Voices from Solitary: A Day in the Life, Part IV

This post is the next in a series of pieces Solitary Watch is publishing as part of a project calling for people held in solitary confinement to write on various proposed themes. Our first suggested theme, ”A Day in the Life,” calls for writers to describe a day in his or her life in solitary confinement (read previous entries here).

The following comes from Kenny Zulu Whitmore, a political prisoner and former member of the Black Panther Party at Angola correctional facility in Louisiana, who has spent a total of 35 years in Closed Cell Restriction, 28 of which have been served consecutively. In his piece, Zulu describes the inhumane conditions to which he has been subjected in near sensory deprivation for the last three-and-a-half decades

Zulu welcomes letters from supporters and can be reached by writing Kenny Zulu Whitmore, 86468 D-Hawk/CCR-4L, Lousiana State Prison, Angola, LA 70712 or on his blog at Freezulu.org.  –Lisa Dawson

Kenny Zulu Whitmore holding the autobiography of Angola Three member Robert Hillary King

Zulu holding the autobiography of Angola Three member Robert Hillary King

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My Prolonged Isolation of 35 Years on Angola’s CCR, the equivalent of solitary confinement

I have been held in CCR for a total of 35 years, 28 years of which have been consecutive. For over threedecades, I have been held in a 6×9’ cell, but because of the bunk bed on one wall and the lavatory-washbasin-combination toilet on the back wall, I have only 4×3 feet of actual floor space to live in, 24/7. This has been my existence for 35 years, with the exception of one hour a day when I am given an hour on the tier to shower, exercise or just walk the hall. Three days a week, weather permitting, I am also placed in full restraints: waist chain, handcuffs and leg irons. We are permitted to wear a jump suit with only boxers and a T-shirt, not fitting considering the cold winter season. During these cold winter months, for example, there are only nine (9) coats for 52 men, some of whom exercise in the coat, while others blow their noses on the sleeves of the coat, etc. So you either wear this outwear as is or you refuse your hour out for recreation.

In the Closed Cell Restrictive Unit, the cells are both poorly lighted and ventilated, causing various health problems. Many men held on CCR wear prescription glasses, because of the lack of light in the cell. Inside the cell itself, you have a vision span of only 11 feet because you cannot see out of the small window.

During the hot summer months, the outdated ventilation system causes the temperatures in the cells to reach 100-110 degrees, resulting in stress and hypertension. I am now on two different kinds of high blood pressure medications (Carzaar, Novac). My eyesight has greatly deteriorated. That has nothing to do with age, as I have a degenerative muscle in my left eye, which causes it to involuntarily move, resulting in double vision.

CCR is a non-punitive housing unit, but the men housed on CCR are prohibited from participating in any of the educational and religious programs. We are not allowed to learn meaningful job skills that could be transferred in the event of re-entry.

After 35 years in CCR solitary confinement, my visitors have been restricted to only immediate family. I can no longer have visits with my nieces, nephews, cousins or friends. Why else would this restriction be put in place besides to punish prisoners? When visitation is such a vital tool in the rehabilitation process, inmate visits with family and friends helps to prepare one to re-enter society. This visiting restriction that has been in place for two years only creates undue hardship for the inmates, their families and friends. There is no penological reason that justifies this restriction that “only applies to the 100 men on Angola’s CCR/solitary confinement” and no other inmates at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.

Inmates here at Camp-D CCR are punished and retaliated against when we speak out against the violation of our rights under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA). Look what happened to Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, and what is happening to Albert Woodfox right now with the degrading, humiliating body cavity searches which he endures up to six times a day. Only because he questioned why he has been denied contact visitation with family and friends.

No doubt, I too will be retaliated against once this article becomes public knowledge, but sacrifices must be made to bring about change. The U.S. is a democratic society today because of those like Crispus Attucks , who made the ultimate sacrifice.

“Freedom ain’t never been free.” –Kenny Zulu Whitmore


Comments

  1. Dear sir. My prayers go out to you and your family.. I have 15 yr old son who is in smu.in mcso jail ..being tried as an adult. I am a member of aclu. And will continue to fught to stop solitary confinement. ..be strong…

  2. Joe Gonzalez says:

    Mr. Zulu

    I find your narrative detailed and informing. I would like to ask you if you would mind sharing with this audience the specific nature of the offenses you committed outside and inside prison which placed you in your current predicament. I don’t condone torture, however, if your conditions do in fact violate constitutional laws then I would suggest you spend time preparing Writs for the courts to address the conditions. Keep in mind Mr. Zulu none of us were born in prison, the majority of people make it there due to mistakes, bad judgement, or just careless disregard for other people. In most cases people have to commit multiple mistakes to get to your situation. How many did you make ? Prison is not suppose to be nice and comfortable. Prisoners should not be treated like dignitaries or celebrities. Now you are complaining of in humane treatment, well why didn’t you stay out of there and behave. I realize you have been there a long time which indicates you made major mistakes. Here is my point in summation. You put your self there now deal with it. You probably showed no compassion or consideration to your victims. Stop sniveling and be a man.

