Treating Humans Worse Than Animals: Prison System Voices Decry Solitary Confinement of Mentally Ill

Most news is information I have no idea what to do with. Hearing the stories that pour out of the United States, I can’t imagine how we continue to hold such sheltered and bigoted views. Are some people actually in favor of solitary confinement? Who are those people? Liberals? How can you hold this opinion and simultaneously expect to be able to have any semblance of love and happiness in your own life? Humans are complicated and we are fucked.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

FIVE MUALIMMAK: My name is Five Mualimmak. I am the executive director of the Incarcerated Nation Campaign, which is a grassroots movement to support those incarcerated. Often times we let the correctional institutions paint this picture that solitary confinement contains the worst of the worst, like the Hannibal Lecters of the world. But actually, the system itself is the worst of the worst.

I spent 12 years incarcerated; five of that I did in solitary confinement. I did time at Rikers and also MCC. During my time in solitary confinement, I was tortured. We’re talking about sensory deprivation. We’re talking about being away from your loved ones and family members, being away from your children. My son missed me his entire life. When I first went to solitary, it was on Rikers, and there was a fight that broke out in the dorm. And they have a thing called prehearing detention, so basically everybody goes to the box. So, for about a week or so, you’re in this cell for 24 hours a day, isolated, with no property, were not allowed to have any visitors. And we’re talking about city jail now; we’re not talking about people who are convicted of a crime, just people who are too poor to afford their bail.

A friend of the family had sent me a book called Revolutionary Suicide. And that book got me a ticket, because I’m not allowed to have materials in, even though I have no control over who’s sending me materials. I was sent to the solitary for having too many pencils, too many postage stamps. For not getting out of the shower fast enough, I got another ticket. I had a ticket for eating an apple. Apple seeds contain arsenic. So, somehow, eight and 10 makes four for them, you know? And they add that up, and you’re not supposed to eat the core, so I got a ticket for that. So the next day I was so fearful, I didn’t eat the apple at all. I didn’t want to touch it. So I got another ticket for refusing to eat. You end up spending time just wasting away, sleeping under your bed, trying to turn days into weeks. There’s light deprivation. You don’t know when day turns into the next.

And you have a person who is emotionally damaged, mentally damaged, and then they just give you a bus ticket, $40 cash and then send you on a bus, and you’re back in. I went from solitary confinement one day to, next day, 10 million commuters, right at 42nd Street, right off the bus. That reintegration process is like a crash, an attack on your senses. So, I’ve been home a little over two years. Roughly 2,000 people are released right back into society directly from solitary confinement. You come out of incarceration, you’re disenfranchised. You can’t vote. You can’t get low-income housing. You can’t get city housing, not allowed on federal housing. You can’t get social services. You can’t get food stamps. You can’t get Medicaid. These are our citizens returning back to the community.

We’re the financial capital the world, but guess what. New York City is also the torture capital of the world. We actually torture people and use solitary confinement four times over the national average. We have all these prisons and jails. And we need to be an example, as to the rest of the country, to humanely address the issues.

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