes his time in solitary as consisting of walking around in circles and losing his social skills. A collateral consequence of his time in solitary, he’s written, is having families members “watch you get older and crazier.” He will be corresponding with Solitary Watch about the conditions at ADX. —Sal Rodriguez
I refuse to embrace the solitude. This is not normal. I’m not a monster and do not deserve to live in a concrete box. I am a man who has made mistakes, true. But I do not deserve to spend the rest of my life locked in a cage–what purpose does that serve? Why even waste the money to feed me? If I’m a monster who must live alone in a cage why not just kill me?
Our country has thousands of its people confined to concrete cages. Years pass, lives pass. The suffering does not. Our families suffer most, watching us grow old and go crazy in a cage. This is my biggest pain knowing my mother and sister suffer with me. I can not see how this is helpful to society. Most men will spend years in a cage alone and be released back into society filled with hate and rage. It is an ugly truth. We as a country are blind to the reality of our prison system.
It has become normal. And we the inmates are voiceless. Our voices are not heard. If they are heard, they are thought of as lies. I heard the head of the BOP in Congress (on radio) saying they do not have insane inmates housed here. This is what should be thought of as a lie. I have not slept in weeks due to these non-existing inmates beating on the walls and hollering all night. And the most “non-insane” smearing feces in their cells.
This is reality.
This place is horrific with the solitary, and the lack of communication outside these walls. I’ve been in prison without release for over 12 years, and eight of them I’ve been in a cage walking around in circles. I was released for 23 days in 2000 after completing a boot camp/drug program. I was rearrested for drinking beer, a violation of probation. So I am pretty in tune with the concept of solitary. Prison. Cages and craziness.
Out my window I see into a concrete yard surrounded by red brick walls. There is a drain in the middle of it and out of it weed are growing. I thought they were weeds until a few blossomed into these beautiful yellow and brown flowers.
Every now and then a pair of owls roosts on the security lights. This spring they had two babies. We watched them grow up and fly away. On any given day the sky here is breathtaking. The beauty out my window stays in my mind. I look around this cage at plain concrete walls and steel bars and a steel door, a steel toilet and I endure its harshness because I am able to keep beauty in my mind. The window helps greatly.
I’m in the hole so there is no TV. Books help me escape better than my words could ever explain, but most of all its the love of my family, the memories of beauty and the knowledge of humanity.
Loneliness is a destroyer of humanity.