I’ve been in 7 major institutions in the Virginia prison system, both high-security and low security, and yes, they have a few decent programs and trades that inmates can take, but over all, these prisons are schools for crime: officers bringing in drugs, female officers having sex with inmates, inmates masturbating off of female officers, gangs extorting inmates to use the prison phone, inmates shooting rice, playing poker, playing tunk, betting on football games, basketball games, baseball. Inmates stealing out of the prison kitchen, selling food from the cafeteria so they can buy soap to wash their ass with. Some inmates make elaborate homemade cards with prison poetry in it, some play basketball. Some make prison mash [alcohol] and sell it. Some become loan sharks: if someone “borrows” 2 packs of cookies from someone, the usual deal is they then have to pay 3 back the following week.
Nowadays there are so many bills being considered for prison reform and prison officials are talking up all the programs they’ve added for inmates. Well, I’m here to expose the truth and to spill the real uncut truth about this image they’re protecting—it’s a bunch of bullshit.
Everyday we wake up, our goal is to make some type of currency: a stamp, a deodorant, something — because like most prisoners, I have no job, no income, no one to send me many funds and the little money I do hustle, I use to I try to look after my 7 yr old daughter.
These prisons are designed to work as a rotating door. There truly isn’t any real help or programming if you suffer from any kind of mental health disorder. The officers don’t have adequate training to deal with inmates with certain mental health needs—instead, they punish them with infractions, isolation, beatings, shocks by the electric shield, bites by the dogs, or by strapping them down to a bed in 4 point restraints. There are no real counselors or certified people in these prisons who can help inmates.
There’s some fucked up shit going on in these prisons and the shit we endure everyday is borderline insane. The aggression, the fighting, the stabbing, the manipulation, the everyday prison life that consumes almost every thought in a negative manner— it takes its toll mentally, spiritually and physically. You see your peers, dudes that you are cool with, sneak in the cell with a homosexual early in the morning and you’re wondering, why would he do that?? Do you say anything or approach him about what you just saw, or do you mind your own business and pretend like you didn’t see it?.
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All of these situations wear down on a good-hearted person’s mental health who has a good heart. This kind of madness, every day for 10/22/maybe 15 years straight: everyday of this kind of madness standing for count 3 times a day, eating the same reprocessed meat, locking down every day on command, someone telling you to stand up or be quiet, not being able to talk on a phone for no more than 20 minutes at a time, taking a shower out in the open, the water running and cutting off every 30 seconds; having your personal property searched every 90 days, watching officers sit down with the right to read your personal letters or mail.
Once your body gets used to certain movements it becomes muscle memory. You shit everyday at the same time; your body gets sleepy every day during count time because you’re locked down in your cell. After years and years and years this slowly turns into something called “INSTITUTIONALISM.”
I admit I’m institutionalized— and I was after doing 9 yrs in prison. Once I was released I found myself free, but I was lost, unable to function at a high level on my own for a while. No one understands this. Being locked down in a maximum security prison then just being let out!! The mind wanders so quickly with so much speed it’s dangerous, without even knowing. Prison lights never turn off, so I haven’t been in complete darkness in almost 9 years now. Can you imagine how my eyes or mind would react to all the lights being cut out and I couldn’t see???? Prison lights never cut off ever. Just sit back and imagine all of these obstacles. Me, as an inmate, I have to go through everything with feeling alone without any help or programming or substance while in prison. Life is fucked up— so is prison life. So I ask the public, whoever is reading this: bear with us. Some guys do their best in these places, and sometimes it just gets worse.
Antwan Johnson #1171427
Nottoway Correctional Center
2892 Schutt Road
PO Box 488
Burkeville, VA 23922