The following account is from a letter written by an imate in Missouri’s Potosi Correctional Center, which houses maximum security, “high risk,” and death row prisoners. Among other things, it illustrates how small and seemingly senseless policies–like setting a limit on library books–can add to the soul-destroying boredom and isolation of solitary confinement.

Unless we have the express permission of the inmate to use his name, we choose not to do so in order to lessen the risk of retribution.

I am a prisoner at Potosi Correctional Center. I am also in ad seg for assault on staff…Ad seg is supposed to be for rehabilitative purposes. The prisoner will soon be released back into mainstream population. Potosi’s staff and administration have made this into an environment not to help the prisoner but to make the person worse.

Since I’ve been in this demoralizing place I’ve seen people go absolutely insane. Staff has created an environment that destroys the soul of a person. In doing so, it has destroyed lives. They have got people that talk to themselves all day. They got people who curse people out all day. They got people the attempt suicide for stupid reasons. They got people that eat or play with their own bodily wastes. Human beings don’t do this. Animals do. Uncivilized people do. Staff here created an environment that makes a person uncivilized.

When I say uncivilized, I’m talking about stripping away their humanity. First, they say to the person “I don’t know if you will ever get out of the hole.” They make the person lose hope for anything. Then they don’t give the person much to exercise his mind. They only provide us with one reading book a week. I myself can read a 300 page book in two days. I know others can do the same. This gives a person five days to just stare at the wall…While in the hole, we can’t order magazines or newspaper ourselves. Most people have the money but can’t even get something like a magazine or a newspaper to occupy their time because of no help from the outside. This also has a person staring at the wall. On top of all that, they forbid us from passing along these items so the ones that are fortunate to get magazine or newspaper subscriptions from people helping them on the outside, they can’t even let someone else read it. Making matters worse, we stay in our cells 24/7 unless we need to get medical, attend classification hearings, or visits.

These and many other psychological mind games are played on us constantly. I and a very few others are strong-minded so we can overcome these atrocities. We try to reach out and help these destroyed souls–the ones Potosi has turned uncivilized–and try to stop the deterioration. It only helps a little….

Then they have the audacity to send someone from Mental Health through here every week. This acknowledges the fact that guys over here are losing or have lost their minds. To add insult to injury, they hinder them from providing the real help they need. They come door to door passing out puzzles (sudoku, wordsearch, etc.). Like these puzzles are going to help a person from going insane.

Many things have been requested…about changing some of the conditions down here, from providing rehabilitative classes, initiating an incentive program, to allowing Walkmans. These and many other things are provided in other institutions except Potosi. All in a help to give the person a sense of civility in ad seg. Yet Potosi administration turns a blind eye to every grievance that comes across their desk. It’s as if they want people acting like this.

We stay in these cells day after day, month after month, year after year. We want ad seg reform. We need ad seg reform. Help us obtain ad seg reform.

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