Prison Radio
Peter “Pitt” Mukuria

This is Comrade Pitt. Once again, thanks for tuning in and thanks for your time.

In my seventeen years of incarceration, majority of that time I’ve been in solitary confinement in my home state of Virginia. I’ve witnessed and experienced some of the most barbaric, inhumane treatment and conditions a human being can be subjected to.

I recall when the torture of prisoners in Guantánamo Bay was exposed to the public. A vast majority of people were surprised that the CIA–their own government–would deliberately torture people, the very same thing that they condemned other nations of doing. Ah, talk about hypocrisy—it’s as American as apple pie.

Having years of constant isolation through solitary confinement, one would think that surely I’ve been through the hardest of the hardest, and to some degree what I’ve been through while in prison, but specifically solitary confinement, has indeed been brutal.

But that was in Virginia. Since I’ve been here at Jessup Correctional Institution in the state of Maryland, I got served a fabricated disciplinary refraction, which was justified to place me in solitary confinement. Now, typically, according to Maryland’s Department of Corruption, in hearing procedure, after a disciplinary infraction is served, a hearing is typically conducted within 48 hours. But in my case, it took two weeks before a hearing was conducted.

At the hearing, I actually called two other guards as witnesses and simply asked them to just tell the truth. I’m not asking for any favors—I just simply want them to, you know, tell the truth and let the truth speak for itself. And for the first time in my incarceration, two guards actually testified and told the truth, which then the hearing officer found me not guilty and dismissed the fabricated disciplinary infraction, and was subsequently released from solitary confinement and back to general population.

While I was in solitary confinement for those two weeks, I quickly realized how prisoners’ protected constitutional rights were, and have been, infringed upon for years before I was even transferred here: outside recreation an hour a day, seven days a week, and showers three times a week, our basic rights which prisoners in solitary are entitled to.

Here at Jessup Correctional Institutions, those in disciplinary segregation and administrative segregation are deprived of environmental stimuli, due to the fact that we don’t get outside recreation. In each segregation housing unit, it’s supposed to have golf cages outside, in the back of the building, in order to ensure prisoners can go outside to get some fresh air. Here, recreation is a prisoner being escorted from his cell to a day room inside the building. So you never go outside. The most a prisoner can spend in segregation here is up to 90 days, which means one can go maybe up to 90 days without any environmental stimuli.

Also, the same rights which guarantee prisoners the right to environmental stimuli also guarantee prisoners the right to shower three times a week. But here, prisoners in the segregation unit only get showers two times a week.

Other issues in violation, which exacerbate the condition of confinement, are there is no air conditioner in the hot summer days. And given that you only are able to take showers twice a week, you can only imagine when you’re sitting in the cell, you’re sweating, and you only get to shower twice a week. Yeah, so there’s no air conditioner in the hot summer days, and no heat in the brutal winter season.

There’s also like major plumbing issues, which causes constant cell flooding. The guards are supposed to make rounds every 30 minutes, but in the course of an eight-hour shift, they might make rounds maybe twice. I also notice how prisoners here actually have cellmates in segregation. That, I believe, is something that can have deadly outcomes.

Furthermore, the warden, assistant warden, chief of security, and the major never make any rounds, which doesn’t help in addressing any issues, which means that they only hear one side of the story, which is typically from their employees, who are more than likely won’t tell them any issues that prisoners may be complaining about.

The way in which segregation is operating highlights how ignorant, naive, or indifferent the prison administration is to the psychological impact segregation can cause. The Supreme Courts have even ruled and found that even 15 days of segregation is long enough to cause irreversible psychological damage. Either this is something they don’t know, which I find hard to believe, or they simply don’t give a damn. The latter is more likely than the former.

Maintaining family and community ties is something which helps incarcerated people deal with the hardship of their incarceration and helps them to prepare to reintegrate back into society upon release. But for those in disciplinary segregation, which is the time that they are the most mentally vulnerable in dealing with their isolation, they are deprived of the ability to make phone calls. I know when I’ve been through the most difficult phases of my incarceration, while I was isolated, communicating with my loved ones is really what got me through those hard times. This culture [inaudible] existing inside these places just simply has to come to a stop. It simply has to come to a stop. You know, prisoners, we’re not demanding anything extra. We’re just simply demanding that we be treated as human beings, nothing more, nothing less.

Once again, this is Comrade Pitt. I appreciate your time. Thank you for your time. I hope that you all have a great morning or evening, whatever time it is on your end. Thank you.

These commentaries are recorded by Prison Radio.