(Photo by Flickr user Nic McPhee, used under a Creative Commons license)
Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Rashon Solice, a Philadelphia man who is currently serving nine to 20 years at SCI Huntingdon for an aggravated assault charge. He submitted it through an advocate on the outside, who wrote in an email that the essay was sent “via a platform called Connect Network. It’s their electronic messaging system used to communicate with families. It’s text only (no photos) and inmates either use kiosk machines inside the prison to send and receive their messages or some, like Rashon, have a tablet which allows them to write messages then send and receive them once they sync the tablet to one of the kiosks.”
Serving time at 40 years old is the most difficult and most challenging thing I’ve ever had to experience in my life.
As some of you may know, we recently experienced a lockdown that lasted 12 days. It felt more like 12 weeks. During the lockdown, we were confined to our cells for 24 hours a day. We were deprived of showers and any sort of communication with our families.
Some grow accustomed to living with a cellmate, however, under these particular circumstances, it’s hard to endure someone using the bathroom in front of you or bathing in front of you all day long. Because Huntingdon is an older prison in Pennsylvania, it lacks the privacy that newer jails have. For example, there are no doors on the cells — only open bars. So when inmates have to use the bathroom, it’s often done openly and in public view.
For me, personally, the lockdown caused resentment because it limited my mobility within an already hyper-controlled environment. The cells aren’t designed for two men, so the space is compact and suffocating. Likewise, our facility was built in the late 1800s, so it lacks the modern day central air system that’s available at newer institutions. The heat and humidity are often unbearable. Getting fresh air becomes a highlight of my day.
Being shown outside compassion inspires me to become more compassionate toward others.
For others, such as my cellmate who’s been incarcerated for 22 years, resentment is more toward administration. In particular, he resents being punished for the misconducts of prison officials. The lockdown was rumored to reduce the drug flow within the institutions, but what people don’t know is that one key way inmates receive contraband, such as drugs, is through the DOC staff.
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He resents that inmates have to suffer stricter visiting room rules, the loss of direct mail from our families and loss of outside vending to purchase books, among other privileges, all because of the misdeeds of DOC employees. Of course, these allegations aren’t proven, but he feels he’s been around too long to believe otherwise.
I’m sharing this experience hoping that it may inspire more people to get involved with organizations such as the Pennsylvania Prison Society, which serves as an advocate for those of us whose voices aren’t heard because we’re in prison. We need people who are willing to express our needs to the outside world in order for us to survive within these prison walls.
By learning about our experiences and understanding our predicaments, maybe it would motivate us to have a stronger desire to become more productive citizens once we are released from these institutions. For me, personally, being shown outside compassion inspires me to become more compassionate toward others.
Just because I lost my rights of freedom, that doesn’t mean I should lose my rights as a human being. Show us you care about our rehabilitation because it just may help to reduce the recidivism rate.-30-
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