The Voice of the Anti-Imperialist Movement from

Under Lock & Key

Expand ULK. Send us $50 concealed cash with an address and we'll send you a stack of each issue for the next year. help out
[Control Units] [Mental Health]
expand

U.S. Prisons Prove Maddening

Prison Madness: the Mental Health Crisis Behind Bars and What We Must Do About it
Terry Kupers, M.D.
Jossey-Bass Publishers
1999

Dr. Terry Kupers is an ally in the struggle to abolish Control Units in prisons, and more generally to provide basic humyn needs for those incarcerated. While this book focuses on mental health, Kupers takes a systematic look at the prison system and the criminal injustice system in general, but he does it from a liberal perspective. This book is written for a general audience and provides an introduction to conditions in u$ prisons for those who are unfamiliar. For those who have been there or who read Under Lock & Key on a regular basis, the anecdotes of his clients will be nothing new. Some of the most interesting aspects of the book are the facts explaining the effects of isolation and medication on mental health and Kupers' alternative recommendations for group therapy and normal humyn interactions for rehabilitating people. Prison Madness by Terry Kupers, M.D.

What Kupers does not say is that mental health in a system of oppression requires an adaptation to that oppression that can either be done through acceptance and denial or through struggle. He only goes part way, saying that racism in arrests, imprisonment and treatment in prisons is a major factor in creating mental health problems in the oppressed who feel they have no recourse to defend themselves. He also acknowledges social ills in the general community that are taking a toll. But without pointing his finger at the system behind the symptoms, his book only calls for reforms of that system.

As someone who spends a lot of time in court rooms, arguing against prison officials and repressive district attorneys, you can see how this may have shaped the forms of the arguments made in his book. Kupers stresses the logic of helping prisoners to become better adapted to society so that they can be productive members when they get out; and over 90% will get out some day. (p.87) This is usually a good place to start when discussing Control Units with someone who is skeptical of our campaign to shut them down. But at other times Kupers goes too far in accepting some of the positions of the tough on crime politicians by minimizing them and not flat out rejecting them.

For instance, in taking on the accusation that most of the prisoners are faking mental illness to get attention and the better conditions of the mental health units he says, "some are faking their symptoms- but not as many as the guards and mental health staff accuse." (p.34) This comes after a paragraph of discussing the various reasons that prisoners resort to throwing feces at guards and other inmates. He argues that some do it because they feel no other recourse against guards, and others do it in retaliation to a mentally ill prisoner who had hit them first. So what we see is all of the prisoners (and guards as well) reacting to an oppressive situation. In other words they are acting how they deem to be appropriate in the situation they are given, to say that some actions are 'fake' skirts the real issue. Some will react better than others, and be able to deal better than others. But to say that they are therefore "faking it" when they act in certain ways is contradictory to the position Kupers takes elsewhere on the inhumane conditions of Control Units and their effects on humyn beings. Even if a prisoner is consciously acting that way to get attention, there is nothing fake about it, it is an act of self-preservation in the face of extreme oppression. When the system is the problem it becomes irrelevant to draw a line between the 'fakers' and the truly sick. This is especially true when in the majority of suicide cases Kupers has looked into, the person had a note in their chart saying they were "manipulating," meaning they were faking their mental problems. (p.184)

Similarly, in his chapter on 'Recommendations for Treatment and Rehabilitation,' he writes, "We need to stop sending nonviolent drug offenders and mentally disordered felons onto prison yards with murderers and rapists". Again, we are dealing with degrees of sickness here. The "tough on crime" media and politicians like to talk about "murderers" and "rapists" as if that is what some people are from cradle to grave. But those being labeled "murderers and rapists" are a product of the same social system as all of us. Here we are dealing with a situation where questions of individual mental health are far less important than questions of social sickness. Kupers' point that we need to keep the small time criminals away from the violent criminals is a good argument under the current system because we see the effects of such integration in u$ prisons. It is an environment that forces most people into choosing between joining the ranks of the violent criminals or becoming a victim. But if we broaden our goals to actually overthrowing the current system and instituting a system where healthy behavior was promoted even within prisons, we can move away from the myth that there is a new breed of "super criminals" that can only be killed or put in isolation for the rest of their lives.

Prisoners suffering from mental illness that are lucky enough to get treatment in prison usually just get put on medications. Not only does this not solve the problem, but it can make life more dangerous for the prisoner due to delayed reactions and increased fears of leaving their cell. Kupers describes meds as a band-aid for the symptoms of mental illness; if not accompanied by group treatment and socialization then there will be no meaningful improvements. He even cites cases that demonstrate that the need for meds decrease when prisoners leave the Control Units. This fact alone is a damning one for any who tries to argue for the necessity of Control Units.

'Prison Madness' looks at the various cyclical aspects of the system that help create people that are harder to reform due to worsening mental states. He argues that many prisoners suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) upon arrival in prison from things like sexual abuse and witnessing extreme violence at a young age. Yet, being isolated in a cell, with no humyn contact or activities to occupy the body or mind, is itself a cause of PTSD, which only encourages worse behavior and worsening of the persyn's mental health. Movement to isolation usually means being moved farther from family, which translates into less visits from loved ones and once again, a worsening mental state. Estimated suicide rates in prisons are two times that in general u$ population and rates in jails are nine times more common than on the outside. (p.175)

We must point out however, that Kupers' discussion of PTSD does not serve our struggle very well. He is quick to grant the diagnosis to the majority of oppressed nation youth as well as wimmin who end up in prison. But the symptoms of PTSD can include very understandable actions like throwing things at someone who keeps you locked in a cage all day. With an open-ended diagnosis like PTSD it almost serves to further criminalize those groups, because hey, they've been traumatized and might act crazy as a result. He gives this as a reason for the increased imprisonment of oppressed youth, as well as for why they end up in isolation. Once again, we see the shortcomings of psychology and the need for a class analysis. Instead of using the histories of current inmates as way to argue that the problem is societal, let's just look at the society and recognize how it is set up and in our case which groups have power over other groups and how that is transforming the interactions of those groups. If we really want to tackle systematic problems we have to use a systematic approach, we need to connect the millions of people that know that this is a system of oppression, not keep people stuck on their own individual past and problems.

Kupers' interest in changing the horrifying conditions he describes in 'Prison Madness' is made clear in the third part of his book dedicated to recommendations and courses of action. For the most part we don't disagree with any of it except that it doesn't go far enough. In talking about litigation, where he has spent some time, he includes a healthy dose of skepticism as to how much it can accomplish. He puts forth a nice mental health program for u$ prisons and then criticizes the "tough on crime" culture. While the examples of the Danish prison system he describes are encouraging, that is a small scale system in a wealthy imperialist country. To provide a model for what a prison system would look like in the hands of the oppressed we would point to socialist China as the prime example. Not only was there a focus on study, exercise and participation in the greater society but it also dealt with crime from the perspective of the oppressed. Within the context of a socialist economic system, this provided for the quickest and most widespread eradication of criminal behavior in modern history.

Kupers puts forth concrete examples where litigation has actually improved the conditions in prisons, but goes on to warn that there is a strong tendency for the Department of Corrections (DOC) to retaliate. (p.209-10) A loss in court puts them on the defensive and only emboldens their reactionary side. This is somewhat contradictory to Kupers talk of "bad apples" when discussing racism in prisons. (p.106) To put forth the "bad apples" theory is to deny that the injustice system is inherently oppressive. Just as in most places, we can sometimes find allies within the prison system itself, but we can see from 'Prison Madness' and from decades of our own work that the DOC is one of the most reactionary institutions of the state. More importantly than that, the prison system exists as a form of political repression. The fact that the majority of prisoners in the u$ are Black when only 12% of the population is, is not the product of a few racist "bad apples." It is the product of a tool that systematically serves the interests of the ruling class by repressing those who tend to oppose it. We work with dozens of prison organizations that have faced repression due to their successful organizing, often across lines of nation and affiliation that the CO's use to divide them. Kupers cites a case of this where the Santa Cruz Women's Prison Project was expelled by the California Department of Corrections because guards complained that the empowerment of the wimmin undermined their authority. (p.252)

'Prison Madness' is an accurate and fairly comprehensive look at the u$ prison system, with a focus on the mental health of those being confined in it. That alone makes it worthwhile, as most amerikans remain ignorant of the realities of prison life. The proposed solutions in the book do not address the source of the problem nor does it explain the full nature of oppression in u$ prisons, but there is much to unite with and to build on in those demands.

chain
[Control Units] [Mental Health] [Theory]
expand

An Alternative to the SHU

While campaigning to abolish Security Housing Units in prisons, we are frequently asked "What's your alternative?" This question usually comes from people familiar with the prison system who know that there is a lot of violence in prisons and that putting certain people in the same space is enough to instigate such violence. So they argue that the SHU provides security to help avoid such petty confrontations.

In practice however, it is the prison system and the Correctional Officers who promote and even create the violent situations rather than defusing or preventing them. This is the product of a system that is set up to be every man for themselves, where snitching is rewarded and violence is promoted as the way to solve problems. It's the same old divide and conquer techniques used in a more concentrated form within the controlled communities of prisons. When a majority of the people in an institution are there against their will, facing repression and inhumane conditions, the minority running the institution doesn't want them interacting in a cooperative way that might lead to organizing against their captors.

When addressing the question of abolishing the SHU we have to make it clear that MIM is not a reformist organization. We are fighting this campaign within the context of overthrowing the whole system and replacing the current criminal injustice system with justice for the people. Our goal is to transform society to eliminate the social causes of crime. Our long-term answer to the question of what to do with violent criminals is to build a system of re-education, reform and reintroduction to society for those who previously posed a threat to society.

In the short term we must fight to limit the oppression of the current system and abolishing the SHU is part of that fight. We know that the SHU is used for political repression. We know that everyone in the SHU suffers mentally and physically regardless of why they are in there. Therefore we often point out to those who are reluctant to sign our petition to abolish the SHU that these people are usually going to get out of prison some day and will only be more maladjusted then when they entered as a result of the isolation and torture they faced. Prisons can be made safer under the current system, but this goes counter to the interests of the prison administration to keep power over the imprisoned. Therefore until the oppressed decide who goes to prison and how the prison system is used there will be torture and violence in prisons.

When it does come time to build a new justice system in the interests of the people, we look toward the model of the prison system in socialist China (i.e. China under Mao). People who were successfully reformed through that system include two amerikan students (Allyn and Adele Rickett) and the last Emperor of the Manchu dynasty, Pu Yi. All three of them have written about their experiences and provide some great insights into the socialist prison system. In our review of the Ricketts' book, Prisoners of Liberation, we wrote, "a psychological approach to antisocial behavior takes agency away from the individual and the masses, and has as its goal teaching people to learn to adjust to their oppressive conditions (or their role as an oppressor) rather than struggling for political change."(1) Individualism leads bourgeois society to use psychology to explain and then treat crime rather than the sociological viewpoint of class struggle. "In the contradiction between individuals and society, universality is the principal aspect and particularity is the secondary aspect. By focusing exclusively in the secondary aspect of the contradiction, metaphysicians cannot understand the individual or society."(2) By focusing on the societal sources of humyn problems we can actually eliminate their source.

The difference between our plan for prisons and the current prison system is that we see prisons as a means of re-education not punishment. When we bring up re-education under socialism suddenly white liberals get indignant. This violates their individualist value system that looks at identity as a sacred and static being rather than a reaction and an ever changing product of society. Because reeducating people to interact better with other people is taboo in amerika, we are left with the option of punishment to deal with those who don't play the game or who aren't allowed to play.

Curiously, isolation and physical torture do not illicit the same indignance from these people as any mention of 're-education' does. This can be explained by the fact that it is oppressed nations who are disproportionately suffering at the hand of the current punitive system. Especially in extreme instances of repression like the SHU we see the targeting of Black nationalists, Spanish speakers, members of lumpen organizations like B.L.O.O.D. or ALKQN, or others whose behavior is outside the norm set by white society. Meanwhile the biggest criminals in the world are living it up within u$ borders with no fear of reprisal by the current system. To talk about replacing this system with one that reeducates people to work together in a socialist economy turns the tables, making white amerikans the biggest target. While the Black man selling rock on the street will be quick to give it up for a means of supporting himself by building his community rather than destroying it, the white man making millions by allowing that product to enter the country in the first place will be a lot more reluctant to change his ways. And he sure as hell doesn't want the economy socialized.

But some people are just crazy

It may or may not be true that some people are born crazy and are therefore incorrigible. But to quote the band Propagandhi, "Ordinary people do fucked up things, when fucked up things become ordinary." In other words, behavior is relative to the material conditions of a society.

While holding out for proof of biologically-induced insanity, we can say with certainty that the vast majority of people who have committed crimes against other people are not crazy and can be reformed. Evidence that crime can be largely eliminated can be seen in a comparison of violent crimes committed in the world today. Amerikans are willing to accept the idea that there are all these incorrigible crazies out there because our society has succeeded in creating excessive violence in individuals and the media turns around and feeds that to the populace as a scare tactic. A quick glance at an amerikan prison yard will tell you something is not right when the vast majority of the people are not white, while white people still make up a majority of the u$ population. Unless one believes in racist behavioral genetics then one must admit that there are social factors involved in who goes to prison.

The same individualism that leads people to be more concerned about some static idea of identity than about physical abuse and mental torture is what allows people to act against the norms and interests of the society that they live in. Communists favor class struggle over the psychological approach. For example, "Rather than giving moralizing sermons, China strove to create in individuals a social conscience."(3) In this way we can combat all sorts of social ills, from drug addiction and eating disorders to violence and other neuroses. Rather than brushing these problems under the rug, by trying to lock their victims up in prison and isolate them, we can involve those people in building a better society so that they understand the importance of their lives and the negative effects of their former behaviors.(4)

A prerequisite to eliminating 'antisocial' behavior is to accept that we in fact live in a society that sets norms for how we behave. In fact, much of what is labeled 'antisocial behavior' in our society today is actually encouraged by our society; it does not exist because of some innate humyn characteristics. Amerikans look at how they think and see that their friends think the same. They've all been taught by the same school system, the same media, the same culture. And then they assume that that is how all people behave at all times. As Mao said, "what [petty-bourgeois intellectuals] call human nature is nothing but bourgeois individualism."(5)

So for all who want to know what our alternative to the SHU is, it is building a communist society where no one has power over other people, where people see their importance as a part of a society rather than seeing every persyn as an island, and where social problems are addressed and reconciled rather than repressed and locked away to fester.

Notes:
(1) MIM Theory 9: Psychology and Imperialism, p. 39
(2) MT9, p.48
(3) MT9, p.36
(4) For more on this read "Psychological Practice in the Chinese Revolution" in MT9
(5) Mao Zedong, "Yenan Forum on Art and Literature," in Selected Works, op. cit., Volume 4, p.90

chain
[Control Units] [Legal] [Washington]
expand

Washington IMU repression

I have been locked up for 28 straight years; the past few on "state tour" being shipped back and forth between Intensive Management Unit (IMU) facilities.

There are four levels in IMU. Level 1 is a sanction and for those hwo receive infractions while in IMU. Everyone starts at Level 2 (no radio or TV, nor allowed a newspaper or magazine subscription). Level 3 allows one magazine or newspaper subscription; level 4 allows two magazines or newspaper subscriptions. Also, the person on Level 3 is allowed a radio; on Level 4 given the choice between radio or TV.

I am the sort of person they kept and continue to keep on Level 2. Various excuses at different times are given (I have not had an infraction for some time!) The present excuse is because I do not attend monthly review hearing (in writing I am given the choice to attend or not.) I do not attend because of being tired of them writing in reports I said things I never said.

Prison officials may restrict reading material in punitive segregation, although most cases upholding this practice have involved short periods of time:

Gregory v. Auger, 768 F.2d 287, 289-91 (8th Cir. 1985) - inmates in disciplinary detention could be deprived of all but first class mail of a "personal, legal or religious" nature where detention was limited to 60 days), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 1035 (1085); Daigre v. Maggio, 719 F.2d 1310, 1312-13 (5th Cir. 1983) - ban on newspapers and magazines in segregation upheld as applied to an inmate who served 10 days); Pendleton v. Housewright, 651 F. Supp. 1354, 1366-68 (S.D. Tex. 1983) - deprivation of publications except for legal and religious material sin solitary confinement upheld where limited to 15 days.

However, the above refers to punitive or disciplinary segregation. They have me on administration segregation. See e.g., Hardwick v. Ault, 447 F. Supp. 116, 128-31 (M.D. Ga. 1978) - mail and reading material restrictions in administrative segregation held unconstitutional. An added interesting note is although I am not allowed magazines or newspapers, I may have books. Isn't that something!?

You can help by sending letters of protest to:

Eldon Vail, Depty Secty, Department of Corrections, PO Box 41118, Olympia, WA 98504

Carol Porter, Superintendent, WA Corrections Center, PO Box 900, Shelton, WA 98584

chain
[Control Units] [Great Meadow Correctional Facility] [New York]
expand

Corruption and Retaliation in New York

Dear Mr. Goord, Mr. Malone, Governor Pataki, and Reverend Sharpton,

There is very serious problem going on here in Comstock Prison. On June 6, 2004, I was set up by Sergeant Brown and his gang, who took me into a strip frisk room and put some dope on me. They told me that I'm going down if I don't go into the hearing and make a deal. On the day of the hearing, the hearing officer was already aware to make a compromise with me if I plead guilty. So I did and received four months but that is not the biggest issue.

The biggest issue is that they have me in a special housing unit (SHU) with claims of me being an Al Qaeda member. They are treating me like the prisoners in Abu Ghraib Prison. They gave me one old ripped up mattress, no bucket to receive hot water to wash up, no net bags, no boxes, no toilet paper, a dirty filthy cell with no kind of cleaning supplies. The toilet bowl is extremely filthy and most of the time they don't feed me. They place empty trays on the gate so that on camera, it looks like they're feeding me.

These are untrained, rude, racist and rebellious people who are decorating themselves in blue and green uniforms and saying that they are promoting democracy and justice. They say they're watching over criminals. Let the records reflect that these prison guards are doing this wickedness to me on the order of their supervisor, whom I have a complaint on. They are doing this in retaliation. They know fully well that I am a Muslim and not any member of Al Qaeda but that is their excuse to cause me great harm and suffering. This is the same evil mentality that caused great harm to the people of Iraq. These are the same people who jumped on Malcolm X's grandson. These are the same unruly, arrogant, outlaw, racist people who are Klansmen hiding behind government uniforms.

When they pass my cell, they burst out in laughter and make racial epithets. They also prevent me from writing to anyone to obtain relief. From this day on, I assure you that these guys who have decorated themselves in blue uniforms must stay away from me. I will go straight above these Rumsfields because they are the ones who are giving out orders. They know what is going on so I will go over their heads. I won't write to them anymore. They never remedy any situation when it comes to prisoners.

I request a serious investigation into this serious matter.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation.

chain
[Control Units] [Prison Labor] [Oklahoma]
expand

Repression in OK SHU

I am a female Segregation Housing Unit (SHU) inmate, and this is my fourth time on Administrative Segregation (A.S.). I have spent a total of eight years on lockdown. As of May, 2004 I have been on SHU for one year and seven months, for an alleged battery without a weapon on another inmate. The inmate that I battered has a paper filed on me that keeps us separated on a yard divided from mine by a brick wall.

Nail clippers are not allowed in this facility, so I am charged $2.00 to see the doctor and fill out a form, and $2.00 to use the clippers. This leads me to ask where is the money that is supplied to run this facility? Has it been reduced? Even as an indigent inmate, I must pay for any doctor visit, plus medications.

Where does inmates' money go and what is it used for? Starting May 3, 2004, we are going to be charged for any form we need for in-house mail. We are charged for copies of cases from the law library, legal-sized envelopes to mail to the courts, etc. Being on the SHU it is almost as if I am cut off from the world completely. I have no resources to raise hell about injustice.

At this prison, slave labor is in full effect. Inmates work at a plant here called Oklahoma Corrections Industries. They handle Department of Motor Vehicles-related paperwork. They're paid a few cents an hour, according to how many huge boxes they sort through.

There are 37 rules for the SHU that we must comply with or have our exercise (which is a right) terminated.

[From the prison's handout, these rules include: "9. Materials will not be allowed to hang over the cell door to obstruct observation. ... "15. Magazines, newspapers, and catalogs are not allowed for DU/PI/PD/TD/TS inmates. ... "17. Library books cannot be traded between inmates, left outside of the cell, or placed in the windowsill. ... "22. Inmates are subject to urinalysis testing at any time. ... "30. All inmates shall be allowed one hour of exercise outdoors, weather permitting, five days per week. The Shift Supervisor may cancel outdoor exercise for security reasons. If exercise is indoors, inmates will be restrained in belly chains, hand cuffs, black box, and leg irons ..."]

If an A.S. inmate receives a misconduct for not having our shirts tucked into our pants, we must spend more time on A.S.

Your Notes are an informative inspiration. I am now being transferred to another yard. I will fight for my beliefs if I am sent to hell.

Sincerely,

chain
[Control Units] [Washington]
expand

Intensive Management Units: Behavior Modification or Psychological Subjugation?

From inside of this beast called the Prison Industrial Complex, I find that the agenda upon which its foundation was laid is being fulfilled to our detriment. I find that Black Men are not only being physically arrested but they are also being developmentally arrested, their psychological, spiritual, political and cultural development confined and suppressed to the point of retardation. But what transpires behind these steel curtains is only a replica of what transpires out there in so-called free society on a smaller scale.

Prisons were constructed from the recesses of man's mind yet Man's mind has become subject to prison cells, the very atrocity born of his incomplete thought. I've watched prison cells cause man's mind to regress to the point where he becomes primitive in his application of thought to this reality.

I've witnessed confinement to a cell for 23 hours a day in Intensive Management Units (IMU), sensory deprivation, and the deprivation of human contact cause my brothers to become so consumed by emotions that it distorts their ability to conceive reality. At this stage they lose the faculty of progressive thought and this causes them to become perceptual beings instead of conceptual beings, making it hard for them to grasp concepts that transcend their confinement.

This causes them to fall down on all fours psychologically in regression designating for themselves a cave of ignorance as a domicile where ambition is imprisoned. They're cast out to the peripherals of reality and held hostage there, never pondering the full extent of their inherent potential, therefore never becoming cognizant of the duality in man's nature. Man can exhibit the highest manifestation of life on earth, or he can exhibit the manifestation of an animal in human form, yet it is not a cell that keeps man confined or imprisons ambition.

Physical freedom is concomitant with, and a product of, psychological liberation. These two elements, physical freedom and psychological liberation, are procured through abstract intellectual concepts, not physical precepts. The ability to grasp abstract intellectual concepts and apply them to one's plight frees the prisoner and the lack of ability to grasp abstract intellectual concepts and apply them to one's plight imprisons the free man.

In light of this reality, sensory deprivation becomes self-realization, for it alleviates sounds, smells and circumstances that redirect man's attention from self, causing estrangement between the physical and the intellect and the deprivation of human contact becomes the introduction to self because it forces man to contemplate self.

It is time that our brothers and sisters overstand that in order to transcend our perceptual confinement, we must elevate our conceptual consciousness! Then and only then will we taste psychological liberation and embrace physical freedom.

Uhuru SaSa (Freedom Now)

chain
[Control Units] [Upstate Correctional Facility] [New York]
expand

NY SHU full of Non-violent convictions

Now, to give you a list of things that's going on in Upstate Correctional Facility (NY). This prison was built under the eyes of the government for "violent prisoners" (yet it's double cell) in 1999... It's 2004, and the majority of the SHU (isolation cells) is filled with drug tickets, medium prisoners who only have 30 days, and other "non-violent" cases. Therefore the way they're keeping us in this box (SHU) system is just to keep it full. So what is it really for?

Then you have programs established in SHU that are only beneficial to the economy in the colony of Malone, New York! Give jobs to these people who don't care about the prisoners per se (example: nurses, educational staff, counselors, etc.) They have a cell study program established in SHU. I haven't seen the school teacher in a month and when they do come around they have nothing educational to give me, but have Donald Goins books, etc. The things that have kept our kind down for centuries. Ignorance is power over our kind. Then you have a ASAT workbook program, and it's not established for the well being of drug addicts. Let me point out just what I'm going thru. I have been in SHU for 27 months, and the reason I came into SHU was drug related tickets.

chain
[Control Units]
expand

Wastelands: prison control units

When exploring the ethical implications of some socially sanctioned institutions, it is understandable how society at large might not invest due attention to human rights questions that arise based on the severe conditions within prison control units. After all, the ones who are affected may not be society's most beloved individuals and may even be regarded as deserving of less than compassionate treatment.

This logic, however, does not fully encompass the extent of the issues that control units present. Practically speaking, these types of environments inevitably serve as breeding grounds for a wide range of psychological disturbances. What the average person might not realize is that these disturbances manifest themselves in behavior and it is precisely for this reason why people who don't care should.

One specific dynamic that is universally present in inmates who endure long-term isolation is social starvation. Not being exposed to regular social situations creates a profound loss of touch with the world from which they came - the world that bore them. This severed connection can lead to distrust (to the point of extreme paranoia), introversion, and a distorted path of normal, healthy social development.

Anxiety, insecurity, and ultimately, resentment, are also common elements that contribute to an individual's alienation from their community. In fact, isolation is the antithesis of the concept of community and is, in itself, implicative of cruelty and abandonment.

The very term "control unit" is an irony. Yes, while an inmate is housed in one of these places he is under control. However, it is this very "control" that precipitates a wholly negative change in one's character. The inherent coldness of such a barren place demonstrates a disregard for the monstrous effects such a cruelly oppressive environment creates. Instead of nurturing improvement and growth, it actually fosters hostility. It is insanely counterproductive.

Long-term isolation forces inmates to construct elaborate coping mechanisms to deal with the psychologically crippling conditions. It requires an emotional detachment, which is a precursor to antisocial behavior and is not in any way healthy or helpful.

It is for this reason that the notion of control units being effective deterrents to future, disruptive behavior is absolutely illogical to a laughable degree. These coping mechanisms become so entrenched into one's personality, that it completely alters their entire psyche. The process is allowed to continue for so long, that inmates become accustomed to isolation at a hefty expense to their emotional well-being.

Strangely, it can become a perverse measure of mental strength - being able to withstand the crushing weight of isolation as a show to "prove" they cannot be broken, when in fact, this contempt may be evidence that they have already been cruelly affected. It amounts to no less than psychological mutilation - a perpetually self-defeating attitude.

It is difficult to believe that control units have any redeeming qualities. The fact is this: nearly all inmates housed in control units will re-enter prison populations, or in many cases, will be released directly back into society.

Human beings are known for being products of their environments. So what do you get when you subject a person to inhumane conditions and an utterly complete lack of compassion? It appears to be as simple and reliable as working out a mathematical equation. It seems though, if you don't get the answer you were looking for, why would you stick with the same formula?

That's not how progress is made. Reexamination, acknowledgment of mistakes, and the redressing of faults are the key to a healthy, moral society.

- a prisoner at Walpole MA in the Department Disciplinary Unit, March 2004

chain
[Control Units] [Oregon]
expand

OR prisoner locked down/fined for not making bed

I have currently signed up for your MIM Notes. But due to my recent transfer to another "Correctional Facility" I am delayed in my response back to you. Fortune has it that another comrade is on my tier to help me out.

He read to me from your latest edition about Control Units, SHU, IMU, DSU, and AD-SEG. I am currently serving 16 years (190 mo) under mandatory minimum sentencing guidelines (Measure 11) and have spent 7 years in DSU and IMU. I have not even stabbed anyone or killed a cop and yet Oregon Dept of Corruptions has kept me consistently locked down for not lining my shoes up under my bunk, hanging too many shirts on my clothing hooks, and various disobediences of order and disrespect.

As your article alluded to, I have lost a good deal of my long range and medium range vision. And because the ODOC doesn't provide toothpaste, only baking soda, my teeth are rotting out of my mouth due to lack of Flouride and breaking because baking soda is an abrasive which strips tooth enamel, making the teeth susceptible to cracking and breaking.

It's not like providing inmates with toothpaste would break the bank. DOC confiscates inmate money for every and all rule violations. I recently got fined $75.00 for not making my bed in a timely and fashionable manner. Times this by 20,000 inmates a week and "Inmate Welfare fund" has the money for basic elements of hygiene.

chain
[Control Units] [Oregon]
expand

IMU in Oregon

I finally got my MIM Notes and I really enjoyed reading about how you expose the department of corrections dark side. Here in Oregon you see a lot of human rights violations such as: being placed in a program called IMU (Intensive Management Unit) without a probable cause, if your institution feels you're a threat to them or the prison population you're placed in this program, but first you go to segregation for six months, then you go to IMU and depending on what DOC says you could stay there up to five years. IMU is a max custody unit. But they have made it out to be like segregation. According to DOC if you're in a max custody unit you're supposed to receive your property in IMU. You have to earn it by doing programs. Because you people expose such acts and believe that it should be changed I enjoy your MIM Notes.

chain