The following account is by Nicole Natschke, who was incarcerated at Illinois’s Logan Correctional Facility, where she spent significant time — including one year straight — in segregation. Logan, which is about three hours south of Chicago, was repurposed from a men’s prison to imprison women from the shuttered Dwight and Lincoln Correctional Centers. The prison, which has a rated capacity of 1,106, currently holds 1,950 people. A December 2014 report by the John Howard Association described the dismal conditions at the “overcrowded [and] underresourced” prison.
Natschke was originally scheduled to be released in December 2014 after 14 months in prison, but her segregation sentence extended her time in prison. Shortly after her arrival in segregation, a woman in the adjoining cell committed suicide. Her account, titled “Solitary Confinement Is Torture,” shows that even a few weeks or months in solitary confinement can have dire consequences on people’s physical and mental well-being. Nicole Natschke turned twenty-one while behind bars and celebrated her twenty-second birthday in solitary. She was released in late 2015. —Victoria Law
My name is Nicole Natschke. I am currently housed in segregation at Logan Correctional Facility in Illinois. Here at this fine institution, we are locked down 24 hours a day. We shower every four days maybe. If we act up, they sometimes refuse to shower you, although that’s against regulations. I’ve gone 12 days without a shower. Now that we have a new warden, the rules have changed. Before she started working here, for example, you would not be segregated for an unauthorized movement. Now, you must do two months in this miserable place. You would think segregation is supposed to be for violent offenders? No, now everyone comes to segregation. My cellmate, Gina, was feeling homicidal and asked for a mental health evaluation. Instead, they threw her in segregation and said she refused housing. When you refuse housing, they give you three months segregation. Gina has been in segregation for nine days and still has no sheets or blankets because they lost some of her property. She sleeps on the cold, plastic mattress. I share one of my blankets. All these non-violent “offenses” and people are doing a very long time in segregation. Gina has also never, not once, gotten into trouble in the four years she’s been incarcerated! You want to know what violent offenses carry? They carry the least amount of time in segregation. If you get into a fight, you’ll do 15 days in seg. If you assault someone, you’ll do 30 days. Everything non-violent carries more than 30 days in seg!
You can’t even ask for mental help because they’ll throw you in segregation. I am in here because I had a seizure and was handcuffed and thrown into a wall by a lieutenant. I was not supposed to be handcuffed because I just had a seizure. I flipped out, panicked and spit on him. I’ve been in segregation six months. I should’ve went home December 3, 2014, but they are keeping me here until August 3, 2015. I have to be in segregation the whole time. The past six months have been hell. I’ve seen my friend commit suicide next door to me. While the police were waiting for her body to be transferred, they made jokes about how now there’s more bed space. My friend—RIP Shortybang—shouldn’t have even been in segregation. The police ignored her cries for help. They still ignore people when people say they are suicidal or homicidal. They don’t see us as someone’s daughter, mother, or sister…They see us as a number, as bed space, as criminals. I’ve talked to many women in this prison and I haven’t met one yet who hasn’t been abused, raped, etc., in their life. I’ve heard the worst stories. I don’t know about other women, but when I’m in segregation, alone, locked in this six foot by ten foot cell for 24 hours per day, I start thinking about my life. I have a very messed-up past. Mainly when I was younger, but that wasn’t that long ago.
I will turn twenty-two in seg on April 6th. Long periods of solitary confinement are not healthy, especially for women like me who have severe PTSD and depression. I’ve attempted suicide so many times I lost count! Now what makes anyone think it’s okay to put me alone in a cell for over a year? You might think I’m being treated by a psychiatrist? Yes, but she refuses to put me on the correct medications. I see the psychiatrist through a TV once every two months, maybe, and she refuses to look at my records and see that I need certain medications. So, if I’m having severe issues just trying to survive day by day, I know others are as well. That’s why so many people are yelling constantly that they’re suicidal. This is a very depressing place.
Another serious issue, medical…I have been begging to see the doctor for six months since I got in segregation. I wrote grievances about health care in segregation. I hope and pray that things will change back here. Even something as simple as how officers treat us would change a lot. I’ll do whatever I can from the inside and hope people listen to what I have to say. Just because I made one mistake in life doesn’t mean I deserve this suffering. I am somebody’s daughter. I have a great family. I should be home. I want to stop this from happening to others.
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