Damien is currently serving a life sentence at the Cummins Unit, where he has been held in solitary confinement at least three times. 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 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 a 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.
Expert Testimony seeks to amplify the voices of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated individuals who have been directly impacted by solitary confinement. Expert Testimony is a project of decARcerate's Campaign to End Solitary, which works to end Arkansas' practice of extreme isolation, replacing it with program-rich evidence-based alternatives.