My name is Aleksandr Kolpakov. I spent two and a half years at Mesa County Jail fighting my case before I was sent to Buena Vista. One day while I was there, I was jumped in the chow hall and got rather bloodied up before I fought back.
Naturally, I was taken to isolation for the “audacity” of defending myself, a job the guards should have been doing. In isolation, I became suicidal and attempted to kill myself by wrapping a clothing tourniquet around my neck. I used a technique that applies pressure to the carotid arteries to deny oxygen to the brain while still allowing breath, thus preventing a choking impulse.
One of my “lookouts” wasn’t on board and thus signaled to the guards. They chained me up and took me to an even danker cell—this one bereft of everything save toilet paper and a tattered standalone mattress. They cut the clothes off my back and left me there, naked.
I wrapped myself in toilet paper like a mummy then ran around the cell, bashing my head against the walls. This prompted the guards to strap me into “The Chair,” a wonderfully barbaric contraption that inhibits one’s movements. The nurses would come in to check on me on occasion, pulling my hair back to see if I was responsive. I was not. I was either babbling and cackling crazily or totally catatonic.
Not since The Tragedy [Aleksandr is referring to the night he killed his girlfriend] had I experienced such a complete break. Unfortunately, this did nothing to salve their attitudes towards me. They huffed and puffed and generally took my catatonic personality as though they were babysitters and I was a petulant child instead of an adult in need of psychiatric help.
I write this not to elicit sympathy from you, dear reader, but to illustrate just how thoroughly backwards the criminal justice system treats its many—MANY—mentally ill inmates. Even those who weren’t mentally ill before they came to prison are likely to become mentally ill by the time they get out. Not that the prison staff will ever acknowledge this.
“Psychologists,” who treat their patients with skepticism, are a dime-a-dozen at the Department of Corrections. Such tactics gaslight the patient, slowing and sometimes completely reversing the healing process.
My threshold for “insanity” aside, whoever came up with this punitive “I won’t reward this behavior with attention” approach to suicide prevention is a medieval sadist. But these, ladies and gentlemen, are the people in charge!
Aleksandr Kolpakov 186431
PO Box 2017
Vista, CO 81211