I’m a Prisoner, and I’m Not Happy

I’m a Prisoner, and I’m Not Happy

Op-Ed: Here in San Quentin, I see why solitary confinement must end

On Wednesday morning, I received a phone call from a fellow inmate, who was visiting me after an initial weekend pass. The call was short, but filled me with foreboding.

As a rule, I don’t chat on the phone with my prisoners, but this one did not disappoint. He asked that I contact him if anything was going on and if I could come to his cell to watch the news.

During the call, he told me that he was not happy because he was facing “three years in solitary confinement”; it would be the first time he had been in this position since he was first arrested in 2011.

I asked him about the news reports on solitary confinement. He said he had read a report on the subject and knew what to expect. I told him that it would only be for three months, and that while there was still time, he and his family should make plans to visit with the prison before it ended.

In three weeks, his time in solitary would end for good; this was the only way in which he could get out.

“I need to visit with my wife and children,” he said. “I will see you when you come to see me.”

I told him I would see him soon, and then asked him how much time he hoped he might have.

“Three years in solitary” is what he said.

I told him that was a lot, but that he should be happy for the opportunity to spend time with his family. “There is much more to life than this.” I explained that the chances of spending his time in solitary on a computer screen were very slim. “This will help me get a job and do good things with my life.”

I then asked him a question that is on his mind. Was it worth it?

“I don’t know, man,” he said, “but I will do everything I can to make it worth it.”

The next day came, and I took an

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