Editors Note: Mustafa Zulu spent 20 years in solitary confinement in the harshest Federal Prison in America: ADX Florence in Colorado. One day, he was told he was moving to a STATE prison in North Carolina.
1) STRESS MANAGEMENT:
Stress kills. Solitary confinement units are pressure cookers, and extreme pressure busts pipes without relief valves. Identify the things that cause unnecessary stress and avoid them much as possible. Develop different means to prevent and relieve stress, i.e. routine, exercise, meditation, laughter, masterbation in moderation, or whatever relaxes you in a productive way. Stay positive, don’t panic from the series of setbacks, or get provoked by negativity. Don’t sweat the small stuff or things out if your control.
2) MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS:
That the golden rules in whatever level of prison you are in. If you’ve managed to get a ticket to club so-call worse of the worse, chances are you get into enough trouble on your own, so you don’t need someone else’s troubles to add on. Supermax prisons, state and federal, warehouse some of the most notorious gangsters and vicious thugs you’ll never meet in one place; kingpins, O.G.s, chiefs, shot callers, street generals, mob bosses, a lot of professional criminals at the top of the food chain. Some of these men are positive influences, others not so much. I’m not judging here, but those prison guards and administrators sure do. They’re true believers in the maxim: You are the company you keep. So, be alert as to who you openly socialize with. Know that the lowly COs escorting you from your cell to your one hour a day outside (in a single-cell recreation cage) will report whoever you ‘holla at’ to the head of security . Who you associate with will play a huge role when it’s time for your committee review to get out of solitary. You can get “validated” by prison staff as an associate, affiliate, or member of a gang — even if you never joined the gang — if you were seen or heard being ‘real cool’ with them. Once validated, prison staff can use a blanket statement about you being a “Security Concern” in order to continuously deny you the step-down program you were hoping for. Rival gangs will deem you a threat to them too, and tag you as a sympathizer with their enemy.
Lastly, never, ever, ever, ever snitch! Under no circumstances. If your best friend is getting butchered right in front of your cell and if you can’t help him yourself, turn your cell light off and mind your fucking business when the guards show up .Let the guards do their own damn job. In all matters of trouble, hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.
Don’t miss Mustafa Zulu’s other stories about long term solitary in ADX and being transferred to North Carolina:
3) IDLE TIME IS YOUR ENEMY:
Stay busy. I cannot stress this point enough. This is the best preventive remedy to the evils of long term solitary confinement, such as stress, boredom, mental deterioration and self-destruction. Most Supermax prisons provide an idiot box (TV) to pacify you. While there is some good to be found on TV, it is mostly junk, and causes a shorter attention span. If you don’t have a hobby, find one. If you don’t know how to do any, learn. Try art work, crocheting, writing, chess, etc. Your brain is a muscle, and if you don’t use it, you lose it! Read, read, read. An open book is a symbol for spread wings, allowing you to fly to anyplace, at anytime. Great books allowed me to invite some of the world’s greatest minds into my cell . It’s important that we transcend the walls.
4) SPIRITUAL STRENGTH:
A cultivated soul can harvest unlimited strength enabling people to endure unthinkable suffering.Native Amer., African Amer.,Jews,Palestians,to name a few,all summoned a spiritual strength that allowed them to continue to hope,plan and fight on.Whenever I feel despair by my circumstances,I call to mind an inspirational saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace&blessings) ;”Look to those below you instead of those above you,as it helps you to appreciate Allah’s favours on you”.
5) FAMILY TIES:
Try to maintain communication with family and friends in the outside world. This is not only another source of strength, but it helps to keep your social skills sharp. Solitary starves all your senses, so do all you can not to sound like you’ve been living in a cave for the last 20 years. Keep up with the people and issues that are changing our world.
6) BE RESPECTFUL:
Whether you’ve earned your stay or not, deal with it with dignity. Disrespecting yourself or others only makes things twice as bad. You were sent to prison for disciplinary reasons, so don’t give them justification to bury you alive there. Use the programs as much as possible. Smile when they try to provoke you. And be polite to those who are polite with you.
7) CHECK YOURSELF:
We all have issue and flaws. Use the time to be introspective about your life. Socrates called good money when he said, “The life which is unexamined is not worth living.”
8) KNOW THY RIGHTS:
You don’t have to be knowledgable about Law in order to know your constitutional rights and prisoner rights. Using legal tactics is one of the best ways to fight back and beat them if and when your rights are violated. Wardens hate lawsuits, and low-life COs think twice about mistreating you. This isn’t a guarantee of anything, but it’s a strong deterrent for those who abuse their authority.
9) WATCH WHAT YOU EAT:
One of the wrong ways to deal with stress is to feast on junk food. Prison food is bad enough, so don’t add a lot of processed commissary food. Moderation is the solution. It’s important that you do eveyrthing you can to maintain fair health. They will screw you if you get ill. They’ll allow you to get close to death before properly treating you. It’s well known that you will be given 2 Tylenols for almost every single ailment — unless you cough up blood.
10) ASK FOR HELP:
This advice is difficult for me to offer, because it isn’t something I would ever do. But a shoe doesn’t fit every foot so… I’m learning that not all causes of mental illness is the result of a weak-minded person. I now understand that chemicals can help bring balance to certain cases… hey, I’m out of my league here. Bottom line is — if all of the above fails, ask for some help if you know you need it. Be careful though. The prison psychologists work for the government. They use these shrinks for other purposes such as to do psychological profiles for future prosecutions. They also have a tendency to over and under diagnose. Try to have family members or friends research any drugs that they give you.
Mustafa Zulu is serving 50+ years for murder.
We send your comments to our writers, but if you’d like to contact Mustafa Zulu directly, please write to:
Mustafa Zulu # 06454-041
PO Box 019001
Atwater, CA 95301