The following comes from Joe (pseudonym), a minor who has been incarcerated since last summer, held in solitary confinement for over six months. In his letter to Solitary Watch, he describes his life on 23-hour-a-day lockdown in a jail where he has no access to any rehabilitation or other programs, classes or church. He recounts in detail in his letter the conditions to which he is exposed on a daily basis; the jail is windowless, without sunlight or fresh air. Joe talks about a “waiver,” by which, in this case, he means going before a judge, who, considering his age, will order he be treated as a minor.
Following Joe’s letter is an “inventory of grievances” he prepared regarding the conditions he endures. His list states that, in this jail, which he describes as hot and filthy, he is on some days denied his hour out, refused any sort of mental health services, and is provided with no opportunities for outside recreation. He writes, “Experiences like this, I promise you, I am never locking up an animal or anything living in a box, tank, or cage.” –Lisa Dawson
Waking up almost every day at around 2 or 3 am, the first thing I see is the wall my bed is connected to. When I see this, I sigh and say, “I’m still here.” Another day, is the only way I can put this without actually trying to calculate my last days. Oh, by the way, it’s 23/1 lockdown where I am housed. That’s the best they have for juveniles. I’ve been on lockdown for 7-1/2 months and counting. How do I do it? The strength of my almighty Father God, the support from my loved ones, and the determination to become something great. I can help other kids in my position.
I don’t get any programs, school classes, or church, because I’m 17. Crazy, right? Well if you think that’s crazy, check this out: the location in the jail I am housed in, there’s no sunlight, no windows, no fresh air, and no outside rec. The only times I get to see the sun is on court dates (for about 10 minutes, altogether).
It’s funny, because a lot of adults, grown men, who come in and out of jail/prison ask me, a 17 year old kid, how I stay sane without my natural resources and on lockdown. “It is what it is,” is usually what I tell them.
Every day I’m in here, I try to plan my hour out of the cell: who am I going to call, how long will the call be, how long can I walk around, and how long will my shower take. Even when I get back to my cell, I plan: how long should I read this book, how long should I study the books a friend gave me, how long should I spend writing my life stories, how long will I draw, etc. If you try to read all day, you’re setting yourself up for failure, because once you’ve finished the book(s), you have absolutely nothing to keep you occupied, and you slowly lose your mind. Many people would say sleep, ha! You can only sleep so much, and if you do sleep all day, the next day is going to be a long 23 hours for you.
It’s amazing how the jail is getting away with this. Mind blowing, really, because I’m a kid, surviving without my daily needs ever day, while some adults can’t even do this for one week.
So, I was arrested on August 13, 2013. My first waiver hearing was January 6, 2014. No one was ready, so it was postponed. Okay, cool. Another two months on lockdown; you can imagine my excitement. So the next waiver hearing is March 24, 2014. Now the excuse is that the schedule was too packed in the courtroom to get to my case. Mind you, I was sitting in the courtroom for at least 45 minutes before the Judge came in. My public defender said, “You’re getting postponed.” Again. Okay, now I’m immediately pissed, but I can’t show it, so I’m clenching my jaw so hard I nearly draw blood. Then, to add insult to injury, he says that the next hearing date is June 11, 2014. Okay….pause….let me rephrase that. Got here August 13, 2013, been trying to get waived down, first hearing date January 6, 2014 is postponed, next date March 24, 2014 is postponed, and the next date, June 11, 2014 is yet to come, but keep this in mind – I turn 18 on July 17, 2014. Now let me ask you, do you see what they’re trying to do? They’re trying to wait until I’m 18 so they can say, “He’s 18. We can’t waive him down” or whatever.
Yeah, but back to the jail. They open, scan, and reseal outgoing mail, and, of course, the same for incoming mail. Then, for visiting, you get one 30-minute visit per week, and depending on who’s working that day, you might not get your entire 30 minutes.
Next up, the medical staff. I had heart surgery when I was an infant, tricuspid artesia was the name of the operation. Ever since I can remember, I’ve had to take medicine. I take Bayer aspirin and Enalpril daily, to keep my blood thin through my veins and arteries. So, for about 2-1/2 months, I wasn’t getting them here. I asked about it almost daily, and I always got the “I’ll check” response. Then one day, I suffered from a really bad head and stomach pain, and had to go to medical. After we talked about what was wrong, they asked if I took meds (should have known the answer to that; they’re medical). I told them I was supposed to be taking my heart meds, and when she pulled the charts, she said, “Oh well. No one renewed the prescription for 2 months. Don’t worry; we’ll renew it”. All I could say was wow.
Next subject, my cell. The worst part about this cell is the dust. There’s two vents in here, one that blows dirty air and one that circulates the air poorly. There’s so much dust in the vents, if I tap on them, I damn near have an asthma attack..
Experiences like this, I promise you, I am never locking up an animal or anything living in a box, tank, or cage.
All in all, this is my world at this point in my life. I deal with it every day. This all for a kid whose 10th grade classes consisted of honors English 10, AP world history, French III, Spanish I, trigonometry, Honors chemistry, dance, Honors biology, and foundations of technology. It is what it is. I just have to stay strong and live my life to the fullest; and as of now, that’s reading and increasing my English and writing attributes. This and more, from Americas Secrets Exposed. Good day, citizens.
Inventory of Grievances
• Terrible medical staff (I can elaborate on this – boys given the wrong medications, not given needed medications, etc.)
• 23/1 lockdown
• Juveniles are not allowed razors for shaving; have to use head clippers
• No education until you are 18
• No counseling or other programs until you are 18
• No church until you are 18
• Segregated from everything
• Get denied phone time
• Some days, they don’t pull me out for my hour
• “Going off” is the only way to get something
• Because I’m young, they don’t take me seriously
• Had to have my people spend money for educational books, because the jail doesn’t provide them
• Librarian rarely comes; if I try to keep extra books, they take them
• When you put in a slip to speak to someone, it goes unanswered
• No exercise equipment or outdoor rec
• No sunlight
• No fresh air
• They never clean the vents
• Because we are over the laundry room, we get fumes that make you dizzy
• Supervisors that “don’t do shit”
• They lose/almost lose possessions
• They open court mail before they are in front of me
• The lights never go out
• We go to court, sit in the bullpen, and visit with adults, and we are housed with adults, but we can’t be out with them
• No fruit whatsoever
• When I wash my clothes, they always come back damp
• T-Block is the dustiest place in the jail
• Also used as the intake area – people come in here straight off the streets, coughing and throwing up
• Always hot
• Gave me a job, but never let me out to do it
• Because I am locked down, I had to start taking anxiety pills (this is true for many of the boys)
• They hold my mail
• They give me pills I don’t need, and for almost 2 months, I wasn’t getting pills I need (medication for a heart condition)
• I had to use the same contact lens solution for almost 3 weeks, even though I kept asking for more of the solution my family had brought in.
• Sometimes they cut my hour short (time out of the cell)
• The boy who does not speak English is routinely skipped over for time out of his cell, and they don’t give him anything (I am hoping to get a list from him)
• Maintenance never fixes anything