Anonymous is currently incarcerated in Arkansas.


What is solitary confinement?

Alternative housing for inmates deemed threatening and harmful to prison staff and fellow inmates and therefore require segregation into a more secured environment for the safety and welfare of his/herself and those around them.

Basically, that is what administrative segregation (ad seg) was designed for. However, its use exceeds its original design. In essence, it is a punishment, and any inmate at any time for any reason can and often will be placed in ad seg and be officially assigned there for however long the unit classification committee desires. Even inmates who are not prone to violence, who may have only been found with minor contraband (money, tobacco, drugs) have been placed and assigned to ad seg for undeterminate amounts of time.  

From one state to the next, from one penitentiary to the next, ad
seg cells differ in size, as do the privileges inmates are given.
I have experienced first hand the Arkansas Department of
Corrections ad seg. Cummins Unit and Varner Super Max to be
exact. Currently in Cummins there are two ad seg barracks, each
barracks having three tiers with fifteen two-man cells per tier.
Showers are three days a week. One hour of yard per day. Meals
are brought to your cell three times daily. Two small televisions
are mounted on the wall approximately thirty feet away from the
cells. Phone calls are three times a week, if you are able to get
the officer to bring you the phone (provided you are not on phone
restriction). Commissary is once a week with a $10 maximum
spending limit (if not on restriction and are fortunate to have
someone send you money). 

When placed in ad seg, because the cells are for two men to
share, you are thrust into a frighteningly uncertain situation.
Often, you have no idea who your cell mate is and the officers do
not care if there will be problems between the two of you. Once
you are in the cell and the cuffs are removed from your wrists,
you are on your own. There are two upper and lower bunks, a sink,
a toilet, a very small table, and a narrow strip of floor shared
between two people twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week for
weeks or even months on end. In best cases you and your cell mate
are like-minded and a peaceful balance comes easy. But in many
cases, the moment you walk into the cell, you instantly feel the
tension in the air. Maybe your cell mate has a mean streak with a
chip on their shoulder, violent by nature, or perhaps they simply
do not want you in there. Try as you might, talking and reasoning
do no good. Sleeping becomes hard, and waking hours are tense and
stressful, as you are unsure of what they have on their mind. You
ease around each other, or maybe it’s just you easing around
them, doing your best not to disturb them and incite an
unfavorable reaction. Imagine the tense moments of using
something as trite yet quite necessary as the toilet. A
challenging situation if there ever was one. There have been many
times when these situations end in the one way that one of the
inmates did their very best to avoid, by fighting. And then once
separated, the inmate may likely be placed in another cell facing
a similar situation. 

Varner Super Max is basically the same structure and barracks
design the cells are one man only. You are left to yourself 24/7
and if made to do a lengthy period of time in ad seg, especially
if assigned permanently, in my own experience as well as others
I’ve known, it will take a toll on your mind. First you try to
occupy yourself, maybe work out a daily routine. Exercising,
reading, writing, drawing, listening to your radio (if you have
one) are all good ways to pass the time and keep yourself
occupied, but it all lasts only for so long day in and day out
until eventually it all becomes a monotonous bore. It’s almost a
certainty, for the lack of anything else, you begin to replay
your life in your head and the damaging choices you made. You
think,I should have done this… or that…” You begin to think out
loud, creating in your head the life you wish you lived, as if
the very act of speaking it will allow it to be. 

You pace the floor while acting out scenarios which can start to
shift from the path not taken to a much more surreal life. Like,
say, one of luxury or success or conquest. Whatever your starving
mind can cook up, that is what you are in that particular moment
in time. 

And make no mistake, your mind is starving. Like, food for your
body, your mind needs positive stimuli to function normally and
sanely. Segregation deprives the mind from any positive, outside
stimulus and in effect the mind will naturally begin to reach for
any outlet it can and leech from it. Reality can potentially
lapse into the surreal, causing the mind to collapse in on
itself. 

Administrative segregation may be necessary concerning a certain
type of individual, and in my opinion can be helpful and
effective if utilized carefully and properly under the
observation and care of mental health counselors, which despite
what is shown, are not always readily available when needed.

Expert Testimony is a project of decARcerate's Campaign to End Solitary. End Solitary works to end Arkansas' practice of extreme isolation, replacing it with program-rich evidence-based alternatives.

John is currently serving a life sentence at the Cummins Unit. John has collectively served nearly a decade in isolation.



What state/Unit did you do your time in solitary confinement? 

I’ve done Ad. Seg. time in Arkansas at Varner Super Max, Tucker
Max, Cummins Unit, and East Arkansas Max.


How long were you in solitary confinement? 
 
For me its hard to say for certainity, but I did roughly 4 years
at Brickey Max. A little over 2 years at Varner Super Max. About
3 years at Tucker Max. And roughly a year at Cummins Unit. A
decade or more.


Did you have a cellmate? If so, how well did the two of you get
along? Were there problems/issues the two of you dealt with? 

Yes, I had cellmates while on Ad Seg. I distinctly remember
having problems with men who had mental health issues. I did have
to fight at least on one occasion and at other times I Had to
endure alot of mental anguish and stress.


Did officers treat you different in solitary confinement than they did in general population? If so, how? 

Some officers was okay, but the majority don’t want anything to
do with the work that comes with a Ad. Seg. inmate. They don’t
want to take you to the shower, bring you the phone, or to ever
bring you paperwork. Alot won’t even bring you your food until
their Sup’v makes them. For example the food cart will come in
the Ad. Seg bks, and sometimes sit idle for hours at a time until
the food is cold. Other times officers will lock you in a shower
stall for 3 to 4 hours. Other times I’ve been physically
assaulted on Ad Seg by officers. Had my personal property
destroyed. All because of asking for something I’m suppose to
receive anyway. Answer is definitely yes.


