Voices from Solitary: From the Vortex of Uinta One

The following comes to Solitary Watch from inmate Brandon Green at Utah State Prison, Draper’s Uinta One facility. The facility currently holds 91 inmates in solitary confinement, including the state’s death row. Green has been in isolation for five years, after a brief period released from prison before being rearrested.  He has been corresponding with Solitary Watch since February, and has been a prolific writer, chronicling his harrowing experience in isolation. He has described his situation, and the challenge of expressing his situation, this way: “I told my cousin that it’s like he and everyone out on the street is building a life, a “house,” while we sit holding up the roof to our past “houses” as it slowly just crumbles. How does one who is busy building understand how it is to just sit and hold up a roof? They can’t.” The following is a sampling of his writings. –Sal Rodriguez

Where to begin? How to begin? One fellow captive described Uinta One as a vortex. It just keeps sucking you in. My first experience of solitary was in 2004. I was around 21 years of age. I was put in a shower in handcuffs as they searched my cell and I slipped handcuffs from behind my back to the front, then was unable to put them back when ordered to. Thus solitary. My first taste.

I remember crying a lot at first. At night mostly, as the night crept up on me. My neighbors would want my cookies from my white sacks. And they offered all these colorful pills. “Green to sleep, red to wake up,” they’d say. So I fished off my cookies under my door to my neighbor so I could sleep instead of cry.

I remember paroling in 2006 after I’d done two stints in solitary. My mom picked me up and just to hear the music on the radio gave me cold chills. Being so long without music. Mom took me to a restaurant and we sat down to eat. I got nervous because of all the people, hopped up, went to the car and waited for her as I listened to music. I sat paranoid looking in the mirrors at all these people coming and going from their cars to stores and back. I felt like…like a bad guy. Outlaw. That no one will know what it was like to sit alone for so long with just my thoughts.

I’m pretty sure I wasn’t imagining my moms “just cried out face” as she hopped back in the car and drove us home. “How could he,” she probably thought “after all that time. Does he hate me?”

“How could she,” I thought, “after years of eating all alone, how could she not know I’d be nervous.” Neither understanding. Both blaming the other while feeling guilty ourselves.

It’s been almost five years since we’ve spoken.

I sit going on five years straight in the hole. A sound of buzzing comes from my exhaust vent because I place a piece of paper there to create sound. My door is plugged off, with white sacks, except for a small place at the bottom to allow air and mail. I go through these periods of extreme abdominal pains, blood shot eyes, dizziness because of my Hepatitis-C. I’ve not shaved or had a haircut for almost five years. I do not leave my cell unless guards do a search or I get blood tests for my disease.

My knee is pulled because of overexercise and pacing. To pace, then turn, then pace, then turn, really screws up the knees after a while.

We have these sandbags surrounding our doors so we cannot fish. Bugs get trapped under these and set up little colonies and infiltrate our cells. Most of these toilets do not flush correctly and most cell toilets stink with green moss inside the bowls. Most air vents are clogged and one can taste the city exhaust smoke as one chews ones carrots.

Just this week, a captive was antagonized by a guard. The captive requested mental health. Was laughed at (at his door and over the cell electronic speaker). He snapped, took all his “fish oil” medications, pulled his cell sprinkler then proceeded to swallow the metal sprinkler. He’s been gone days. Probably in section four–suicide watch.

Section one is death row. Sections two and three are general hole, intensive management unit. Section four is suicide watch with an officer in section 24/7 with 15 minute checks. All other sections have hourly checks. Uinta One tortures 96 people in all. 8 sections of 12 a piece. We cannot see out our doors into the sections because of a metal window flap that is clipped on. Month back someone swallowed a window clip.

Some captives have been known to stuff shampoo bottles up their ass. Shove staples in their penis. Head butt the walls. Bite holes in their wrists with their teeth. Cut out veins with fingernails–I’m guilty of that one.

No phone calls since April 2008. No radio, T.V., magazines, visits, sunshine. Here in Uinta One we are handcuffed behind the back, dogleashed, pillow-case over the head, shackled, taken to and from shower every Tues, Thurs, Saturday. It’s degrading.

Trust me

Waking up to a nosebleed

Falling Asleep in a nightmare

Growing old minus the growing up

Adolescent at almost thirty

Buried in Cement

Pig mindgames, taxpayers hate, facial hair

Cant kill yourself because they watch

Camera mounted up in the corner

Razor cut scars on inside of elbow

Brain damage, swollen liver, tired heart

Does the crazy man know he’s crazy

Dead people don’t know they’re dead

Do those who hate me count as family

Those who can’t trust me don’t count as friends

King James! Version of the Holy Bible

Verses one of his slaves’ version of peoples liberation

White nation labor aristocrats bought off by King

Off with their heads–Away with their playthings

Give them cowards three meals and smelly mattress

Flatscreen TVs

Tuned 24/7 to the new

Revolutionary TV

Lynch mob soda repackaged justice soda

Law and order on can

Inside a caffeinated Jim Crow

Flavored with a War on Drugs

AKA PIG social control quota

Waking up to the nightmare

Falling asleep to the mindwash

Old man at almost thirty buried in cement

Growing old without the giving up

Comments

  1. Dr. Annamaria Grabowski says:

    Hallo, is this right to publish this poem?
    Please, ask for me!
    My English isn´t perfect, but my heart burns for fight for prisoners ….
    Dr. Annamaria Grabowski

  2. Judy Belanger says:

    So thankful for you for sharing, the world will know. My heart goes to you. My heart is so broken to know I can not do anything except let others know. DO NOT GIVE UP….this is the whole mind set.

  3. Alan CYA # 65085 says:

    I bet the man’s mother had been crying at the restaurant because she realized what prison had done to her son not because she believed that he had left because of her. When he walked out she must have realized that she had lost him. And now she cannot bare to visit the shell of her son holding up the roof of his life. I am deeply moved by his words that carry so much pain and offer so little hope for a positive outcome. I fear the damage is so great that it can never be repaired and the roof will collapse on him soon.

  4. James Ridgeway and Jean Casella says:

    Anna: This author definitely wants his work to be read, so you can feel free to publish it on your website. Please include his name and mention that it appeared on Solitary Watch. Thank you.

  5. Annabelle says:

    Brandon has been a faithful and great penpal and friend since a few years, i am glad and proud to see his words here. They break my heart and motivate me to continue.

  6. Annabelle says:

    More from Brandon here: brandongreensblog.blogspot.com

  7. DIANA MONTES-WALKER says:

    My son is in Solitary as well; has been for 3 very dark years. He is also mentally ill. The darkness of solitary confinement only worsens his mental state. They tell me they are providing him with the “state-of-the-art” mental health care. These people have total control over my son; there is no “therapy” when he is handcuffed and shackled every time he is out of that cell. There is no therapy when he never sees the sunshine; is never able to speak freely with others, cannot hear a bird sing, cannot get a hug from his parents, his family member, but can only speak to them through glass & on a phone. He says he feels like a caged animal; he is trapped. He has never been convicted of a crime, yet they keep him like this with no end in sight. Where is the justice? Where is the compassion? how does this cruelty help society in any way? Our entire family feels as though we, too, are in prison.

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