“It will be six years this October when my son has been locked up. He’s not the same person he was when he first went in. I don’t know who’s done what to him, but all I can tell you that he’s not the same. I can’t get a conversation out of him anymore. He speaks a language no one understands. He speaks in numbers and growls as if he’s not human- as if he’s not human. My family and I just came back from seeing him. His hair is nappy and out-of-control and all of his face, his teeth are yellow and [inaudible]. He looks like he only weighs 90 pounds. He went to prison healthy and he takes care of himself. It seems to me that they just put him in a hole and then just left there and forgot about him. When I tell you his suffering is really bad. I need help to get my son out of that prison, out of that state.”
Now this was part of a letter I received from a mother who has a son incarcerated at the same facility that I’m also confined in, which is Red Onion State Prison in the state of Virginia, solitary confinement.
This letter and the concerns described are a testament to the grave, negative psychological effects of human beings having to spend an expensive and indefinite period of time locked in a cell 22 to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, deprived of human context, social interaction, environment, stimulation, etcetera.
This is a recipe for psychological damage. If it’s a [inaudible] damage that prolonged solitary confinement inflicts on the prisoner is typical and severe compared to that stuff about prisoners confined in the general population. Those housed in solitary confinement are under the greatest risk experiencing overt paranoia, impulse control, distorted perceptions, suicidal thoughts and/or behavior, rage, chronic depression, emotional numbing, and an inability to form intimate relationships, hallucination, loneliness, and psychological issues verging on outright insanity.
No prisoner is exempt from experiencing these types of psychological issues as described. Wasn’t the objective of incarceration supposed to have been rehabilitation? Subjecting to human beings to solitary confinement can lead them to experiencing long-lasting and permanent behavior changes that can inhibit their reintegration into general population or society upon release, which can make them a lot [inaudible] to their community rather than assets, which can translate into recidivism.
In this beautiful state of Virginia, the practice of long-term solitary confinement [inaudible]. I am in special management, SM. As those classified as I am, they are subject to indefinite solitary confinement with no release in the foreseeable future. Despite their behavior ameliorating and completing the program, they will never be released to general population.
Virginia is a state that houses [inaudible] prisoners who are considered to have committed the worst crimes in the state of Virginia. However, even they aren’t subject to such restrictive confinement. For example, they’re able to interact other prisoners, they’re locked- they’re not locked in individual dog cages during outside recreation, they’re able to have [inaudible] recreation together, etcetera.
Disguising long-term solitary confinement as a rehabilitation program reflects the abandonment of any notion of rehabilitation and [inaudible], completely disregarding the great negative psychological damage it inflicts on human beings.
It is an issue worth being challenged in all levels, and public involvement is also extremely critical. I currently have a case pertaining to [inaudible] long-term solitary confinement, which is pending in Virginia Court of Appeals, to which an oral argument will be held by a three-judge panel scheduled October 26th, 2017 at 8:00 AM.
Subsequently on the 27th, an audio recording of the hearing will be made available for the public. I ask and encourage any and all listeners to visit www.ca4.uscourts.gov. My case number is Peter Mukuria, P E T E R, last name Mukuria, M U K U R I A. My case number 715-CZ-00172. Number: 16-7371.
And listen to the merits of this case, as well as the judge’s opinions. Hopefully this case serves as a blueprint for others as we fight to end the practice of long-term solitary confinement, and not just in Virginia but nationally. Thanks for your time, and thanks for listening. My name is Peter Mukuria, incarcerated at Red Onion State Prison. Thanks.
These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.