Above is a photo of my friend, Marquis. The words above, as well as the ones to follow, are his own. He was one of the participants who filled one of the 23-hours inside of the mock solitary confinement cell at UCLA during October 2014, the Month of Resistance Against Mass Incarceration.
What makes Marquis unique, you might ask? He actually served 15 of his young 36 year life inside a state penitentiary in Texas for a first offense, non-violent crime. Seven of those 15 years were spent in solitary confinement, so he speaks from first-hand experience and from his heart. But even after that, he still doesn’t feel he’s paid his full debt to society. I’ll tell you this, contrary to what many people’s perceptions are about so-called ex cons, the young man is very intelligent and bright, very well spoken, wise, and very open and honest about his experience inside the system. And he is committed to changing it.
Here are some of his most notable remarks as he spoke to an 18 year-old about his solitary confinement and incarceration experience:
– I have no regrets, no quarrels with the time I served. I did the crime. My issue is with the product that the prisons are producing.
– The intent of prison is NOT to reform or rehabilitate inmates, it is to torture, abuse, and use. It actually breeds an even more violent and criminal mind than the one that entered the prison, one that has little regard for life due to the violent nature of the prison environment. It eats away at their conscience.
– I no longer have the right vote, so I have little political power to choose our leaders. So I’m doing things like this as my part to help create change.
– I skipped my plumbing 101 class at the community college today because this cause is so very important, not just to me but to all of us.
– Taxpayers footed the bill to feed me, clothe me, and house me for 15 years. I’m not even close to paying back that debt.
– Solitary confinement creates insanity in what was once a sane human being. It breaks down the mind.
– I was often beaten and spoken to harshly by corrections officers and other prison staff, for trying to organize and hold study groups, encourage reading, self education, and self discovery – true reform to other prisoners.
– I saw 60 year old men become so frustrated with themselves because they could write their name but could not use it in writing a sentence. What happens to one who can’t read or write when they re-enter society? We’ve failed him yet again.
– The only reason I was able to survive and come out relatively healthy and sane was because I was one of the 4% of inmates who had great family support. They sent me books, newspapers, magazines, etc; their contact and care is what helped me maintain my sanity.
– Your bed is about “this wide”, you can barely turn over in it, and you have a toilet/sink combo over in that corner.
– People don’t realize that by not ensuring a prison system that actually addresses the real (often mental and emotional) issues that many prisoners face, when released, those same people could be their neighbors. So do you want someone who’s a worse criminal than before around your family and children, or someone who’s going to be a contributing member of society?
– Solitary confinement corrupts the mind, so it is not strange that a detainee might draw an image on his wall and begin having conversations with it…or start masturbating to pictures of fully dressed women. Something just isn’t right about this type of treatment toward humans; on so many levels.
– On my day of release after 15 years of time served, they handed me $100 cash, and sent me on my way. If you’re lucky, that might get you a night in a hotel and a meal or two. But then what?
Marquis, much love to you my brother for speaking out so loudly against the system that has misused and abused you and millions of others. We need more brave ones like you to fight and win this war against mass incarceration, and finally put a halt to this slow genocide. Thank you!