Slave Narrative #42: Real Thoughts and Experiences from the Perspective of Massachusetts Prisoners

By Patricia Olsen

If an inmate gets hurt or isn’t feel ingwell, you are told to put in a “sick-slip.” After a day, or two, or three, you are given an appointment with a trauma nurse who evaluates you and determines if you are “sick” enough to see a nurse practitioner. We do have a doctor, but you only see her when you’re one step from being checked into the hospital.

But, if you are a service dog, as soon as there is a problem, like a rash or a limp from playing too much, a Captain is called. Then the foundation is called and they tell the Captain what to do with the dog. In some cases, they get brought to a vet ASAP. Dogs don’t have to do a sick slip and wait days. In some cases, we inmates wait weeks.

In July of 2015 I started a sick-slip adventure. I knew something was wrong with my Chrons disease. After all I’ve had it for over half my life. Fortunately, I have a chronic-care illness so I was seen by the nurse practitioner. She was a caring woman, but could only so what the policies allowed. By mid-September it got so bad and I looked so bad that my mental health clinician walked me to medical and insisted that I be seen. My N.P. called the hospital, but they said they didn’t have any beds for a woman.

The hospital they send inmates to is a hospital that a lot of people (including staff) say they wouldn’t take their dog there. They have one floor that houses inmates; mostly males. It is a learning hospital that does have some good doctors, but not many.

It took a few days, but eventually I was admitted. It was horrible. The intern asked a lot of questions, but didn’t take heed to anything I said. Instead of treating the Chrons disease, I was housed alone and quarantined. I wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom down the hall. Instead, they brought in a plastic commode and a pile of pads. After each use, I had to put the pad in a “BIO-bag.” It got to the point where I ran out of bags and buzzed for more, to no avail. I had to open the bags to add more. It was degrading and humiliating. I was kept behind closed doors feeling completely and utterly alone. I felt as dirty as the contents of the bags.

After about a week of this, I was awoken by a doctor, who asked if my abdomen was usually this big. I looked down and it appeared as if I was nine months pregnant with triplets. I told him no, and he yelled out the door for help. I was rushed to Boston Medical Center. A real hospital.

I was experiencing Toxic Colon Syndrome. My large intestine had ruptured in multiple areas. I was sepsis and bleeding from my spleen. My veins collapsed. All I remember was the surgeon telling me I had to have emergency surgery.

While all this was happening, my mother was oblivious to where I was and what was happening. DOC rules state they cannot notify our loved ones on medical issues or our whereabouts, unless we die. My mother knew I was sick and at the other hospital. I had called her from there, but she thought it was just a normal flare-up and I would be released in a few days.

I don’t know what time it was when the hospital called her, but I was unconscious and couldn’t make decisions. The doctor told her how bad it was. The fact that my mother had to hear “We don’t think she’s going to make it,” breaks my heart to this day. But, like any good mother, mom said, “Call a priest for her last rites,” and “Do anything you can to save my baby.”

Dr. B. did a total abdominal colectomy. I was kept open overnight, and the next day they continued to drain the pelvic abscess and created an ileostomy. During the surgery I was supposed to be cuffed to the table, but the officer that was there said they don’t make cuffs big enough to go around my swollen-from-infection ankles. She stayed with me and was there when I woke up. My mother had called the hospital and they told her I was still in ICU. On the third day when she called an officer got on the phone and he said she wasn’t supposed to be calling. For security reasons she wasn’t supposed to know where I was. (Like my 80-year old mother was going to break me with all my machines and tubes out of the hospital.)

She tried to call many times after that and no one would help her or give her answers. Here in prison we were changing Superintendents and no one would help. For days this poor woman had no idea what was going on. She only knew, because they didn’t call, that I was still alive. If the system wants to punish me, fine, but don’t punish our families.

It was about two and half weeks before I was sent back to the other hospital, that I was able to call my mother. When she picked up the phone, I said, “Mom,” and she broke down. It made me so angry that this system put my mother through hell. The whole time I was in the hospital I wasn’t concerned about my health, I was worried about the stress this was putting on my 80-year old mother.

I understand this is security issues and that they can’t make exceptions for anyone, but to make our families be in the dark is not fair either. She just needed to know I was okay. What would it take just to call her and say she’s out of ICU and will call you when she’s transferred back to the other hospital.

There should be a policy where our families that are on our health care proxies be able to inquire about us. They don’t have to say what hospital we’re at, but at least tell them we are being taken care of. No one’s mother should sit for days by the phone, hoping and praying that someone calls her back.

