Courtesy of Brad Simpson

Courtesy of Brad Simpson

Hello. My name is Brad but everyone calls me Lou. I’m in prison for killing an inmate while doing time for another crime. The reason I tell you this is so you’ll know, upfront, that I’m not innocent. I’m not wrongfully convicted, or targeted. This article isn’t about me crying over my situation because I feel I created mine.

They say hind sight is 20/20, I believe that. If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have done what I did. Since I can’t go back in time, I choose to learn from my life as it is.

I was assigned to Administrative Segregation [/fusion_builder_column]

[Solitary Confinement] in January 2002. It will be 13 years in a matter of weeks.

Read Brad’s story of his crime:  My Crime:  Brad Simpson.

Over the years, I’ve learned the distinction of what torture is. I’ve learned how anyone can develop mental health issues, given enough time and pressure.

I’ve been shipped to court and transferred to different facilities, so I’ve had small periods of relief throughout the years, but ultimately I equate my situation to drowning. I have a few breaths of air, then my head is shoved underwater. Then, just as I swear I’ll give in and swallow the water, I’m allowed a few gasping breaths of air. Then it’s back underwater I go.

The daily stress, the feeling of no control over your own life, the lack of constructive, time-filling things to do – mixed with the craving for social interaction that every human has – makes for a bad situation. When people experience this treatment for a steady and lengthy period of time, most people crack.

I don’t know how to describe it except to say it grinds you to dust. The more you fight it, the more it hurts.

On the streets, I was active and always moving. Even in the general prison population, I’m active. In Ad. Seg. though, you’re stuck. I must turn off my mind or it will kill me.

Some days I wake up and want to scream, smash my t.v. into a million pieces, tear up everything in my cell and set it on fire. Not for any purpose or because of any violence I’m feeling – but to feel like I control my own life. To control what’s in it. To funnel the stress and pressure into action and watch it destroyed and consumed.

Box-HallI don’t do it though. Instead some days I cry. Some days I roll up my mattress and punch it ‘til my fists bleed. Sometimes, I do a spring clean, scrubbing every inch of my cell, front to back. On really bad days I write “hate mail” to those people who’ve moved on and left me to my own personal hell. (I don’t mail them though.)

No matter what I do, I wake up the next day or the third and I feel better. I move on, remembering that this hell is one on earth — and I’m fortunate, I still have a release date. My pressures and stresses are lessened by the thought that one day this will end.

***

My cell is 8’ x 12’ feet from wall to wall. Add in a desk, shelves, bunk, and toilet/sink and my space gets even smaller. From the floor to ceiling everything is either white or grey.

The lights come on at 6 a.m. and go off at 10 p.m. I have no control over them. I’m allowed a 15 minute shower three times a week, and an hour of “recreation” by myself in an 8’ x 12’ chain link “dog cage” 5 days per week. Aside from that, medical trips and prison visits, that’s all the time you are allowed out of your cell.

So, I’m left to fill the rest of my time on my own in my cell. My life boils down to this:  I’ve been in prison for over 16 years, so people move on with their lives. I write my Attorney and one other person.  Basically life happens all around the world, but not in my cage. Life passes by.

You have TV, if you can afford one. You have mail if you write to anyone. You have books and magazines if you can afford them. Then you have the prison library where you can check out up to 8 books per month. Then you have visits and phone calls. I don’t get visits. No phone calls. I do have a TV but most of what is on TV is all garbage anyway. I can’t afford books and magazines, (nobody outside is supporting me; I earn my own money) and I am lucky if I get three letters a month.

I sleep 10 hours a night so I’m left to fill the other 92 hours a week, or 13 hours each day every day, in a social vacuum, every minute being aware of it.

Not being able to control anything in your life but the most trivial of things will make the strongest minds crack. To fight the craziness, people do various things. Some inmates workout several hours a day. Some clean in an almost compulsive manner. Some read to escape. Some people talk to themselves, like a verbal daydream.

I draw, about 10 hours a day every day. I read, write, or watch TV for the other 3 hours. I’ll draw for 3-4 months straight or until I “burn out” — then I’ll read for a week or two until my artistic batteries recharge. Then I’m back at drawing.  And I’d read more, but 8 library books only last me about two weeks.

One of the inmates compares this place to either an episode of the “Twilight Zone” or that Bill Murray Movie “Ground Hog Day.” You are stuck in a loop of the same day over and over. Only the date changes each time you wake up.

***

cell maine tapley-supermax-photoShakedowns [cell searches] are a routine around her. Basically the officers come in and toss everything into a giant pile in the middle of the floor of your cell.

Over the years I’ve developed a bit of O.C.D. [Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder] in the sense that I don’t like change much or handle it well. Shakedowns are traumatic for me. I feel that even though I’m a prisoner, the property I own should be treated well. The officers don’t care, however, so things get bent, folded, or torn. Once the cell search is done, it takes me around 6 hours to put it all back the way it was before the shakedown. Exactly how it was, every time.

It’s hard not to rage and hate and become the monster these places are designed to create. I struggle to figure out how this is productive for me and society, once I am released. It is a fact I will be released. I hope that when that day comes I haven’t cracked to the rage and hate. They don’t beat me, water board me, or sleep deprive me, but they do force me to relive the same day for years on end and expect me to be okay once I do get out. Because it is a fact I will be released.

So, in closing I say: think about it. Can you honestly say you could do over a dozen years of this solitary life — and still be normal?  Survive the sterile torture of being left to yourself?

If you’re honest, I bet 85% of you would say “no.” So think about that for a minute. Maybe you could help someone out there deal with it. It could be as simple as a word of encouragement, or an inspiring letter.

Everyone needs to feel like someone cares and that he/she is worth something to someone.

It is a fact I will be released.


Solitary Watch has a terrific FAQ page for all your questions on solitary confinement.


We send comments to writers on a weekly basis, but if you’d prefer to contact this prisoner directly, please write to:

Brad Simpson #1194102

Red Onion SP

PO Box 1900 (D-6-30)

Pound, VA 24279

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