Arizona Isolation Unit is State Run Psychological Torture

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[Control Units] [Abuse] [Mental Health] [Arizona State Prison Complex Eyman SMUI] [Arizona]

Arizona Isolation Unit is State Run Psychological Torture

I’m in the Violent Control Unit (VCU) in Florence, Arizona at ASPC Eyman - SMU I, locked away in deplorable conditions far worse than regular isolation. This unit was customarily reserved for the severely mentally ill or for prisoners with unpopular views. “The unmanageable.” The cell fronts are covered with a Plexiglas shield. There is no form of human contact in isolation. No window to the outside world. Recreation consists of four concrete (twenty foot high walls), which begins by being strip searched and then shackles are placed behind our back. Visits are non-contact for two hours that are separated by Plexiglas window, no hole in the middle to speak through or phones only a mesh screen about an inch wide along the edges of the window.

One of the many repressive tactics ADC continues to use against me is deliberately placing me in the treacherous shadows of the severely mentally ill who require serious psychiatric care. Their intended purpose is to cause psychological torture. Each prisoner is placed in direct ear shot of each other in small eight man clusters where the mentally ill bang, scream, cry, mutilate and kill themselves. Paranoia, delusions and homicidal rage begins to consume a person’s mind. Prisoners are stripped of all personal property and 24 hour illumination is endless. Stripped of all humanity except the right to remain alive.

During my second day in VCU I was food poisoned by ADC staff. The extended days, freezing nights, constant loud noises, cell walls smeared with feces, tasers, sadistic guards and K-9 dogs during this vicious era provided me with a fierce desire to stand up and speak out against inhumane conditions. I was no longer innocent, yet I discovered a deep-seated purpose to survive. For years ADC denied that such unit existed until a seasoned jailhouse lawyer – Mr. James Skinner – magically appeared and dismantled it by using a 1983 civil rights action in 2007.

I’ve spent the previous fourteen years of my life in prison learning to read, write, survive and acquire enough legal skills to navigate myself and others through the state and federal court system. Most prisoners in state prison can’t afford to hire a lawyer and are usually ill-equipped to enforce their own constitutional rights in court. The systemic deficiencies in our court system is designed to deprive us of the very thing it portrays – justice. It instead serves as a smoke screen to legitimize our mass incarceration epidemic. The hyper-technicalities and court rules makes it virtually impossible to overcome this oppressive scheme. Nonetheless, I’ve made significant progress in locating the barriers that prevents our voices from being heard and I’ve articulated a path toward reaching equality, to overcome the impediment that has kept us voiceless and faceless. Solitary confinement either brings out the best or the worse in us.

In 2012, I became involved as a class action representative contesting ADC’s unconstitutional practice of housing prisoners with pre-existing mental illnesses in isolation. Despite extensive research from several human right organizations and highly qualified mental health experts into my social history and the psychological effect my confinement has had on me including stipulations between the ACLU and ADC condemning the use of long-term isolation, ADC officials continue to profit from this unpredictable choice of rehabilitation. Holding prisoners in long-term isolation is more than inhumane – it’s detrimental to our physical health.

The eighth amendment prohibits the use of chemical agents on prisoners taking psychotropic medication because it effects the bodies ability to regulate heat and greatly increases the risk of heat related illnesses. Yet, ADC continues to use chemical agents against me as a form of a sporting event. My day to day regimen depends largely on the uncertainty of suicide. You slowly lose your grip on your willingness to survive, it’s uncontrollable!

Just so we’re clear, the law says the punishment for being convicted of a crime is the prison sentence, but the law enforcement community see the prison as a place to inflict terror and abuse upon its prisoners until all hope for humanity is lost. Prison is an unrelenting machine turning societies under-privileged around and around, faster and faster in a vicious cycle of misery, brutality, frame-ups and assassinations. It is well-documented in my institutional file that my name and number have appeared on a multitude of New Mexican Mafia “kill lists.” Despite knowledge of this information ADC has knowingly placed me on the same tier with known enemies, I’ve been involved in multiple stabbings and vicious assaults.

It’s clear as day prison only serves as a basis for recidivism and is designed to encourage violence, drug abuse, to disproportionately imprison people from low-income communities and with time has shown the “war on drugs” rhetoric was in fact propagated to thwart the civilization of a less popular class. State law prohibits educational programs for prisoners housed in solitary confinement, transitional programs from solitary to society or from isolation to a less-restrictive environment are crucial in reducing the recidivism rate, yet they’re non-existent. Why? We’re deprived of our strongest source of liberation. Lawmakers have an inherited process of discrediting and demoralizing the integrity of the elementary rights of prisoners all across the county. The target of this false premise is not only us but the U.S. Constitution itself.