Slave Narrative #41: Real Thoughts and Experiences from the Perspective of Massachusetts Prisoners

My Letter to America
Journal #8

Damn…don’t you know America? Men and women are dying. Not all but just a select demographic who’ve been marginalized to poverty, prisons and penal structures. They put people from these places in prisons because they’ve decided to no longer suffer from the many societal pains that derive from the environments they’ve come from. So, the question surfaces, what can be done about a system designed to augment margins and repress people who are doing all they can to go outside those margins?

America, we’re tired of your sneak hatred, we’re tired of your racism and the continuation of investing into institutions that perpetuate different modes of slavery. In prison, the lowest tier of civilization within America, is left outside of rule of law and persons within these places are snuffed out from the world, left to suffer in isolation. The system of communication that’s so widely used in society is nonexistent within the confines of your various “departments of correction.” Others don’t know about said horrors which exist until they’ve been arrested and thrust into the shock of being thrown into a society within a society. These places really do no good for your long term health because they tend to erode the chastity of liberty which begins to leave a filthy stench of hypocrisy.

I ask, why does premeditated murder exists, why does crack and heroine still so often make appearances in my community, why is unemployment always concentrated in the places I’ve grown up and was raised in? Why are laws manufactured and tailored to antagonized me and my pool of friends? You act dumb sometimes and as if you don’t know why you behave the way you do at times. DO you think or do you just act, because when I act without thinking you oppressively incarcerated and do all you can to break my spirit and keep me tunnel visioned to the immediate wrong at hand opposed to the larger wrong that you’ve perpetuated, and caused me to forced my hand.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve not scribed a sob letter to this because we’ve been called to ACT and act is what we will do. We will no longer allow you to force your oppressive hands upon us. I’ve suited up — along with the millions of others to address and do away with your abuse. Eyes at times have grown weary, but yet we’re wide awake and strategizing. What? You ask me who I denote when I profess, “We’re.” We’re, being we are, is the people who are fed up with your B.S. and have resolved to suffer no more. We see that you derive excitement from our suffering, while you live in every bit of accordance to your dream. Well listen, our dream comes directly from a place of longing in which we will die in order to bring into fruition. Don’t stay up though, because while you’re sleep go fighting your sleep — we’re wide awake and moving about in rhythmic waves of action to fight your system!

Your champion & student,
Derrick Washington

Slave Narrative #40: Real Thoughts and Experiences from the Perspective of Massachusetts Prisoners

No Giants to Fear But Yourself

A fighter train his body and mind to prepare for a fight…so what excuse do yu have for not preparing your mind for your legal fight…is i too lazy? Too busy? Lost of faith? Or do you like having you ass hand it to you when a fight comes to your door step

You have to train hard and seriously to have a chance in the fight, otherwise, you’ll always be known as a L.O.S.E.R.!!!

What’s stopping ya?

CH 2017

Slave Narrative #39: Real Thoughts and Experiences from the Perspective of Massachusetts Prisoners


By Honorable Marcus Dyer

At times I sit and reflect about certain things, lately I’ve been questioning why quiet is synonymous with peace. Often growing up I’ve heard my mother say she wanted “Peace & Quiet,” after coming home from a day of work. Also, I have often heard the phrase “Rest in Peace” when referencing the dead. Since I’ve been in these modern dat slave plantations (Department of Correction) I’ve often heard “Quiet time,” “Lock-In” and “Lights out.” To me, quiet, resting and lights out are symbolic to DEATH! Even hearing the words lock-in makes me think of a coffin or tomb.

Is it me, or does anyone ever think of how once a judge enters the courtroom everyone is expected and told to rise (awake) in the presence of a judge, however, once a judge seats, the courtroom is figuratively dead. if anyone has ever sat at any criminal court proceeding represented by a lawyer, you kind of feel eulogies right in front of your eyes. Oddly enough you are not expected to speak about you. You are supposed to be quiet (dead).

Maybe some time ago and in the future peace will be synonymous with quiet; however, in these times, the only way I’ll achieve Peace is through my words and actions. We have to speak up; a wise man once told me I have to yell the loudest because I’m on the BottomThis system’s whole aim is to silence you because you are deemed no longer a person, you are Property! You are shelved (locked-in) and inanimate/dead (lights-out) until/unless luckily they admit you found a flaw in their method of dealing with you and they “return” you back to society/(a person).

Me, my plan is to whisper until I can talk, talk till I can yell & yell until my needs are met. If I die in the process, I did my part, because an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.

