Letters from a prisoner- It's what's on the inside that counts
The following are excerpts from letters sent to me by a man who is in prison.
The man who wrote to me gave me permission to share his words publicly. The punctuation, use of capitalization, notes and spelling are exactly as he wrote. My words are in italics.
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“I have quite a few Prison experiences that I can share with you and I have witnessed quite a few more. What would you like to know? There is ‘SO MUCH” that goes on behind these walls that the public don’t know about and then there are things the public “DO” know about but just don’t care because we are prisoners many people feel we “deserve” the abuse we receive.
I’ll give you one incident…
The CO (corrections officer) in charge of the unit caught me smoking a cigarette in the bathroom. (They say you can’t smoke but yet they sell cigarettes) He wrote me a misbehavior report and placed me on cube confinement. After review and a hearing I was taken off cube confinement and given a seven-day work detail.
The CO who wrote the report felt I should have gotten a stiffer punishment and because I didn’t get one I became a “target”. I was constantly harassed….Anywhere I went I was pulled out of line for a pat frisk. My cube was constantly searched and my personal property “Accidently” broken. If my family sent me a package all my food items were crushed. If my family came to visit I wasn’t called for 2-3 hours, limiting my time to visit with my family.
One night some other inmates were acting a fool and somebody (NOT ME) threw a bar of soap at the CO’s desk. They didn’t know who did it so they decided to pick an “Herb” and because I was already a target I was selected to be the Herb.
They took and Handcuffed me and transported me to SHU (THE BOX) When I got to the Box I was made to strip naked.
NOTE: Usually when you’re taken to the Box an inmate is stripped and issued Box clothing and given sheets, blankets, toothpaste, soap, toothbrush and locked in his/her cell for the duration.
I wasn’t issued any clothing I was escorted (NAKED) to a cell
NOTE: Each cell has a large window covered by a gate controlled by the CO so if you want the window opened or closed the CO has to open gate open/close the window to lock the gate.
I was placed in the cell. The CO’s unlocked the gate opened the window and locked the gate.
They left me in that cell ass-naked, NO SHEETS, NO BLANKETS, in the middle of November in central New York for 3 days!!!
I had to wrap myself in the mattress so that I don’t freeze. When my family came to visit me during that time they told them that I refused the visit. It was only because my family had enough sense to know I wouldn’t Refuse their Visit and made enough “noise” that someone of the Rank was called and I was produced. When I told my family what had happened to me they called Albany to the Inspector Generals office. It was only when IG came to see me that I was given the “Proper” treatment for an inmate in the SHU.
I told my story to the Inspector General and He plainly told me: “If you had died or some other dreadful atrocity had happened then he would be able to do something.” But because I didn’t DIE there was nothing he could do!
That’s just one incident that I had to endure at the hands of Prison officials. There are many more.”
I wrote to my friend asking some questions. He responded.
“As for your questions.
#1. What do I want the general public to know about the realities of Prison?
Prison is a vast melting pot full of anger, bitterness and resentment. The majority of the staff- (guards) – treat you as “Less Than” The administrative personnel are indifferent because of lack of interaction. There’s plenty of loneliness, depression and hopelessness here. And the system does very little to address these issues. Most men here are a product of their environment, incarcerated for impulsive and bad choices. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not playing for sympathy for all Prisoners. There are some ‘VERY’ bad men here who ‘deserve’ to be her for the heinous crimes they committed. But a lot of these men “SHOULD’T” be in prison. We need more alternatives to prison to address the core behaviors that lead to bad choices. Prison and/or death.
#2. How can it be better?
More accountability for the mistreatment of Prisoners. Stiffer penalties when one (CO) is found in violation of Human Rights and the law. More programs for inmates. Excuse me, more “COMPREHENSIVE” programs for inmates. The New York State Prison System is very Primitive. It’s more of a warehouse than a place geared towards Rehabilitation.
#3. Can it be reformed?
Of course! It’s the ‘politics’ involved in the reformation that keeps this system stagnated. Most people (the General Public) feel that we deserve to be here- (In some cases that’s true) and we deserve whatever happens while we’re here, and that’s why the reformation process is so slow. You would think things would get better with New York being a “liberal” state!
#4. Are there good CO’s?
Yes. There are a lot. (Not the majority) of CO’s that treat us with Respect. They understand the circumstances in which a lot of us come from and are sympathetic to our plight. But the majority are down right NASTY! Racist and uncaring.