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By VC

Sit in a cell 24/7/365 and tell me if you can think straight
Boxed in/locked in/no family/no friend
Just a beginning/no end/can’t breathe/no air
Mind gone with the wind/aging fast/seeing the skin peel
Seeing the hair turn grey/seeing where was once a smile
Turn to despair/dying from thirst/drinking your own tears
Knowing it can’t get no worse/bags below the eyes
You hear that soothing voice/let it out/for everybody cries

Me and Jim Crow

By PJ

Twenty years in ADX.*
I’m asked, a lot, one question:
How long have you been here?
First, let me tell you something I know:
(Feared, is the unknown;) it is the confined person’s ghost.

When I was told: “the short trip,”
I couldn’t wait to get with “it”;
to act a fool.
For two decades, really, I haven’t moved.
It seems: I’m going in circles, but before
you jump to conclusions, understand: basically,
we all (are going in circles). Some big,
some smaller than others; we live by: clocks.
The earth revolves around the sun; I crossed a lot.

Administrative Maximum is a microcosm of society.
All the problems, symptoms, epidemics in our cities
are gathered here (again), interacting.
What wasn’t solved there,
resurfaces here.
It’s an environment where: you’re constantly
fighting insanity.
That, accompanied with: maintaining your safety
and trying to stay alert.

As an African American today,
in the Criminal Justice System, ADX,
has been a way to search: myself.
As many things here, the inside becomes: meshed,
in adaptation with outside forces.
(Weakening, or strengthening, building, or destroying.)
Sometimes what we consider: a curse,
can be: a road (a beginning), a door; our cure.

In the Era of Mass Incarceration,
as an African American,
I feel: very much, like a commodity;
as I come to the realization: (monetarily),
others have “set-up,” (taken liberty),
to map-out what they feel is: my destiny.
(A rightful place) as they gain. From a
long ago, enacted (scheme) to hamper the slave.
As with The United States Penitentiary, ADX, now I know:
(That scheme) has become known
as: Justice, Criminalization, Incarceration, The New Jim Crow.

*ADX refers to a maximum security federal prison. Everyone incarcerated there is held in solitary confinement.

Isolation

By AS

Trapped inside your own mind,
no human contact takes a toll in time.
Have seen many lose their mind;
but to some only the strong survive

It affects many differently,
but all mentally and physically.
It’s not a place for a human being;
either animals have time to roam.
Being caged in like endangered species is not for any

I witness this isolation;
I live in this isolation;
Taking one day at a time
while occupying your time is the mentality of many.

As one focus on life they grow in time and
with every hardship comes ease and in the
end one will free his mind

Peace

 

AS wrote this while in solitary confinement.

I’m Thankful

By B.

I’m thankful for the first time I felt pain
because I’ve learned that something in life
is not a game.
I thank God for the first time I experienced
the loss of a friend’s life
it taught me life is precious and if you don’t respect it,
it might be your last night.
I thank God for the time in lock-down for 23-1,*
because even in darkness
I was awakened by the morning sun.
I’m thankful that I’ve been separated from woman,
God’s most precious treasured molded in gold.
Their beauty is so incomprehensive
and complete, man’s soul.
I thank God for allowing my friends
to testify against me on the stand;
at that moment I knew he was all I had
and my faith should never be put in man.
Some day and night through Karma
the things you see in the dark comes to light.
So I’m thankful most for seeing things
not just black and white,
but in 360 degrees a complete circle of life.
Life is moment of impact that causes ripples in the sea
the things we go through is a reflection
And not our true destiny.
So don’t be weary of what you go through
in the valley of death
but be proud of the reflection
in the mirror of the man that’s left.

 

*23-1 refers to being in a cell for 23 hours a day, with only 1 hour outside.

Being on Lock

By DJ

A start from home
I started alone
Very far place like America to Rome
Everything posing
Watching all four walls close in
Behind a door that never opens
Time never stops
23 hours of being on lock
Could have been worse—could’ve ended up in a box
But this is the story of being on lock.

 

Incarcerated individuals placed on “lockdown” are kept alone in their cell for 23 hours per day and given one hour for exercise and recreation.  Since writing this poem, DJ has returned to the DC Jail’s general population.