Slave Narrative #38: Real Thoughts and Experiences from the Perspective of Massachusetts Prisoners

James Alexander

by Al-Ameen

Fireless neoslaves weigh light on Lady Justice’s scale
Pumping gallons of fear through hearts of emasculated spirits
Defeat, disillusion, and despair is in every breath of air
Attitudes of inconvenience about a just cause, just-cause
Fifteen hundred disunited we stand, united we fall

Synthetic highs chill pride and cloud the true value of fire
Opportunistic C.O.’s turn prison hustlers and king pins
Men fumbling prime years nursing invisible wounds with K2
Content with a couple books of stamps and some paper to chew
Physically present but mentally absent without leave
The CRA exploiting and dissecting souls for practice
To them we are unwanted corpses waiting to happen

Matchbook men, we are struck but not enflamed, rather we enflame people who are tiny as matchsticks while we are the anti- thesis of smooth we are rough. Hence the reason why standing on one neoslave makes the whole damn prison administration feel tough.

Chemical combustion combinations we know all of them
Their toxins pollute our oxygen
and dims the resistance
and cools the awakening
and smokescreens the entrance to substantive equality

Let them fill up segregation!
Our voices will still be heard!
The narratives will still be shared!
From Norfolk to California!
Even if defeat seems certain,
Never concede or compromise
Take justice only on just terms
Terms which permit our presence in sessions and assemblies
Terms which respect neoslaves’ rights and humanity
Terms which proscribe contracts to be signed with disenfranchised blood

No hypocritical Declaration of Independence
And no more exception clause within the 13th Amendment
No more second rate citizenship for non-white immigrants

Or witness a fire so intense it can rest of water
Call it a James Alexander
Hotter than their Easter Monday
Torching the lives of three-hundred and twenty-two neoslaves
The birth of a new renaissance
Its flames are colorful. Freedom on our terms – wonderful.

Slave Narrative #37: Real Thoughts and Experiences from the Perspective of Massachusetts Prisoners

Sacrifice: What is the price we must pay to see our desires fulfilled. What are you and i willing to do for our freedom?

Sacrifice: No greater love does a man have than he lay down his life for his friend. It is clear that no man can want for his people more than what the people desire and want for themselves.

Leaders are born to fulfill the desire that is in the heart and breasts of the people for change, for freedom, and for justice: God bring forth a leader out of the longing and the yearning of the people God brings forth and produces a leader out of the dissatisfaction of the people, and a leader is born from the people to produce the desire change. The leader that god bring forth becomes the Voice of the people, for he directs and guides the cause.

But if the people are unwilling to take the necessary steps to produce the change they desire, then they will perish under a negative and unfavorable condition for god does not change the condition of a people until the people change their own condition.

Changing a condition. The role of the leader and the responsibility of the people. The people, at some point, have to mature: they have to grow into the principal of freedom, the principal justice, and the principal equality and becomes a part of their very being. And when that is accomplished then change is realized.

And guess what? Then a nation comes into existence. Again brother and sister, no man can want for his people more than what the people want for themselves. For example, i told my daughter Imani when she was five year old, no matter how much good i wanted for her, no matter how much a father or a mother wants one of their children to grow up to be a lawyer, or a doctor, or an athlete, or some other career or profession, if the child does not want that for herself or himself, then the parents remain the “the dream.” – and it is unrealized in the child.

And when it comes to the freedom of a people; the people have to want to be free in order for them to realize the light of their own freedom. History has shown that no people who fought, who sacrificed or who died for freedom were denied! NO PEOPLE THAT DESIRED TO BE FREE WERE DENIED, because once they were willing to “pay the price” for their freedom – no matter how strong or vehement the opposition was – they were always able to realize the freedom that they desired if they were willing to pay the price and sacrifice their lives for freedom. No people in history who desired for themselves to be separate and independent were kept from realizing that independence; though a heavy price had to be paid.

Rashad Malik Muhammad

Slave Narrative #36: Real Thoughts and Experiences from the Perspective of Massachusetts Prisoners

The Light In Her Eyes Is Gone

Patricia Olsen

Every morning my ritual is to sit out in the dayroom with my best friend, Julie. We talk about everything from what we’re going to cook for dinner to politics.

This morning we were sitting in silence, just staring at people in the room. We’ve been friends over a decade, so like most married couples, we can usually tell what the other is going to say. But, today is different. She catches me off guard.

“She’s lost the light in her eyes,” Julie softly said.

I looked around, trying to figure out if she was talking about some one on the television or in the room. “Who?” I asked.

