On Solitary Confinement by Tommie Carter

An unoccupied cell in the segregation unit at Waupun Correctional Institution. The cells are small, with a narrow window and concrete and steel furnishings. Photo Credit

Dear amerika:

I would like the opportunity to expose the hazardous and unhealthful conditions of confinement in the prisons in the state of Wisconsin and all of its subdivisions; which has created a substantial risk of harm to all mentally ill prisoners, medically ill prisoners, and prisoners who are showing signs of illnesses.

Exculpatory evidence has shown that most prisoners in the state of Wisconsin and other state’s have a very difficult time handling these conditions of extreme social isolation and sensory deprivation. For seriously mentally ill prisoners the conditions can be devastating. Lacking physical and social points of reference to ground them in reality, they run a high risk of breaking down and attempting suicide.

L-R, Row 1:Waupun CI, Columbia CI; Row 2: WSPF and Green Bay CI

Waupun correctional institution, columbia correctional institution, wisconsin secure program facility, and green bay correctional institution are all designed to enslave the worst of the worst prisoners. Prisoners held captive here experience limited social interaction and idleness, and almost every aspect of our daily life is controlled and monitored.

The Effects Of Solitary Confinement On Mental Illness

Solitary confinement is known to cause severe psychiatric morbidity, disability, suffering and mortality. Prisoners in the restrictive housing units [RHU]—also known as security housing units [SHU], or solitary confinement [SC]—who have no history of mental illness and who are not prone to psychiatric decompensation (breakdown) often develop a constellation of symptoms known as “SHU [security housing unit] syndrome.” Although SHU syndrome is not a recognized diagnostic category, it is made up of diagnoses of paranoid delusional disorder, dissociative disorder, schizophrenia and panic disorder. The extremely isolating conditions in maximum confinement cause SHU syndrome in those who are relatively healthy, prisoners who have histories of mental illness, as well as prisoners who have never suffered a breakdown in the past but are prone to break down when the stress and trauma become exceptionally severe. Many prisoners are not capable of maintaining their sanity in such an extreme and stressful environment; a high number attempt suicide.

Enslaved To Anguish And Prison Torment Of Pain 

I was charged and convicted of armed robbery, reckless injury, and possession with intent to deliver cocaine. I did 17½ years in the wisconsin prison system, most of my time I was in RHU exposed to insidious conditions that affected my ability to function normally; and as a result, I engaged in serious self harm behaviors by hanging myself, banging my head, cutting arteries in my arms, legs, lacerating my neck, with the intention to commit suicide! I also overdosed on “acetaminophen” with the sole purpose of killing myself.

The conditions of solitary confinement toyed with my personality and emotions, which resulted in symptoms associated with my mental illness and pre-existing medical problems and other disabilities.

I was never provided with adequate mental health treatment, instead I was placed on a 60 day rotation! Which is a security restriction when no prison in the state of Wisconsin wants to deal with you and the administration feels like you are a danger to others and yourself and unable to follow rules or able to make rational choices.

Suicidal Prisoners Laughed At By D.O.C. Officials

Whenever a prisoner informs a corrections officer that they are suicidal or engages in behavior that leads any corrections official to believe that they are suicidal, the mental health staff is not consulted; instead the prisoner is disrespected and encouraged to kill themselves by staff who are required to keep prisoners safe from themselves.

The lie psychologists and security staff like to say is that the prisoner is “manipulating” and “malingering  symptomatology” for their own benefit rather than exhibiting symptoms of mental illness. These officials intentionally overlook those who are in serious need of psychiatric help.

For example, if you review the files of prisoners (including myself) who have been admitted repeatedly to hospitals, and prescribed mood regulating medications and have been treated for mental illnesses for years, you’ll find that the files contain regular references to an inmate’s “merely manipulating.” However, it’s important to note that an inmate can malinger and have a mental illness at the same time.

Doc staff intentionally dismisses an inmate’s cry for help as manipulation, only to find that the prisoner committed suicide in the meantime. There have been many attempted suicides and instances of self-harm at all DOC Facilities and successful suicides.

Final Conclusion On Solitary Confinement

Courtesy of @PrometheusWrites on Facebook

The conditions of confinement at GBCI, WCI, CCI and WSPF, as well as other DOC Prisons and subdivisions pose a grave risk of harm to prisoners held there; these risks include the development serious mental illness, such as the extreme and bizarre behavior of feces smearing and refusing to eat, as well as the exacerbation of existing symptoms, such as increased depression, hallucination, derealization and acute suicidality. Prison officials will never address the lasting psychological damage that the isolating conditions at these institutions inflict upon inmates there. These people will not address the possibility that the isolating conditions at these prisons are the reasons why prisoners require so much medical attention.

Please don’t give up the fight for mental health treatment and always remember: “let your pain be the motivation for your success in life.”

Respectfully yours,

Tommie L. Carter #389297
G.B.C.I
P. O. Box 19033
Green Bay, Wi 54307

You can write to Tommie at the address above, or create an email with Corrlinks—which Tommie has access to—and develop a correspondence electronically!

If you’re not experienced with writing to prisoners, here are some tips.

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