Written by Michael Henderson

February 26, 2022

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

Hello to all I the A.I. Universe.

I was given an article recently by Katie Rose Quandt and Alexi Jones titled Research Roundup: Incarceration can cause lasting damage to mental health. The article went in depth about the effects of our current system of penology on the mental health of those affected with mental health issues prior to being incarcerated. But what was most fascinating for me was the evidence that those who previously had no mental health issues were being subjected to such cruel conditions that even those leaving prison are experiencing lasting detrimental affects to their mental health. The affectation is known as “Post Incarceration Syndrome.”

The article took into consideration what I have found to be the most prevalent factor surrounding the mental deterioration in the carceral environment… STAFF. I will always remain fair in my assessments and never place all staff in the same category, but like the inmates, the staff that make the incarcerative experience a pure living hell, as opposed to a corrective endeavor, without a doubt have the most influence, and hence, the biggest impact on the mental health of prisoners.

A recent experience may explain. I am currently housed at a prison in Lake County Florida, appropriately Lake Correctional Institution. At this prison there is no library, no law library, nor any vocational education programs. There is space for a limited number of prisoners to work on obtaining a G.E.D., and a recently-begun wellness education program. There are also some religious volunteers and someone from Toastmaster’s International that comes in once a week to facilitate a group known as the Gavel Club. I am a member of the Gavel Club and the Wellness class. Unfortunately, although the Wellness instructor is very adept at relating her subject matter, almost none of the material is applicable to prison life. We have wellness education in the morning, and a coinciding recreation period in the afternoon. On this particular afternoon after walking several laps around the rec yard I sat my arthritic self on an incline in the grass to rest my knees. The next thing I knew two newer officers, officers, arroyo and stewart, were standing over me ordering me to get up and get moving. I attempted to explain that I had just walked several laps around the rec yard and was resting because I suffer from arthritis. None of the precipitating factors made any difference to these two officers. I know this because they said so when they replied, “I don’t care, get up and get moving like I told you.” I then tried to explain that the Wellness instructor is aware of my situation but was again informed that that held no weight with these two power hungry officers, that they had given me an order. When I asked if they would treat their grandfather this way that was all the reason they needed to whip out the handcuffs and begin the walk of shame across the rec yard with their quota of radical senior citizens in tow on the road to confinement where I would begin days if not weeks…yes you guessed it, doing nothing but lying on my back. The worst part for me would not be the loss of what little stimuli we do have by being placed into confinement, it was being essentially arrested by these two officers simply because of the power play that was created by them in the first place. When we reached the captain for approval to “lock me up,” thankfully he was somewhat level-headed and had the presence of mind to inform the officers that “the thing that started the whole thing,” my laying in the grass during recreation, I was actually allowed to do. The captain left it up to the officers whether or not to place me in confinement and I have no idea why they declined but by that time the damage to my psyche had already been done. While removing the hand cuffs the other officer had to get in one last jab by making the statement, “and wipe that smirk off your face.”

Now mind you, I’m sixty years old being ordered around by two recent high school graduate misandrists because FDC has lowered the recruitment age to 18. What can possibly be accomplished by placing an 18 year old in a position of authority over a sixty year old? The only thing to be accomplished is having a body to fill the position. There is absolutely zero rehabilitation even if that were the goal. Which it is not. The end result was that I was ordered to leave the rec yard and return to the dormitory. So instead of hitting what they were shooting at, me to be physically active on the rec yard, I went to the dorm and proceeded to lay back on my bunk doing nothing. Not only was my physical well being completely disregarded by officers arroyo and stewart, but it was literally days before my mental functioning began to process the event without anger, depression, and the feeling of degradation. And to be quite honest I still have not gotten completely over it because I find myself doing everything possible to avoid these two officers even in passing. The real question is will I ever be able to deal with life on life’s own terms again whether inside or outside these fences?

It is not surprising the recidivism rate is as high as it is as mental illness appears to be the touchstone of the largest incarceral system the world has ever known.

By the way, did I mention Lake C.I. is a designated mental health facility. A lot of good that does.

Peace and love. Namaste.

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