Prison Radio
Bryant Arroyo

Now I want to address the issue of the newly imposed administrative policy throughout the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. We are in a congregated administrative custody isolation mode, as far as the functioning, with respect to the COVID-19.

The brain and nervous system, or the mind cannot function normally without stimulation, neither can it function normally when given too much stimulus. The brain and the nervous system must be maintained in a steady state. A healthy mind is a product of interaction between itself and other organisms. Along with reported intellectual impairment, perceptual deprivation, reports psychotic-like hallucinations, and affective change and extreme behavior, including extreme boredom, restlessness, irritability, anger, unrealistic fears, and anxiety, depression, physical complaints, and development of a childish sense of humor, exaggerated emotional reactions, and excessive irritation by small things.

Note: prisoners become dull from the monotonous prison experiences during confinement. As we are subjected to the newly imposed restrictions of confinement, it has become more difficult to engage in educational programs effectively under COVID-19. On 8/13/20, I personally witnessed the prisoner packing up his property to be paroled the following day. The effects of sensory and perceptual deprivation this prisoner exhibited remained with him even after his release. It is extremely difficult to adjust to the new norm because our emotional and mental mechanisms are adjusted to deprivation circumstances. There is little tolerance for the myriad of sensory input in normal environments.

The prisoners’ anxiety becomes so great that he or she will seek a means to return to prison with its decreased input and routine experiences. In the psychological sphere, cruel treatment and its results are not so fragrant, because mental destruction is less apparent than physical destruction. As an example, damage to the mind is not as visible as a withered hand. But to reality, it’s the same. Human impairment as a result of destructive treatment while in prison, when treatment in prison leads to a person’s mental impairment, by definition, that treatment must be seen as cruel and truly barbaric. The PADOC administrative’s imposition of solitary confinement is undoubtedly a constitutional form of cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.

The distinction between segregation and solitary is often no more than mere semantics. The detrimental effects of isolation and idleness are just as apparent in both solitary and segregation. Isolation as a treatment is punitive, destructive, defeats the purpose of any kind of rehabilitation efforts, and harkens back to the medieval times. There is no justification for such treatment unless your purpose is to dehumanize and destroy the mind. Prisoners are entitled, as a constitutional right, to fresh air, outdoor exercise, recreation, and educational programs while in solitary confinement, which brings me to this point: Secretary Wetzel has minimized the five weekly phone calls to once a week and five free emails vouchers to zero a week.

Furthermore, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Secretary Johnny Wetzel is noncompliant in utter contempt by defying the Center for Disease Control new protocol guidelines wherein it states 225 to 250 people can congregate amongst each other by wearing their personal equipment, masks, within the specified number of persons. Secretary Wetzel is currently disallowing the inmate population, both top, bottom tiers combined, consists of a total of 108 to 112 inmates per block, from congregating, both top and bottom tiers together. Which is a striking departure from the CDC’s 225 to 250 inmates.

Secretary Wetzel is arbitrarily and deliberately delaying the total of 108 to 112 inmates from congregating and depriving us from receiving two hours of recreation outside of our cells during the morning, afternoon, and evening hours. We ended up receiving three hours of recreation instead of six hours, because secretary Wetzel has engaged in subterfuge by making a [transcriber could not parse] pact with the correctional officers union to keep all PADOC prisons operating under these limitations by continuing to subject us inmates under the newly revised administrative custody, solitary confinement to three hours per day, punitively with impunity.

The underlying reason Secretary Wetzel previously provided us with both five free phone calls and free email vouchers was due to the implementation of social distancing that the prison population was prevented from having contact visits in the first place. We prisoners are being denied meaningful educational work programs under the PADOC’s imposed administrative isolation confinement.

As a result, prisoners are spending a substantial amount of time inside their cells, dormitories in absolute idleness. Such unbroken inactivity increases boredom, tension, and frustration, which in turn promotes incidences of violence. The evidence reflects that idleness of this magnitude destroys the human element internally, escalating into suicides, a host of medical problems, and hurt people hurting people.

I’ll depart with this final thought by James Allen: “They themselves are makers of themselves by virtue of the thoughts which they choose and encourage. That the mind is the master weaver, both of the inner garment of character and the outer garment of circumstances, and that as they may have hither to woven in ignorance and pain, that they may now know to weave enlightenment.”

For Prison Radio, Bryant Arroyo.

(Sound of a cell door closing.) These commentaries are recorded by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio.