March 12, 2013

Solitary Confinement

by Donald Deardorff (author's profile)

Transcription

11 Feb. 2013
RE: Panel Discussion on Solitary Confinement
Reply ID: "SolitaryPanel"

Hello,

First let me offer my sincere gratitude for the opportunity to voice my thoughts and feelings. As a member of Voices From Alabama Death Row there's lots to be said.

I'm sure there will be all types of opinions, scientific and personal about the damages of being confined in a solitary environment. After discussing this with my group we offer these personal experiences and thoughts.

Although Alabama has some larger counties where jails house a higher numbers of people, most of us come from jails where the maximum count rarely exceeds 500 people. In Baldwin County on average, 200 of that number is actually Federal inmates being housed. Defendants coming in with cases such as ours and facing the Death Penalty are often placed in a solitary confinement unit, mine was in a cellblock where people with disciplinary problems were kept.

So right from the start, even under the "alleged" presumption of innocence people are being emotionally drained. A lack of contact with people who offer any positive impact. A man in the cell next to mine was on his fourth trip for fighting. He had no other thought but to be disruptive. Before long most people will at least consider that as a way of living. So by the time we got here to Death Row, most of us have issues of resentment, anger and a lack of trust. How long do you think a person with that emotional damage can keep up a relationship with family members they hardly ever get to see? For me, I'm housed roughly 300 miles from my closest family member.

Upon getting here we are again placed on a no contact regimen. A shower every other day, escorted to and from the shower in handcuffs. Locked in the shower until they decide to return. For me, I spent six and a half months in that status. Now being honest, we are given some open day room time here. We have a strong Kairos Ministry presence here. So we are allowed out as a group from time to time.

However, I feel that in itself is an even larger emotional trap. When the doors do open people are like robots. We have a group that will play dominoes for every minute they're out of the cells. Be it minutes or twelve hours straight. Some might ask why that's a problem, those inmates are demonstrating the group activity. Performing in a social setting. In plain terms, getting along with each other. Yes, but at what cost?

That brief period of "freedom" is consumed as if there won't ever be any more. Those inmates have lost the ability to process anything more. Before long their only goal is tomorrow's dominoes. After going back to the cells they sit at the door and cream to each other about what they should have played. The next day it's discussions about yesterday's games. Can we believe they really remember what hand of dominoes they had? I say no, but in their mind they can. Because of being so consumed with it. Their solitary confinement offers nothing else.

When I first got here the Warden had an open hobby craft policy. Demonstrate you could conform to the rules like a civilized man and you were allowed to order wood working supplies, drawing and paint crafts. Most of us found a way to leave here if only in our minds. Then a new administration took over. Warden Cheryl Price and Deputy Warden Loyd Hicks. Without reason or warning they suspended the entire camp's (1600 inmates) hobby craft program.

On top of that, Death Row has not been allowed outside for a recreation period in two and a half years. In July it will be three years since any of us have had a drop of sunshine on us except what comes through a window. When we ask the warden why we can't walk but the rest of the inmates on our housing unit do? Their reply, Because we say so.

Yet in our daily newsletter they post a full page on suicide and the signs to look for. People routinely kill themselves at this prison. We've also been noticed as one of the most violent in the US based on daily incidents. There are several pending lawsuits from inmates who were stabbed to officers feeling their safety was in question due to the administration.

So questions to the panel:
1. Is there anybody based in Alabama that's actually working towards changing the system? Someone we could begin to communicate with so issues could be documented and studied.

2. Has anyone proposed a set standard of treatment for people placed in this setting. I don't mean people that have been violent or have disciplinary reports, I'm talking about Death Row inmates or those with medical issues.

3. Inmates housed such as us find it hard to acquire resource lists. Are there groups, schools, individuals, that offer educational materials to us for free or at a reduced cost? I ask mainly because Voices From Alabama Death Row have begun making sure we have all the education we can get, even here. One of our group just completed his GED at 39 years old. He felt he had to have it as an example to his children. So we are searching for contacts.

I could write a hundred more questions and talk for pages. I recognize it's a limited time and space panel. So I'll stay reserved and hope others have a chance to be heard. I thank you for just giving us the chance to speak.

I can be reached directly here at:
Donald Deardorff
Z-681 U22-1A
100 Warrior Lane
Bessemer, Al. 35023

Now that I'm back from court I'll be posting at my blog space weekly so look for my comments there: http://betweenthebars.org/blogs/5406/

I wish all of you success in this study.

Always...

Don

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Replies (9) Replies feed

alexandra Posted 6 years, 6 months ago. ✓ Mailed 6 years, 6 months ago   Favorite
HI There,

Was surfing the net and came across this site, its extremely interesting...........

I have joined up on this site as I guess that's how I can see what happens on death row, its a real eye opener what I just read.

Keep writing and I will keep reading this site.

Alexandra

alexandra Posted 6 years, 4 months ago. ✓ Mailed 6 years, 4 months ago   Favorite
Hi there,

Just wanted to say that I was reading through your posts today as I cant stop smiling to have such a special and remarkable man in my life.

Keep up all the writing as I really enjoy reading your articles, who would of thought that after ten years we are just as strong, if not stronger.

As long as you write, I will read this site.

Happy 10th Anniversary (___________)

Alexandra

alexandra Posted 6 years, 3 months ago. ✓ Mailed 6 years, 2 months ago     1 Favorite
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Hey there, (__________________________)


I had a day off work and thought I would read some blogs from behind the bars.

Can you believe that I have been reading for just over two hours and some of the blogs that I have read are extremely strange!!! I cant even begin to analyse how some peoples mind work.

I know that being in prison takes away a lot of peoples dignity and its hard to adapt to having the basic things that we take for granted being taken away, like electricity, running water in taps and toilets that work, but most of all, walking in the sun and fresh air.

What makes me really mad is that when a person is imprisoned their families seem to write them off and not even bother about them, but at one time they were the head of the house, they lived, loved and laughed, but now due to one being in prison, its like you are no longer alive.

I have seen over the years how prisoners are treated, irrespective of them being found guilty despite them in fact being innocent, and I have seen how some of the men that I become friends with slowly lost hope when their families started giving up on them.

You may wonder why I have said all this but after reading some of the other blogs it really made me appreciate you more and even love you more, if thats at all possible.

Don, I know you are busy fighting for your life, and one day you will be home, but until that time comes, just know that I love you very much and as from today I have started to write our friends and rattle some cages, like I used to.

You may also think I am mad in writing to you here, but I want people to see that you still have a family that care about you, and stand by the choices that you make while you are there and that you are nothing like people portray you to be, in fact you are a real man with real feelings.

More by snail..................


xoxo

alexandra Posted 6 years, 1 month ago. ✓ Mailed 6 years, 1 month ago     1 Favorite
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Hey there (___________________)

Its me again!!!!

Once again I find myself drawn to this web site and it just makes me feel so closer to you (_________________).

I choose the solitary confinement blog because it makes me think of everything that we take for granted, everything that we can do in the "free world" at a whims notice.

You know I always took my freedom for granted, its lie if I wanted to do something I could, I believed I was invincible, I knew if some one tried to attack me they would get a fight on their hands as I could defend myself, but a week ago when being attacked I got extremely scared and could not fight off the attacker, believing that I was going to die..........

I know you may ask why I am writing this here and not in a letter to you, but I already did that, and the reason for this is because I wonder is living in a free world better than being in solitary confinement??? Is being free, far better than being in prison???

In prison you have to watch your back, just like you do here, so where is the better place to be, at home or in prison???

Don, we have had ten years together, sharing the good and the bad, so for you my love, I fight to stay alive in the free world in the hope that you fight just as hard for your life and freedom, so together we can be a family once this is all over.

I love you so much

xoxoxo

alexandra Posted 5 years, 10 months ago. ✓ Mailed 5 years, 10 months ago   Favorite
Dear Don,

I thought that the email I sent last night would be my last one to you ever but after giving your email some thought, damn well will not give up on you.

You are my man, and you seem to think that after 10 years together you can just walk away especially after you told me that I am stuck with you for ever and you will always be mine and then out of the blue, you end what we have after 10 years????

You even promised that if we lost the snail, you would know where to find me, really???

Don, I will fight for you as you are mine, today was one of the worst days in my entire life, I never went to work and have literally spent the whole day crying, I just took 6 napacod to calm me down and no doubt I will eventually fall asleep, but that's my problem, not yours............

Don, we planned a life together and I will not give up on you, I have been faithful to you, but you want to end this by saying its lack of snail or communication between us, but it works both ways. Yes, I don't respond to all your emails as soon as you send them, but I also go weeks without an email from you. What about snail?? Jo sends every month to you but you don't respond,as to me, when did you last write, because the last snail was so long ago I cant even remember........................

So, I then thought you must have met some one else, so have you?? I ask because I know you don't cheat and the only way you will move on is without baggage, so have you met another woman??

I called the prison today, four times in fact, to ask for the chaplain, but they did not understand me, then half an hour ago someone understood me and said he is not there.

Don, I love you and will not walk away from you, I promised your gran that I would always be with you by your side, so why are you walking away from me?

Don, has the last 10 year's between us been a lie? You sure as hell have given me a Christmas to remember!!!! You promised that you would never ever hut me and now you say I am cruel??

Ok, I am not going to beg for you to love me, so if you have thought this over and want it finished, so be it, but I dont want this finished, do you?

I tried to call your mom but her number just rings.

Don, tell me, in your heart do you really want this over?

I am putting this email on your blog as well, just to make sure you get it, because even after all the snail problems we have managed to overcome this.

I guess I really do love you MORE because I am the one running around trying to save what we have built up together.

I love you unconditionally

Alexandra

xoxoxo

alexandra Posted 5 years, 10 months ago. ✓ Mailed 5 years, 10 months ago   Favorite
Dear Don,

I am sending this to you on this site as I am not sure that you are getting my emails from Les.

I got your mail and I dont know what to say, right now I am in shock!!!!

I have sent this email to Les but just so you know, I have been emailing him twice a week telling him to tell you what has been going on as I have not been well. When it came to your tanks giving Les sent me an email and said not to send any emails that week and the following week!!!

Jo does not like Les and I now believe that he has been holding back some of my emails, but what does it matter, you ended our relationship.

Ok, you want to end this, that's fine then, After 10 years together you ended what we have, you said if we lost the snail things would be ok, nothing would change you knew where to find me.

I haven't emailed you since the 7/12/2013 as I have been busy and sick and Jo has been extremely sick, things have been bad but I kept them from you as I didn't want you to worry.

Don, I love you and always will and as you know my experience with men there will not be another man in my life ever, no one can replace you.

You have hurt me so much but because I love you so much I will let you go but one thing you have to, know, out of the 10years we have been together, I told you one lie as I didnt want you to worry, my hernia is not a hernia, its a malignant tumour which I am due to have removed on the 7th January, just thought you would like to know. Remember, my last email, I told you I have leave in January........

Please can you send me back all the photos of Jo when she was a baby.

You are a remarkable and very special man, I hope you really find the love and happiness you deserve with another woman, I will always love you more!!!

You will always be my one true love.

I love you

Alexandra

alexandra Posted 5 years, 10 months ago. ✓ Mailed 5 years, 10 months ago   Favorite
Hey there,

Today is Christmas Day and its been one of the worst Christmas's that I have had over the last 10 years. I have spent the last few days crying so much that I feel extremely sick, you know Don, after all these years together and to see you end it like this makes me feel incredibly sad, but I am not going to beg for your love.

In your email that you sent you have caused me more pain than both Colin and Nigel put together, you that broke down all my boundaries and taught me how to love has now done the one thing he promised never to do, you have hurt me so bad.

I am not going to beg you to love me because I know that you have had lots of woman in your life and are probably used to telling them to go, so what's another one,except this one was stupid and gullible because she believed that you loved her and that there was a chance of a life together after all this.

Just remember it was your choice to end what we had, not mine, and how ironic, our friends who played games with our mail have got what they have been trying to do for so long, Don and Ali are no more............

Don, I will sort out your money that I have and will in the next month get it released and sent to your mom, the money that you sent on previous occasions I will pay you back, I just don't have it right now, so in February when I am starting to get better I will work extra hours to start paying you back, it might take me a year or so but you will get every single cent that you lent me.

I hope you know that Jo is hurting just as much, how cruel to send that email that you wrote me to her, why did you do that??? Why bring her into our relationship? Why let her see how you ended this? Is that what a real man does? I don't need a response...........

The Christmas card that I posted you, just tear it up when you get it because it has no meaning any more.

I end this email with a poem that I wrote you as it is easier for me to put things in writing to express my feelings.

Sometimes I wonder what's on your mind.
But now I choose not to care.
Some words are left unsaid.
These unsaid words need to be said.
Mistakes can occur.
It may have or did already.
We both are in pain wondering what's on each other mind.
My mind is left blank.
Blank because it's missing.
It's missing you.
You took every part of me.
First my heart; my soul; then my mind;
now everything.
Every part of my body is stolen from you.
Not physically but mentally.
I don't wish to turn back time,
doing that may make me not meet you.
It may not let me feel what I have felt.
Even though this is a painful acceptance
but I'll still always think of you
You changed part of me.
I thank you for showing me things I haven't known.
I thank you for loving me.
I thank you for letting me be part of your life.
Part of my love will always remain with you.
My last farewell and goodbye to you.

Goodbye, my love
My special man whom
I loved more


Alexandra
25/12/2013

alexandra Posted 5 years, 4 months ago. ✓ Mailed 5 years, 4 months ago   Favorite
Hey there my love,

No news in over 3 weeks, and I am getting myself worried, I have thoughts of are you in lock down, are you alive or have you died??

It was our 11th year Anniversary last week and no word from you, which is strange and set warning bells running in my head..........

Don, I am so worried about you, please send me word, I emailed Les three times and he says you are ok, that made me more worried.

I love you Don, so very much.

All my love
Alexandra
xoxoxo

alexandra Posted 5 years, 4 months ago. ✓ Mailed 5 years, 3 months ago   Favorite
4th July 2014

Hey there my love,

What the hell is going on in your life?????

I have learnt to live with no snail at times, but now I am hitting panic mode, no snail and no phone calls.....................

Just so you know how worried I am about you I have sent emails out to all contact numbers you have given me over the years to see if they can hep me, this not knowing is horrible, I cant deal with this much longer.

Don, I dont know whats wrong or if I did something to upset you,but surely you can talk to me, yes/no??

My love, if you have met someone else then please tell me, dont cut me dead like this. I will give you your freedom if you want, just talk to me, please.

Its been an awful month with worrying and doubt, please make contact with me.

I love you Don, so very much.

Ali

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