I sit. I stand.

Mendez, Joe Delores



I sit. I stand. Walk a few feet, and then sit back down again. I do things to try to stay busy, read, write, study, etc, etc... things to stimulate the mind. I exercise, too. I know it's important under the circumstances to take care of myself... to do my best to be of good health and keep the screws that are bolted in my mind tight. But, for the most part I sit like an old automobile part that someone abandoned on a field or a yard that is slowly and painfully rusting away. It sits through the rain, the cold. It sees the brightness of the sun but. Never feels it's warmth. If it could cry, I'm sure it would, but loneliness is just a part of it. Although, I've been alone before but, I have never felt loneliness like this before for so long, in such a small space. Surrounded in concrete that a rose couldn't even find a crevice to grow and bloom in. A place that even the wildlife stay far away from if they with to live and survive in a free world, unlike mine. Again, I sit. I stand, and walk a few feet, but this time I shorted my steps, because, in this small space there is only so far you go. My family, my friends, my dead mother, they all worry about me, but I tell them things like, "I'm strong," "I'm courageous," and it's through all of you that, I find things like, "warmth." and "strength," and it's true. Without them, I don't think, I would've survived this long. But, I don't know how much longer, I can keep telling them these things. I'm afraid that at any given time, I'm just a slip from losing my mind. I sometimes wish that this was all just a bad dream, and that, I would wake up to a family, friends, or that girl I once loved. But the truth is, I wake up to the same nightmare day in and day out. And that is solitary confinement. There is nothing living and breathing inside these walls, but human bodies that before and after me will continue to occupy these cells all for profit. They allow me the opportunity to go to yard once a day to exercise and get a breath of fresh air, which never feels like a breath of fresh air. Like me, even the air is confined. The concrete walls are built high with fencing and hard plastic covering mostly the top above. You never know which direction the wind is blowing because you're boxed in. It's like being at the bottom of a large well. All you can do is stare up and hope that the light will grow brighter. For the rest of the 22 1/2 hours you remain buried in your cell. Time passes by. You see it on the television on read about it in papers, books, and magazines. The world is evolving while you become outdated. You try to keep up but you're restricted to only a few possessions, some pens, paper, books, clothes, and a plastic cup and bowl, a television, and walkman that gets bad reception. Access are resources are limited to almost none everything, I've learned, everything I've accomplished,begins with "self" - self help, self taught, self sufficient. The system does nothing for you. IT sees you as just another number. And most of the C/O's see us as animals, and treat us like animals. They come by mornings and nights to serve us chow. They smile, they smirk, and often make rude comments, sometimes in front of you but, mainly behind our backs. Sometimes it pisses you off, but you learn to have thick skin. In many ways they're like bullies, bullying the helpless around. In truth there is nothing you can say or do. There is no just remedy to exhaust. So, they do as they please. They exercise and practice certain strategies and tactics to suppress and suppress until the human spirit is broke and could no longer be fixed. Many of us who've spend years and years under these kind of conditions have been so deeply effected, mentally, physically, and emotionally it terrified you to think what life is going to be like once they decide to let you out of solitary confinement. You don't know how significant those changes are and how they'll effect you and those around you when you go back to the general population or get released back out into society. There are times when I noticed those changes in here. Like when, I get nervous out of nowhere and sweat starts to build up inside my hands. Or when the C/O's shackle me up to escort me my heart starts to beat harder and faster. There are many times when, I feel tense and uneasy not to mention the many restless nights. I can't remember the last time I had a good night sleep. My matress is stick enough to cause pain in my lower back and flat enough that it really wouldn't make a difference if you slept on the pavement. I remember the first time, I was sent to solitary confinement, I was 21 years old about to turn 22. I remember seeing the facility the called, "the SHU", from a distance. I was scared and nervous because, I had heard so many things about the Pelican Bay SHU since I was a teenager. It was nothing good and the closer we came to the facility, I noticed the atmosphere starting to change and as we entered the building it became apparent that we had entered a whole new world. It felt like walking into an underground dungeon with no light at the end of that tunnel. I spent only 10 months in the SHU during that period. I had met a lot of people who had been in solitary confinement for over 10 years. They had a certain look to them that was hard to define. I can tell there was a certain kind of brokenness to them which, I didn't understand nor could I relate to as they shared their stories with me, and I got to know them well, I got to see the pain, and the suffering, and the sadness that filled their hearts, that left their lips with each word they spoke. And it made me sad to learn that all those people who shared their stories with me had never even committed a rules infraction or broken a law that would result in spending the rest of their lives in solitary confinement. I couldn't believe the things they were using to lock people up in the SHU and keep them here indefinitely. That's I also learned how corrupted and broken the prison system was. I remember the day I was leaving the SHU the other inmates I was with were giving me positive advice and encouraging me to further my education, to get involved and participate in positive programs and activities. I knew exactly what they meant, they didn't want to see me or anyone else fall victim to this system. But, the California Department of Corrections and the institutions Gang Investigative Unit had already had plans for my future. I just didn't know about it. A few months after my release to the general population, I was sent back to the SHU. I was 22 years old. I'm 32 now.

Author: Mendez, Joe Delores

Author Location: California

Date: February 8, 2017

Genre: Essay

Extent: 6 pages

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