Institutionalized Damaged Goods

This article is taken with permission from Nevada Prisoner Voice, May 2nd 2009:

© 2009 by the author, whose name is protected at this time. All Rights Reserved. For Permissions, Email:

Institutionalized Damaged Goods

America’s prison systems have adapted a locked down twenty-three hours a day policy in many states throughout the country.

Officials attempt to justify this policy by stating that this cuts down prison violence and crimes.

What prison administrators have clearly turned a blind eye to is the many surveys done by psychological experts showing the negative effects that this policy has on people inside prison.

I’ve witnessed many men under these conditions psychologically deteriorate, some even surrendering to suicide.

On the other hand, there are some of us that fool ourselves into finding contentment with our conditions. But the truth is, contentment is not what prisoners are feeling. That would be abnormal behavior.

What it is, is a false image we adopt to display our strength to endure, but to truly witness what we are going through is to watch us when no one is looking.

As a man dealing with this daily, I’ll give you an inside view of my struggle.

It’s a constant war between sanity and insanity because every day we’re confronted with our thoughts of failures, which alter our emotions.

I’ve built up such an open tolerance for emotional pain that I can only cry in my sleep.

I laugh sometimes, but happiness is only short lived because of the constant reminder of our situation and sins.

There are other times when I want to lash out and inflict some of the pain I feel on others. Though I’m wise enough to know that this is self-destructive behavior.

Many give in to these thoughts and become what we call “crush dummies.”

A crush dummy is a prisoner so overwhelmed with his anger that he will provoke guards into a cell extraction. This is when a group of guards enter a cell to remove a prisoner often resulting in their beating the prisoner senseless, sometimes killing the prisoner.

Prisoners are not always to blame for these attacks. Many guards who work in prisons feel that it is their job to punish prisoners. They realize it’s not hard to provoke a confrontation with a prisoner in a lock down situation.

This will give them the justification to beat prisoners.

Another effect of these conditions is that we’re faced with many losses over time, lost relationships with family and friends. Loved ones pass away. Twent-three hours a day we must deal with this with no counseling, though they have a psychological department here at this prison. It is a shameful one.

There is no medical confidentiality. All interviews are conducted at your cell door where other prisoners can hear what’s being discussed. So, most prisoners learn to suppress emotions, which becomes dangerous and may lead to a psychological meltdown.

Though many of us deserve to be in prison, we don’t deserve to be dehumanized. Some of us committed bad crimes, but that does not make us bad people.

History shows us that people can change.

I, myself, have become a better human being. But, what I fear is what I may become after being under these conditions.

So, this is a cry for your help.

Please write to your state legislative representative or congressperson.

Ask them to pass laws to abolish these lock down policies and to implement more conducive programs for prisoners, plus, private counseling in lockdown units.

Remember, many of us will once again be free.

With your help we can come out of here mentally healthy ready to be productive citizens.

If you wish to know more about our constant struggle, please feel free to contact me through: