On a personal note, my incarceration fortunately involved only a very small taste of solitary imprisonment during my time in the Maryland State prison system. It occurred while I was in transit from one prison to another facility.
My prison bus arrived too late at the central transfer point in Jessup, Maryland. It was Friday afternoon and I had missed the prison transportation to my next institution. The next prison bus would not come until Monday or Tuesday. The Sergeant at the assignment center ordered a temporary bunk for me in one of the regular prison units. The bunks in the unit did not have electrical outlets. I was using a breathing device at that time which required an electrical outlet. I pointed out the health issue to the correctional officer which was a big mistake on my part.
The Sergeant did not appreciate any new problems late on a Friday afternoon. I was locked up in a storage room behind the traffic control office. The storage room was empty except for a small table, several lockers, and two benches. The officer smiled as I tried to turn on the breathing device. The electrical outlets were also not working in the storage room.
I remained in that room by myself for three days except to go to the bathroom in a holding cell which was adjacent to the traffic control office. There was no contact with other inmates except for the delivery of my food. The Sergeant denied my request to go to the baggage room to bring back books from my travel box. The baggage room was less than fifty feet from my lock up.
After fifteen hours, I was depressed. After 30 hours, during the second night, I was going crazy. It was very difficult to sleep on the bench. My thoughts were dark. My eyes focused on the various pipes attached to the walls. Using the pipes for hanging became an enticing possibility. It may seem absurd, but the denial of company and books to read were playing havoc with my mind. It was crucial to focus elsewhere – other than this lonely space. I decided to play an imaginary poker tournament. The tournament lasted for many hours. I finally made the final table and was victorious in the end. After three days, a prison van arrived to take me to the next facility.
I cannot imagine enduring solitary confinement for a week, a month, and certainly not for years. While you read about my brief experience with solitary confinement, 80,000 inmates continue to endure solitary confinement daily throughout the United States. The mental damage from long term solitary confinement can be devastating. An inmate released after suffering prolonged solitary confinement can have psychological damages which will affect his successful re-entry into society. Without successful reentry by returning citizens, America will continue to have a high recidivism rate.
(Excerpt from “Prisonpath” – Memoir by founder of prisonpath.com, B.D. Schwartz)