  3. People says:

    Joe Gonzalez, you must have not read this:
    http://www.freezulu.org/p/2012-statement-by-kenny-zulu-whitmore.html

    Please stop jumping to conclusions and learn about the unjust justice system.

  4. Joe Gonzalez says:

    Response: I am not jumping to anything. I share my opinions based on my personal experience and knowledge. I would appreciate if you would read my messages thoroughly or have someone educated to read them to you. I am well aware that our justice system has flaws and is not perfect. Innocent people have been victimized in the United States since it’s birth. I do believe that there are improvements that should be made however for now I believe our system is one of the best on earth. I am also a Marine Corp veteran, born and raised in this country. Who ever feels so strongly that our judicial system or government is so bad the I suggest you pack up your property and get the hell out of this country. Go cry and complain in Iran or China I am sure they will listen up until the day they hang you. I know what I write about, I suggest you do a little research before you start insulting people.

  5. Eileen Siple says:

    Mr. Gonzalez, first let me say that you have no business belittling others and making inferences regarding their intelligence, when your own response is filled with grammatical and punctuation error. He who lives in glass houses…

    I’m not sure what would motivate you to come to a site like this and spew such nonsense. I think you should at least try to understand that most of us love this country; we would rather try to fix the problems within our country than flee our country – and yes, it is our country, too. I appreciate your service to our country, but it would seem to me that you, as someone who has fought to protect the rights of the people in this country, should be outraged by the trampling of the rights of a particular segment of our population. Nobody here will tell you that a guilty person should go unpunished. We do, however, believe that the punishment should not be one that is considered inhumane by the rest of the world. Our nation is better than that, and it is our responsibility, as good citizens, to ensure that all of our inmates are treated in a matter that is humane and leaves them amenable to rehabilitation.

  6. Joe Gonzalez says:

    Ms. Siple
    I respect your response and opinion. I understand perfectly the quest to improve our judicial and correctional system. Considering that this country is the youngest on the planet, I believe we have made considerable progress since 177. Have we reached our goals, no, it will be an ongoing process which will continue to change as new generations become of age. I have clearly stated in my messages that I do not oppose improvement, however, it becomes a little frustrating to read comments from people pleading for changes for these convicted criminals as if they are being treated inhuman. Prison should be a deterrent, it should represent punishment. We want our young people to understand what will happen if they decide to live a lawless lifestyle. I also believe that we should focus a substantial amount of our attention and resources on our young people. Our core values have deteriorated significantly over the years to accommodate an influx of different cultures and races. Why don’t we say the Pledge of Alligence in our schools. Parents cannot discipline their own children anymore. Too many people are selling drugs in this country. You are absolutely correct, I joined the Marine Corps. I was happy to sacrifice my life for this country and I still am. I was raised during a time when kids were taught wrong from right, I was taught to believe in God and country. I was raised patriotic, and to respect the lives and property of others. That is why I am not sitting in one of those cells. I have my opinion and it is justified. If any of those individuals was wrongly convicted then I support their crusade to be retried. If they were not, then I say, stop complaining. They put themselves there. They had a choice just like the rest of us. We have choices in this country, we can do right, get educated, get good employment and live in nice areas to raise our families. I have been assigned to a military brig. I have supervised prisoners. I have also conducted sociological projects within the California Department of Corrections. Unfortunately there are some individuals that should not be allowed to return to society. Please keep in mind that the conditions they may experience now are most likely a result of their actions. Also, keep in mind the victims that these individuals created as a result of their indiscretion.
    Let me say in closing, that I have every right to convey my opinion in this forum as anyone else. I am sorry if my opinion does not conform to yours or anyone else’s. But I believe that is the purpose of this website. Regardless, I will continue to convey my opinion on this and any other website where I feel people have lost touch with reality. Please excuse my bad spelling, grammar, and punctuation. A PHD does not make a person perfect.

  7. Joe Gonzalez says:

    1776 sorry Ms. Siple, an over site.

  8. uneducatedpeopleposethebiggestconcernrsasawhole says:

    love joes MEANINGFUL EDUCATED comments!Elieen welcome to reality! This is a real world with real consequences(this in a way should make you sleep easier at night). How people find pity for these less desirables individuals blows my mind. The only comments that should be taken serious are the ones that weigh the entirety of the situation these scum bags have gotten them selves into.

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