What privileges were afforded to you? TV? Phone? Visitation
Commissary? 

Most of the time I was allowed a Radio & Commissary. For most of
the decade on Ad. Seg I didn’t got commissary, phone calls, or
visits though. You are allowed up to one hour of yard call, but
to discourage you b/c the guards don’t want to work… they will
trash your cell, steal your stuff, and in some cases physically
assault you.


How often were you allowed yard call? 

Most prisons claim to offer it Mon.-Fri. But I know from
expierence sometimes its best not to go if you know whats good
for you.


How often were you allowed to shower? 

Most prisons I been to its 3 times a week for only 10 minutes at
a time. Yet you might got left in the stall for 4 hours! Or
longer. At Varner Supermax your allowed a shower every day
though.


How often were you evaluated, if at all, by a mental health counselor or committee? 

Meaningfully? NEVER. Over and over again I begged for help and
never got it. Ad. Seg takes a toll on you mentally. But staff
think its funny or your “faking it” in order to go back to gen.
Pop.


At any point in time while in solitary confinement did you feel as if you were detaching from reality? 

Any time I did over a year I could feel myself ‘slipping’ so to
speak.


Do you believe solitary confinement effectively helps or worsens
an person's mental constitution & why? 

Prolonged Isolation worsens a inmates mental well being. I’m not
a psychologist, but I think its because of a lack of physical
stimuli. The hostile environment. Its constant yelling and
screaming. Beating and banging. The threat of physical and mental
abuse is a day to day expierence. And I’d guess for most its more
than a threat. Its happens to almost all Ad. Seg. inmates.

Expert Testimony is a project of decARcerate's Campaign to End Solitary. End Solitary works to end Arkansas' practice of extreme isolation, replacing it with program-rich evidence-based alternatives.

Damien is currently serving a life sentence at the Cummins Unit, where he has been held in solitary confinement at least three times.



What state/Unit did you do your time in solitary confinement? 

I’ve done Ad Seg time at Arkansas Cummins Unit.


How long were you in solitary confinement? 
 
I’ve spent time in Ad Seg 3 or 4 times & each were different length’s of time, ranging from just a month or two but the longest being 1 year.


Did you have a cellmate? If so, how well did the two of you get
along? Were there problems/issues the two of you dealt with? 

Yes I had a cellmate (aka cellie) each time & each one was different, but all of them you just felt like you had to tiptoe around because you didn’t know what type of mood each other where in & there just isn’t enough room for both cellmate’s to be moving around the cell at the same time. For the most part I got along well with my cellmate but there were day’s I’d have words with them because after months of being in a confined space your going to get on each other’s nerves & that’s when a fight will manifest/ It can be a very stressful stituation & for the most part you just try to get on a schedule differently then your cellie, like you sleep when he’s sleeping & the same when your asleep.


Did officers treat you different in solitary confinement than they did in general population? If so, how? 

Most NO; but there were a few officers who would be difficult to do any requirements of there job by just being lazy. There jobs are to bring your trays of food to your cell & they would drag there feet to just get you stressed out & the same on shower day (3 days a week). Some would disrespect you because they kenw your behind a cell door & could get away with it. Mostly it’s just small things they do to make your day more stressful. If you’re in (general pop) officers do treat you a little differently because your passing them in the hallway & they show a bit more discretion on how they speak to you. So yes to an extent they treat you differently when locked down.


What privileges were afforded to you? TV? Phone? Visitation
Commissary? 

All of the above privileges were afforded but at times the guard didn’t care if you used the phone because that would require that guard to get up off his butt and move the phone cell to cell on the days’ you were allowed the phone which was 2 or 3 times a week & sometimes you might not even get the phone until 10 pm other times it could be 7 AM & other times you just wouldn’t get
it at all. Commissary is only $10 a week; & now you can’t even get a visit from ad seg. The T.V. is mostly on throughout the day/night but usually it’s the same station all the time & that can be very; very stressful. If you have a radio that does help some to escape all the loud noise & in some way escape reality!


How often were you allowed yard call? 

ADC policy allows ad seg inmates 1 hr a day 7 days a week but some guards will try & make a deal with you so they don’t have to take you to yard for an extra food tray & some will find a way to totally screw you around & not get yard at all. If you do go to yard you still have to share a cage not much bigger than your cell with your cellmate if he chooses to go to yard with you. So you can see it’s really hard to get just a moment by yourself to help relieve some of that stress that’s built up.


How often were you allowed to shower? 

3 days a week was all that was allowed for shower. So if you decided to go to yard for a little exercise & it’s not your shower day; which happens all the time you have to sit in your sweat/filth or like most take a birdbath in your sink once your in your cell. My opinion is that this practice is very unsanitary for a persons health.


How often were you evaluated, if at all, by a mental health counselor or committee? 

You almost never see a mental health counseler & if you do they are usually walking straight passed by your cell. The ad seg committee usually see’s you 30 to 60 day if your receiving your class back & if your class 1 your probably not going to see them for 1 yr & that’s mostly a Warden’s review.


At any point in time while in solitary confinement did you feel as if you were detaching from reality? 

For me not really but I had some depression from being in such a small space & just stressing out on things that might not be important to people such as Administration. For example 2 people in a small cell, 3 showers a week, phone 2 or 3 times a week;
guards treating you like your beneath them. All this stuff just wears a person down after months apawn months which will definitly change a person’s mindset.


Do you believe solitary confinement effectively helps or worsens
an person's mental constitution & why? 

Personally I don’t think it helps & it can definitely worsen if a person is already in a bad mental state.

Expert Testimony is a project of decARcerate's Campaign to End Solitary. End Solitary works to end Arkansas' practice of extreme isolation, replacing it with program-rich evidence-based alternatives.

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