Prison Food and Starvation in Solitary Confinement

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Solitary confinement

(Sonni’s note:More than a year later. I initially wrote this post on Feb,14,2014. One of the first ones,  so I thought I’d post it again with a catch up. The letter I received from Jamie Cummings was actually written in September 2012. 

What the guards did that day, planting a homemade knife, out in the open, on his sink, put him back in Ad Seg, which is short for administrative segregation or solitary confinement. Anything more than 15 days in that kind of complete isolation affects the brain. It can break even the strongest men and affect them so bad that even when (if) they get out, it is impossible for them to be around people. Many try to kill themselves. The suicide rate, and the attempt to commit suicide is off the charts. The first chapters of the book I’m writing take place while he is in ad seg.

There is much I didn’t know about prison those first years I was writing to him. I hadn’t started researching the issues I do now. I initially wrote him that first letter about a year after he was arrested because I wanted to see how he was doing. He was surprised I wrote to him out of the blue. I didn’t find out at first that he was alone in every way because no one writing to him. My daughter wrote to him at first, but went on with her life, met another man, got married and had another baby. His family went on with their lives and did pretty much nothing to help him. He had only one visit. My daughter and his bio mom came. They had sent him to a prison that was as far away as they could in Texas, from one side to the other so a prison visit was nearly impossible because it took 3 days, traveling with 3 children. But that should not have stopped everyone from writing.

At that time I only knew he was a lonely young man and my letters gave him something to do when he answered them.  I had no idea at that time what deprivation in a solitary cell meant He had no books. He was indigent, meaning he didn’t have a nickle to buy even simple things like deodorant. Our relationship grew. I became “mom”. He was a pretty hefty guy when he went in. I had met him right before this happened, when I went to visit my daughter in Texas for Thanksgiving. He was arrested in December. He isn’t a hefty guy anymore, though. What a way to lose weight. Near starvation. If you have no commissary money put on your books by family, your up the crick without a paddle. Even if he was at the G2 level and was able to get a job, Texas doesn’t pay anything.  Some states you can make between .23 to .49 an hour depending on the job.

I haven’t posted any of the early letters yet that are before 2010. They are packed up in box in my garage, but I will be publishing them. I want to read those early ones again very much.  They were packed when I moved. When his son gets older he will be able to know who his father was during this time he has been away. When you read these letters he wrote to me to me, just remember, these letters were his only lifeline.)


Dear mom, I hope you are doing good.

Sorry for taking so long to write.  They are starving us. I don’t know how they get away with this but they do. We can’t do anything about it. They put us all on lockdown again. Not because we did anything but because they want to toss our cells looking for weapons and drugs. One time they planted a weapon in my cell. They put a homemade knife on the sink.

shank,prison knives,prison weapons,homemade knife
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Prison knives are made of anything they can sharpen.

I was really surprised and mad when they “found” it. Even if I had a homemade knife, would I have been stupid enough to leave it out on the sink when I knew they were going to toss my cell looking for weapons? It had to be a guard. They try to get you in trouble and keep you down. It doesn’t matter if you are guilty of doing something in here, they will make sure you are guilty. It’s your word against theirs, and you can’t win.

We’re on our second week of lockdown. This is the hardest one I’ve gone through. By law they are supposed to feed you a hot meal every three days but they do what they want to anyone in prison whites, which is us. They are feeding us what they call a peanut butter sandwich which is a half spoon of peanut butter on bread. They only give us a half spoon because they are trying to stretch it out to last longer. It saves them money.  They serve nasty prison food.  They stretch it more by  also adding some really nasty soup or applesauce that makes me gag.  But I have no choice.  I have to eat it or I get nothing. I’ve heard that it costs $40,000 a year for each inmate, to keep us here. Where does the money go because it sure isn’t spent on food. Once in a while we get a meat sandwich or cornbread. Sometimes prunes or raisons. In the morning we get two biscuits with a half spoon of peanut butter or maybe two pancakes.  That’s why I have lost so much weight.  Food is worse when you are on lockdown.

prison food,lockdown,ad seginmate privileges,no justice for inmates
example of prison food on while on lockdown
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This injustice system is built for the inmates to lose. If we think we’re being treated wrong by the officers and they write up a case against us ( make up a case is more like it ), they tell us to write up an appeal. First they take away privileges, like going to the commissary or rec, for 30-45 days. Guess how long it takes for the answer to the appeal to come back? 30 days. It’s crazy. The appeal will always be denied, too. It’s all for nothing. All inmate privileges taken away for everyone. I lose my comm privileges for nothing. I get punished because I appealed the false charges against me. I lose because I tried to stand up to the bullshit. There is no way around the system. All the officer has to do is lie and the next one will back it up or say he didn’t see anything.

But I’m learning there are effects for every cause that is made. All the good ones and all the bad ones.  If I have to pay for the wrongs I did, so will they.   I’ve been reading these magazines you got for me, the Living Buddhism and the World Tribune about Nichiren Buddhism so I know these guards in here don’t get away with the things they do.  It’s now part of their own lives. They will have to face the effects of so much inhumanity to the inmates. They don’t get away with the things they do to other human beings. They may get off treating us like dogs, but we aren’t dogs. They may talk to each other about all the things they do to us and laugh about it, thinking they are getting away with it. But we are people. I will do my best to change the parts of me that caused this to happen to my life. I will find a way to make a difference. I will become a better person. I will someday leave here a better person. I do have hope.

It’s a new year and I’m going to do my best to stay out of trouble. I never try to make trouble. It’s always someone else who comes up to fight me. But no more fighting. Nothing. But when you don’t fight back then everyone feels they can run over you. But I’m not going to fight. I want to focus on coming home. I have to raise my level before they will consider me for parole. I’m level 3. I need to be level 1 before it’s even possible. Even then they could still turn me down. They will give me something called a set-off, which means I have to wait another five years before I can see the parole board again unless they want to bring me back up again. This system is built for our downfall. They don’t want us to survive in here. There is no justice for inmates at all.