On Soul-Killing Solitary

by
Abby Zimet

Belatedly, inadequately, the issue of solitary confinement has been seeping into the news - with the Pelican Bay hunger strikes, the story of Herman Wallace and the Angola Three, the willingness of the U.N. to declare such long-term isolation - from time, touch, speech, light, all human contact - torture, and legislative attempts to curb it. More searing testimony from Five Omar Mualimm-ak, a prison reform activist who served almost 12 years in prison, over five of them in solitary, "out of sight and invisible to other human beings - and eventually, even to myself," for "offenses" like having too many postage stamps, eating all an apple, or not eating enough - "refusing to eat."

"Yet neither a judge nor a jury of my peers handed down this sentence to me. Each of the tormented 23 hours per day that I spent in a bathroom-sized room, without any contact with the outside world, was determined by prison staff... I never committed one act of violence during my entire sentence. Instead, a series of "tickets", or disciplinary write-ups for prison rule violations, were punished with a total of more than five years in "the box". In New York, guards give out tickets like penny candy... I received an endless stream of tickets, each one more absurd than the last....One day, I ate an entire apple – including the core – because I was starving for lack of nutrition. I received a ticket for eating the core, since apple seeds contain arsenic, as spelled out in the prison handbook. The next time I received an apple, fearful of another ticket, I simply left it on the tray. I received a ticket for "refusing to eat."

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Share This Article

More in: