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.