When you are in prison you are virtually stripped from all of your mental and physical being. You have nothing because you are forced to choose to have nothing. You don't have a single thing to look forward to in the coming minutes of the long days. You are seen as nothing. But for us, the lingering hours travel by in an echo: It stretches out in a cave of everlasting denial where we cling solely on the fundamental aspects of that one heart-felt letter from many years ago or when we sometimes get paid less than a quarter an hour. It all varies on each situation.
Prisoners are held beyond the limits of being "more than or less than sub-human." We are relentlessly seen as invidious creatures of habit and torturers to society; nothing but ruffians and thieves of innocence. These voices conduct a status that this is the punishment that is a "necessity" in order to strengthen our youth and for us to easily stride back into that pure society 10, 20, 30 years later, while at the same time preach that we're, "Scum, vile, and congressional heartless bastards who warrant every bit of everything --or nothing-- they deserve."
When you are in prison you lose everything. Maybe it's formulated as "doing time" because there is an absolute when it comes from the time of one's arrest to one's potential release. As the years dissipate, weddings, funerals, birthdays, Christmas and laughter no longer exist to us; it's the dwelling of each emotion that is too much to bear. Sometimes we are awarded with photocopies of memories and pictures that will never belong to us --but those too just fade away against time just as much as we have to them. Only briefly does it matter when the days and nights go on in blunder, and only sometimes do we allow ourselves to feel more than just sub-human again until we reach our days' capacity and scour back to our cells --back to nothing.
These concrete ceilings, white walls, and barred doors somewhat become our clouds of reverence, our friends, and a link to a life far better than this. They grant us a time to smile, to wander and drift off to different planets and worlds creating a nonsensical atmosphere in our imaginations that may be worth scribbling down to only be lost and forgotten in our already diminished memories. We like to dream about how to make our tiny 9x6 room THAT much bigger. We like to reminisce on whilom friends and adventures. But after awhile, just like so many other foundations, it starts coming at a high price: It begins to numb the last parts of humanity we have left. It freezes our core. We stop asking questions and learn to live with the ruthless being of being a below-zero specimen. At times we think of every impossible thing. At times we fantasize about threading a venomous rope and hanging from it like a spider dangling from its web. And in some cases, it really is the only answer --it's to end the monstrous nothing.
Being trapped all day everyday by thorns of wire and a marshal of cameras constitutes a type of haunting that can suffocate the last remainder of life --or hell-- someone has left. Boys grow up here. Men descend and die here. It's the kind of reaping that is alluring to some but detrimental to others. But just like the small stuff, like the books or the little pads with the little poems and drawings on them to one day send home, becomes so tedious it drives us towards madness: A loneliness that cannot be cured.
It's hard walking into a place like this when your whole life you taught yourself that the most miniscule thing is enough to be equivalent to something important. For the one's who still care, it is heart-wrenching to force yourself to not care because this is now your world of nothing. These binding walls draw in outbursts of emotions because of the life we are forced to endure. The catalyst of it all is an unchanged reaction causing this place to entangle people to think that this nothing is all they have or own, that this nothing is their home.
Who knew nothing could be given as a gift? Maybe that's why we have so much of nothing, we get tons of it a day. "Hey,
C.O. can we have clean water?" Nothing. "Can we have food that's not rotten or doesn't have roaches or rocks or hair in it?"
Nothing. "Can I not be interrupted while I'm praying?" Nothing. "My grandma died. Can I have a phone call home?" Nothing.
"PLEASE?!" Nothing. "Nurse? I've been throwing up blood.” Nothing. "I am going to kill myself! I need help!" Nothing. "I was raped...." Nothing. It's always nothing. We are tired of having a mound of nothing.
One may ask, "But don't y'all get like clothes and shoes and stuff?" The simple answer: We do. However, it has to be cherished as nothing --all of it-- because it can be and will be taken away from us at any given time. The letters, the family photos, it feels impossible to have any type of contentment in anything because it will be snatched by the one's who love to give us nothing for nothing and then sneer us when we "make them do their jobs." This life isn't worth the remnants of decay --it's nothing.
Prison has been and always will be a forever cold war that was built in a court that's encompassed with daily degrade and nightly plight. It's a zone with two opposed factions: The one with people in blue who stands in no-mans-land not only pointing their fingers but their guns in their so-called solidarity, and the one's in khaki suits who have nothing but a contemptuous number. But the fight for our humanity is a feeble attempt against the blue entities and their mace, tear gas, batons, shackles, and the forces of being tossed around, thrown to the ground, and trampled on like pearl-less clams. We battle everyday for our symbolic pride and it almost always gets us killed, or worse, thrown in the SHU or suicide watch where we get even more of nothing. Living in this nuclear element continues to be conclusive and sure, but our striking wit has no ending; it just poaches any man or woman who defies its credence.
We are indoctrinated into showing nothing, having nothing because we live for nothing behind these walls. We express nothing. We wake up to nothing. We sleep for nothing. We only breathe because it is a rule not to. We are undeviating bees trammeled in a hive, full of buzz and potential but forgotten and thrown away by a polluted world that doesn't even want us. It's quite sad to be the solution of one's complicated grief but this is our unchosen deluded world --and a life without meaning has no hope, but for us everyday is a meaningless hope. We have to continuously teach ourselves that we are not insane, the insufferable situations around us are.
We live in a formidable system that is repetitiously underhanded to those who can apprehend unfortunate events. We live in a formidable system where all we have is each other but everybody has to be seen as a nobody because that's just the way it is. Your friends, the people you grow to care about, are just another trivial part of this timeline. This barricade is conducted by the yin and yang's of an authentic sovereignty. All we have one is one another. We eat and shower and live together in this soulless domain. We are housed with strangers who can quickly grow into our best lad but who can dwindle back into someone minor in a matter of seconds. In here we all thrive off the inferior appearance of assembly. In here nothing is the only thing that survives. We understand each other because we appreciate the struggles in that time of being; the aftermath of having been ridiculed, damned, zip-tied, and tossed aside; being forced to be a deteriorating bystander with each unethical justification; and the perplexing ideologies of each simplicity within a complexity. And it's quite draining to be on the sidelines watching another get stabbed, jumped, or locked before your eyes. It's a silence that will last an eternity. But in the end, the superficial honesty of each story deems true, but that trust is only a naivete.
There are many times we have to remind ourselves that there are two kinds of air: Real air and prison air. The stresses of isolation can extremely coagulating. All the symptoms of sadness, loneliness, and personal execution ricochet off the walls like an inescapable vexation --but the real war is within us. Prison is a place where the physically strong get stronger but the emotionally weak get weaker. We learn quickly that in order to be effective, in order to live longer than a day, you pick your battles; you learn to be selfish. Our mental being, our hearts, they dissolve into a paralyzed daydream --a simple but quiet nightmare. The future is easily predicted because of the saturated past and the lament that it is. It's the center to our gravity and the world most of us will never escape. Time is an unexampled section of our reality. Nothing is our everything. And it hurts.
No amount of nothing can be written in a book or seen in a movie. About how this place breaks the most sane, how integrity dies. Being selfless is practically punishable by death. It's a methodical cycle anchored by a swooping eagle who's justice is blind. Empathy and sympathy lack their purposes. We are naked to the eyes of the media and politicians --the pretenders of everything. They're unfailing while we drift off basking aimlessly for relief and any type of retribution. There is no fulfillment.
There never will be. No matter how loud we ask for the guidance we so desperately need. We are dead to the inside-outside world. A world were prisoners, we, us, me... are nothing. I am nothing.
Alexander Isaiah Perez
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