Thursday, 25 October 2012

“Waiting For The World To Give Us A Reason To Live”: Solitary Confinement in Utah

From: SolitaryWatch, Oct. 24th, 2012
By Sal Rodriguez

Utah State Prison’s Uinta 1 facility serves as the prison’s super-maximum security unit, where inmates are held in solitary confinement. Inmates in Uinta 1 may be there for disciplinary infractions, notoriety reasons, protective custody, or because they are security/escape risks. The unit is divided into eight sections with twelve inmates in each section, for a total of 96 maximum inmates. Currently, there are 90 inmates in Uinta 1. The Utah Department of Corrections, in response to a government records request by Solitary Watch, claims it has no records regarding its use of segregation.

Several inmates have recently written Solitary Watch about the conditions in Uinta 1.

L., who has been in Uinta 1 for five months and previously served 28 months there, reports that he is only able to leave his cell three days a week, for a shower and 1 hour alone in a concrete yard. He reports that, in being transported to a 15 minute shower, “we have to wear a spit mask over our faces and handcuffed from behind with a dog leash hooked to us.”

“The rest of the time except on the shower days we are locked down in our cells with the door window closed so you can’t see out,” he writes.

A., who has been in Uinta 1 for a year, adds that, “just the other day, the [Correctional Officers] came and shook our cells down and took away all of our hygiene. They took away shampoo, lotion, conditioner, everything…they also don’t give us anything to clean our cells with.”

A. is in Uinta 1 for his own protection, following what he says was a decision to leave gang life after much “self-study.” Despite this, he says, he is treated as if he committed a  serious offense.

Inmate Brandon Green, who has frequently written on the conditions of Uinta 1, describes the environment in Uinta 1 as reinforcing a vicious cycle in which inmates placed in solitary usually end up back not long after they are released. Green, who has been in Uinta 1 for five years, previously served 18 months in Uinta 1 before a brief period on parole before returning to Utah State Prison. He has been held in Uinta 1 following an escape attempt and refusal to take psychiatric drugs, which he says will only harm his health.

“So alone. So much internal turbulence with nothing like T.V., radio, magazines or conversation to hide [this pain] beneath,” he writes, “a man leaves this place to go to general population or to a less secure facility where you have electronics and a cellie. You can just count down the months before he will return…We learn we can do without anything. And we become content with nothing. The more they take away from us year after year, the more family disappears, the more one doesn’t want to go home, doesn’t want a wife and a job and bills and an Amerikkan future…It is like waiting for the world to give us a reason to live. But the world just keeps giving us reasons to not give a shit.”

This situation leads many inmates to report severe mental health problems that are aggravated by the long-term isolation. The prison routinely responds to such crises by placing suicidal inmates in a strip cell, where they are to be alone in a cell with  and checked every fifteen minutes. Included in many of these cells are cameras.
L. writes that “if someone is gonna kill themselves they take them and out to a strip cell and you sleep on the hard floor and treated like a dog.”
A. reports that “if I lose control because of something I have no control over, they’ll punish me and put me on strip cell for three days…when a mentally ill inmate feels suicidal, they send us to the infirmary to be on suicide watch…then we get from suicide watch back to Uinta 1 and the staff put us back in the strip cell when we get back to Uinta 1.”

In Uinta 1, suicide is not an uncommon occurrence. In 2009, two prisoners in Uinta 1 committed suicide. One was Danny Gallegos, who was found hanged in his cell in June. Another was a friend of Green, Spencer “Spider” Hooper, a “Pink Floyd fan and singer on medications for schizophrenia and depression.” Months after a previous suicide attempt, Hooper was found dead in February 2009, hanging in his cell.

A. and L. also independently confirm that sandbags at the cell doors of inmates gather bugs, which enter their cells. “They got sandbags around all the cells but never pick them up and clean under them so there’s all kinds of bugs and dirt that comes right under our doors,” A. writes.

Green also writes about the declining array of services provided to Uinta 1 inmates. “Years ago indigent captives received five envelopes a week. Now its one. We had five outside contacts a week. Now one. We used to be fed enough to stay full. Now we are starved. We used to have shampoo and lotion. Now we don’t. We grumble for an hour each time something is taken from us. Then move right along to inventing the creative willpower to survive with no penpals and mail, a full stomach or clean hair. Moving right along. We expect tragedy.”

Solitary Watch will continue to report on Uinta 1 as more information becomes available.

Brandon Green welcomes letters. His mailing address is:
Brandon Green #147075, Uinta One 305, Utah State Prison, PO Box 250, Draper, Utah 84020. His blog, updated by an outside supporter, can be seen here.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Many Limbed Oak

I had this dream the other night. I’d bought two old ’69 cameros. 350 HP engines. And I parked them in the drive. I looked over at a huge oak tree. And it had many limbs. But beyond these lims was a huge trunk twisting lift to right into the sky. Either it was broken, cut or disappeared in cloud…

Then I went into the trailer and found the floor flooded. I went to turn off the flooding water in the bathroom and managed to save the carpet. I then left and returned later and a big dog was on a chain by the front door. I was supposed to be scared and I knew if I was scared, the dog would bite me. But I just walked up to the door. Two enemies I don’t know, just people who wished me harm, were in the yard. I go in the house and pet this puppy on the carpet, look up, and there’s my wife or girlfriend and I notice the floor’s flooded again.  I stick my head out and ask my enemies if they know what happened. “Where’s the leak?” They shrug.