“Diane,” Julie explained.  “Time’s doing her now. She used to be doing time, but now it’s doing her.”

I never looked closely at Diane, but it was true. She used to be happy and energetic. Now she seems so desolate. Her eyes don’t glisten. I thought it was the medication she’s on, but when you look real close, you can see it’s more than that.

She and I worked the same area a couple of years ago. She was going through an appeal. She had hopes of getting out. Now she’s just a shell. She’s withdrawn and looks like an abandoned barn in a field.

She’s unaware of her surroundings. People talk to her, but she isn’t really listening. She struggles to comprehend what the P.A. is announcing. She listens, waiting for the word “MEDICATION.”

Perhaps this is her only escape. The medication puts her in a state of acceptance. I feel sorry for Diane, but it also scares me. I don’t want to ever get to the point where I just give up.

This place has a way of feeding off our fears. Courage is fear holding on for one more minute (George S. Patton). In order to survive, you have to be able to fight and have the courage to take on the system.

Once you give in, there is no turning back. Your life and will to live is sucked right out of you. Nobody can breathe life back into you.

I feel for Diane, but I’ve also learned this life-sucking creature called prison can be kept at bay. I need to be more observant of my surroundings. I’ve seen this monster devour people before, but always blamed it on the medications. It’s not just the meds. It’s the fight inside. The strength in your mind. The light in your eyes.

The Lord is my light. He shall lead me down the dark paths of life.

“This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine…….”

Slave Narrative #35: Real Thoughts and Experiences from the Perspective of Massachusetts Prisoners

Chase the Carrot

What do you get when you cross a broken system with a broken individual? Answer: The D.O.C.

This does not include administration only, but also prisoners, staff, and everyone in the system. No body is excluded. This system is broken, has been, and will continue to be. The problem is, too many people with bad ideas are running the show, on the backs of the people they say they are rehabilitating? Bull-shit! You are exploiting them. You are exploiting us.

These people say they are helping keep society safe. From who? I think I understand your game. You take incarcerated “adults” give them life sentences, or similar to one, and keep your foot on their necks as long as you work for the D.O.C. See, these people like to play head games with us. It is the easiest way to keep a person broken. Act like you are building them up, but in a suttle way shame and humiliate them. This will keep them from actually believing they could achieve the success you offer. You offer an education, but don’t want people to practice what they learn. You want us to expose our traumas, but don’t want us to heal from them. Chase the carrot!!! If you know our traumas and how we came to prison, or why we chose these lives and the poor decisions that led us this way? Then you can help us heal right? Oh, my fault, you only use it to throw back into peoples faces. See the D.O.C. uses its employees to continue the cycle of abuse. Only they do it psychologically.

Pick any 20 prisoners, men and women. Ask them their story. I’m willing to bet everyone has some real traumatic story in their lives. I don’t think anyone woke up one day and chose a date on a calendar to go to prison or commit their crime. Most stories start from a fucked-up childhood. Take the kid that goes to prison at 18 for murdering his live-in girlfriends 4 month old son. How easy is it to forget him in the system ’cause you know he will die in prison? He should die right? At least he should never leave prison, right? Who cares if he saw his mother thrown from a building, who cares if his step-father beat him and locked him in a closet while he pimped his mother out. At 18 he should have had a strong grip of life. Every young man who is raped until the age of 12 should know how to discuss his emotions by the age of 18. This kid was too busy pissing his bed of fear from his grandfather who beat him every day till he finally, found his mother at 11.  How selfish of him.

What happens when this kid becomes a father at 16? He does what he knows best, what he was taught. Run! It is too easy. Especially when you are now running with your mum.  You ran so much you’d think Nike came out with a crack-pipe. Yeah, this 18 year old kid had every opportunity.

So at 40, after recognizing how good he had it in life, when an officer verbally abuses him, and puts his hand in his face, he should take it as a privilege. Don’t tell anyone, wait, where have I heard this before? You can abuse me, but it is our secret. Yeah it sounds very familiar, but I’m the safe bet, use what you were taught. Go ahead, be confident, assert yourself in a calm non-violent way. Practice humility. The D.O.C. will do right by you. They will remove you from a job you love, they will remove you from your private cell, they will humiliate you and rape you again. They want people to become better citizens with no actual reality of becoming a real citizen again. They can use the skills of this same person to raise $20,000 N.E.A.D.S. dogs for free, while the N.E.A.D.S. program rakes in the cash. But don’t talk about that, we don’t share our dirty laundry with people outside of the house. Especially when the head official endorses the hustle. I wonder how many officials own a $1,000 – $3,000 failed dog?

