The solitude of solitary

Kohut, Shane "Napoleon"



Shane L. Kohut (aka Napoleon) Missouri The Solitude of Solitary An essay on the prison experience by S. Kohut I am currently confined to a 10x8x8 ft concrete cell. I can come out of this cell 3 times per week for 1 hour of "recreation" in a fenced cage that is actually smaller than my cell. The only "benefit" to this recreation period is the ability to breathe fresh air. Fresh, clean, free air - one of the "little things" I took for granted prior to my incarceration. Either before or after my recreation periods I am allowed a 15 minute shower. Other than that, it's me, my meager possessions (a few books, writing materials, toiletries & clothing) & a whole lot of cold, hard concrete. The housing unit I live in is one of the most secure in the country & was built with divisiveness in mind. There are 12 "wings" that consist of 4 or 5 cells in each wing. We are considered the incorrigibles, the "bad boys", the worst of the worst. The administration at this institution would probably lump me into one of those categories but I would disagree. I'll admit that I'm contumacious & of the criminal element but I'm just being myself & living my life free of extraneous permutation. This is my third stint in this housing unit in the last 2 years. The first round (10 months) was for assaulting another inmate. The second round was for investigation over a murder (4 months) that I had nothing to do with & was cleared of. This time (1 month & counting) is because six razor blades & a tattoo gun were found in my cell. I'll most likely pull a year on this one. Solitary confinement can do one of two things to a person. It can either break you down or make you stronger. I believe the effect it has on an individual is dependent upon (1) the strength of their mind & (2) what they do with their time. Solitary breaks the spirit of a lot of people. They lose hope because their situation is dire, their surroundings are stygian & their possessions are meager. I've seen it happen to many people over the 20 years I've been in & out of prison. When a person is alone with their thoughts & they know not what to do with the ample "free" time they have, they sometimes begin doing things that are out of character. These wings are chock full of men who scream aloud day & night. They kick & bang on their doors & toilets. They [illegible] in their own feces & allow themselves to deteriorate to a point that they are unable to return from. The only thing left for them is a handful of medication to try to keep them under control. Me? I get stronger. I occupy every minute of every day with things that make me a better, stronger, more intelligent human being. I work out & do calestinics every day. I read non-fiction educational books & magazines. I write poetry, articles, short stories, essays & people who rarely, or never, write back. I know how to do solitary confinement & thrive in situations that are specifically made to break me down. Each time I am placed in solitary I come out better. What is meant as punishment only serves to improve me. Kind of like, "If life hands you lemons, make lemonade". I sometimes feel as if I dwell in a lemon orchard. I do not mean to paint the picture that I enjoy solitary or to take away the harshness of these living conditions. It is rough & I by no means enjoy it, however, what choice do I have but to make the best of a bad situation? Before I began this essay I wondered to myself if I would be able to evince what Solitary Confinement is really like. I can explain it & I can elucidate what things are like, but to know what it's really about, to actually understand this life, you have to live it. You have to hear the screams, see the degradation, feel the loneliness, smell the stench, & touch the cold, unforgiving concrete. An individual can understand the concept of solitary, & mentally try to envision what it's like, but conception & reality are sometimes separated by a large margin. Until you experience this sort of confinement for weeks, months & years... you cannot understand it. I put the word solitude in the title of this essay because I am able to find solitude in these types of settings. I am at peace with myself, am comfortable with my thoughts, & enjoy my own company. I'm not sure that many others in my position would use solitude as a definitive for this sort of confinement, but they are not me. What can I say? I'm great at making lemonade. 🙂 2-28-14 Transcribed: 2017-01

Author: Kohut, Shane "Napoleon"

Author Location: Missouri

Date: October 18, 2016

Genre: Essay

Extent: 6 pages

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