Voices from Solitary: “As Real As It Honestly and Truthfully Gets”

by | August 12, 2022

The following essay was written by Edee Allynnah Davis, a 61-year-old trans woman previously incarcerated in the Clements Unit, a men’s maximum-security prison in Amarillo, Texas. She recounts her experience in the ‘Program for the Aggressive Mentally Ill Offender’ (PAMIO), a “step-down program” for people in administrative segregation, a form of solitary confinement. Though the program is supposed to offer treatment and help people transition out of solitary, Davis describes participating in almost no therapy or counseling and spending nearly every day locked in her cell. Davis wrote this in April. In May she was transferred to the Ramsey Unit, into a different step-down program. —Vaidya Gullapalli

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I am an elderly tranzspirited female, currently confined within the Texas state prison system. I am assigned and housed at the Clements Unit, in a solitary-styled maximum-security-cell area for in-patient mental healthcare.

I was transferred here on June 2, 2021. Since then, I have been locked in and confined to a 10-by-7-foot cell, and very rarely have been allowed out of the cell for recreation or showering. This year I have only received two opportunities to leave my cell for rec or showering each month of January, February, and March. A total of six times in 2022 so far. 

The cell has only a single, sealed window. It is about five inches long and two and a half feet high at the top edge of the cell along the ceiling. Most of the day the room is dim. There is a fluorescent light fixture that the officials will only place two bulbs in (in a four-bulb fixture) in order to lower costs. It is never bright enough to adequately light the cage. I am approaching 62 years of age. I have impaired vision from aging and this is rapidly destroying what vision I do have.

I have rashes, open sores upon my body which I believe are from not being allowed to bathe or shower properly on a  daily basis. Medical has not seen me for these physical atrocities caused by the negligence of these officials. I filed a grievance only to be told, it’s too bad nothing will be done about it. 

Rarely am I given bedding, linen, or clean sheets. In the entire time here I have not been allowed to exchange the blanket at all. I have been washing my linen and sheets in the sink and toilet which in itself should be of major concern for the Centers for Disease Control. By the way, I bathe daily as well as I’m able to, washing off in the sink with a washcloth and cup.

I am fed within my cell, trays of food are given me. The food is sloppily served and cold as well. Imagine if you will, being served Salisbury-style ground beef patty with brown gravy over it. So cold that a layer of congealed grease covers it. In order to even eat it you scrape the gravy/ grease off and wash it in lukewarm water from the sink. Well, I don’t just imagine such, I exist here in this cell and eat like this daily. Often there are not even meals on trays given. There are brown bag meals. This morning for breakfast I received a peanut butter sandwich and some dried prunes in a brown paper sack. 

If one is fortunate enough to have credit upon their individual inmate trust/ commissary fund one is able to purchase items from the unit prison store (which will occur about once a month, if  luck allows. This is regulated in a punitive manner, which I believe is in direct violation of the American with Disabilities Act concerning in-patient mental health clients. Where one can purchase various food items to supplement for the lack of properly being fed daily. Thing is, assigned to this in-patient mental health program, we are not allowed to possess any materials or items that will enable one to heat up food items with hot water. They will sell me ramen noodle soups, pre-cooked instant rice, instant potatoes, instant pasta shells, instant refried beans, instant oatmeal. Yet, allow for no way to heat up or cook items.

There is no actual mental health program or treatment being provided here. In the time I have been here, since June 2, 2021, I have only been afforded the opportunity to attend a total of three group, peer groups overseen by a counselor. Yet my understanding is that mental health providers here, employed by Texas Tech universities, are logging into my mental health care record and file concerning my mental health treatment. 

I voluntarily chose to quit the program and refuse any and all mental health treatment or medication in hopes of receiving a transfer to anywhere else within the state prison system. So that I may possibly return to the general population where I may be allowed out of a cell to recreate, shower, go to the inmate dining hall and receive hot meals daily. 

I am a state-approved class III trustee with a clear disciplinary infraction record since February 13, 2020. For over two years, I have been eligible to be housed with other prisoners of the same status and a clear record of disciplinary infractions.

If I happened to be an elderly person in an in-patient mental health care facility anywhere outside of the fences and razor wire of a prison cell being mistreated cruelly and unusually in such daily punishment the authorities would step in and hold everyone accountable for such outright blatant criminal mistreatment of an elderly mental health care person. Because I am an incarcerated person in a Texas prison facility, it doesn’t matter. I don’t matter. I deserve this is the general mindset of the barbaric, inhumane folks of this ungodly country. That is as real as it honestly and truthfully gets.


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