That is a good trade to keep the workers pickin cotton, I mean training dogs. Do not dare expose it! ‘Cause your 20+ years of good behavior could vanish, parole could banish. Lose that false dignity you were made to believe was ok to nurture. I see the inner child, I’m just not allowed to listen to his voice. It is a scary situation when a case-worker tells you she is going to do what she wants, and the powers that be will believe her. So why open your mouth. Live in silence, ’cause that 18 year old kid, never had a voice, he was fucked from birth. And the D.O.C. officials are there to do the “masters” job and never, ever, let me forget it.

By Hector M. Santiago

SLAVE NARRATIVE #34: Real Thoughts and Experiences from the Perspectives of Massachusetts Prisoners

Meaningful Programming in the Massachusetts Department of Correction (DOC)

Recently there has been a lot of talk about “Justice Reinvestment” in the MA DOC, and around the state house. There is much talk of the feel good politics of being “Smart of Crime” and not wasting to much money on prisons. I write this from a perspective of a person who entered the MA DOC at the age of 19 some 28 years ago. I have made more than my share of tragic decisions in life, which has kept me locked in a prison cell for so many years. With this I am speaking of my perspective on the state of meaningful programming in the MA DOC and some of my thoughts and observations.

I am the Majority Co-Camp Chairman of the Norfolk Inmate Council (NIC). This is an organization which called for the personal responsibility of the prisoners at MCI-Norfolk to create a Community Prison in order to better equip people to reenter society. Today this is only a shell of the former powerful inmate run organization. However being in this position I have a unique view of prison culture going on. I am able to meet with administrators once a month and attempt to hash out issues. The more interesting aspect for me is the motives behind what is going on and the talk of programming and rehabilitation but the a stance of punishment.

Within DOC facilities many prisoners are unable to attend programming based on waiting lists and COMPAS scores or time to release. Therefore this precludes most people serving life sentences from entering programming until the end of their/our sentences. Much is spoken of to incentivize prisoners to become involved in programming. The DOC has come up with this process called “Program Engagement Strategy” (PES). To the prison population PES means nothing more than a sanction. The MA DOC has spun this into  prices sin which if a prisoner does not engage in the program that the DOC’s COMPAS states is needed then the prisoner will suffer a loss of single cell status, job etc. If a prisoner signs up for a program and forgets to attend, but remembers later on there is still sanctions suffered in most cases. This is not a change in the prisoners mind set but program participation by threat of sanction. Not really a mindset anyone should want built into prisoners. Now through many meetings with administrators I have found that even staff are required to meet numbers for programs or they suffer harsh ridicule from upper level administrators. If a program or education staff person feels that having more long term/lifers engaged in programs is positive because later on these people can serves as mentors for the younger men who do not engage in programming under any circumstances, they are told they are not meeting their quotas. Quotas are never a determination to meaningful programming. And educated Lifer will serve as a positive influence for the population in the classroom and the yard. These people bring education, experience and encouragement to others to invest in their own growth and successful reentry and parole.

Parole should be better informed as to the programming available and not available within the MA DOC and partner with the DOC to assure their requirements are available during incarceration. For many an incentive can be earned good time in order to encourage men to become engaged in programming. Not just to become involved, nut to practice those skills while incarcerated, and after release, should be the main goal.

Another aspect of meaningful programming would be to promote pro-social support networks in society. This can be accomplished via allowing for a in reach style approach back to the community in which will allow more of society to become involved in programs, education & reentry services. This will many times build relationships with people that can help support a move away from the old negative criminal social settings which got many people into prison. This will further reinforce engagement by the prisoner as well as the community. Parole requires a pro-social network for release. Allowing the community to become engaged in the rehabilitation process will effect not only the rehabilitation process but the mind, and heart of the prisoner as well. A stumbling block to this is that MA DOC policy states that volunteers cannot have contact with prisoners after release. This stumbling block has been removed in at least on house of corrections with much success. Many times these volunteers (school, religious, program) are the only positive (pro-social) relationships prisoners have been in and the MA DOC should encourage this to assist people in reentry to the community with a support base such as this. The most meaningful aspect of this component would be a continued positive relationship after release based n trust and the relationship which has been built while in custody. This would be behavioral treatment as it’s best.

In sum, meaningful programming is not about certificates or good time but a connection with he mind and heart of the individual who’s behavioral health is at stake.

William Ducl