I know I’ll have to cut the carpet at this exact spot and pull all the carpet to save the floor. Easy, I think. Ain’t nothin’.  I feel she is waiting. Like the form of our relationship isn’t sorted yet. I stick out my head and ask them what food they want. KFC and some other stuff. I come back in, let you choose which camero you want. Give you those keys to keep. Say: “Please go get us food, flatscreen TV, DVD player, DVD’s, etc. while I clean up this carpet mess.” I hand her a bunch of money. I “give her” and I “do”. I am a man.

And then it comes back to the oak tree in the distance. The many limbs in the foreground and the huge trunk in the background. 

I’ve been a man before like that. Up before the sunrise for work. Nodding off on the drive home.
If I get out and work, she will come. If I get it straight again she will be there. But I don’t want her. I want ‘she-who-will-be-here-now.’ When I am not a “man” in the usual sense. 

She who will recognize that what I’m doing, and have done thus far, is what a true man can only do. But what a work-a-day man can do is what any ol’ man does.

No female sees this struggle – I’ve purposively placed myself into for a reason – no female respects it because they’re blinded by the mainstream man. They see the many limbed oak and don’t look past the acorns and leaves to the huge trunk zig-zagging into the sky (or into nothingness?) in the background.

I could still be at my job on the streets but it’s I had to do these things, all this had to be accomplished, even if she never presents herself at least I’ve found the real me in it. It’s a gamble. And I hope she comes… 

In Strength (but…) Love and Struggle,


Keep spinnin’

They break the law to punish law breakers.
Unconstitutional conditions and censorship policy.
They give us four envelopes a month.
Expecting our return to society be successful with no one.
They create these dungeons punishing anti-social behavior.
Been alone so long with no telephone, mind and family gone.

They wrestle out of our hands razors, stealing our nooses,
Yet selling us medications causing stroke, dementia, delusions.
They look into my face and consider me crazy ‘cause I smile,
Wondering why I act childish, live naked and… smile.
They believe they are God’s chosen and we are Satan’s spawn,
Going home to beat wives, child pornography and manicured lawns.
They mourn nine eleven like we didn’t deserve it.
Sending sons and daughters off terrorists hunting patriots.
They hate prisoners, Blacks, Latinos and First Nations.
White “Dark-Night-‘killer’” deserving of understanding and forgiveness.

They wonder why the world hates them beyond words.
Military bases spread like cancer the earth over.
They seem so pretty, smart, happy and photogenic,
Just the rich man’s puppets on Broadway, Hollywood, Pennsylvania Avenue.
They frown on dirty language, negative thinking, and atheists,
Dropping bombs on Nagasaki, Hiroshima, unmanned drone celebrations.
They have native sons slowly spinning their destruction.
It’s gonna come from inside, motherfuckers, have patience,
They are depressed, suicidal, owning it all and more.
Better bloody your threshold beast, prostrate yourselves on carpeted floors.
They could come in the morning and shoot me like a dog.
But it’s not going to save them, we will never stop.

They just shone their flashlight and it’s twelve o’clock.
My thirteenth Revolution ‘round Sun anniversary as pig keys walk.
They can convince you to play their lame mind games beside them.
Try and turn me snitch by compliance, you know who you are.
They’ve got you simpering, curtsying, you’re not even tortured.

Rock Solid Revolutionary expecting world to turn on me.


Who’s who

Does Al-Quaeda have military bases
In Salt Lake?
But we do over there.
Who’s terrorist
If I stole your mail out of your mailbox?
That’s a federal offense.
My mail’s stolen and tampered with daily.
Who’s the criminal?

The Department of Corrections institutionalized
My brother, my father and myself.
My nephews now are being inculcated outlaws.
Who pushes propaganda?

Ten years ago I was arrested with dope.
So skinny I slipped my handcuffs.
Ten more years to go for a bag of dope.
Liberty and Justice for whom?

Slowly my liver shuts down.
I’m dying from a curable disease
Because the prison wants to save money.
Profit over people - who’s diseased?

My hair drags on the floor when I sweep it.
My beard enters mouth with bologni and I chew it.
Five years since I’ve visited or telephoned.
Who’s in debt to society?

I’m supposed to be weak and crazy.
Yet I have stretch marks on muscle.
Two lawsuits on unconstitutional conditions and policy.
Who’s anti-social?

I hear voices gibbering on medications,
See body bags and stretchers coming and leaving.
Prison says ignore stretchers and take medications.
Ad you can go home - who’s crazy?

All this is comedy of the darkest stripe.
All one must do is see through the insanity.
All I ask is you listen carefully - don’t trust me
All alone who’s who is good guy camouflaged enemy?

The worst part in all this is I lack a harbor.
My sails snap and moan pulling on this anchor.
The worst thing is knowing you know and do nothing.
Knowing by me letting you know all this.
I should feel sorry.