Will you help us #EndSolitary?
There is a boy
Who is locked in a box
For 23 hours a day
And for 178 days he is completely by himself
in a room so small when he stretches his arms
he can almost touch both walls at the same time.
In a room so small
it feels like the walls are closing in on him
mostly because they are
mostly because he is still growing,
he is only 16 years old
and already corroding between maximum security walls
cuffed wrists and cracking voice,
prisoner identification number and learner’s permit,
locked in a solitary confinement cell the size of a small parking spot
but feels like the trunk of a car
Crushed beneath hundreds of hours of forced isolation
Desperately searching for human contact
Only to collide with the sterile walls of his shrinking cell.
And he isn’t alone.
Across the city in a juvenile detention center
A young girl is trapped in a box
For 23 hours a day.
While most of her girlfriends worry about
locking parents out of diaries and bedrooms,
cell phones and instagram accounts
she is locked in
to a 6 x 8 foot cell
Smothered between walls barely wide enough for her to breathe
She’s been holding her breath
For 254 consecutive days now
And it’s beginning to get to her head
When she’s awake, black spotted hallucinations haunt her vision like mascara clumped thick
in the corners of her eyes
and when they’re closed
she drowns in the muffled screams of other suffocating youth
pounding on her walls
begging for someone to listen.
Will it be any surprise when she finally starts screaming back,
when he finally cracks
his skull like a sledge hammer
against the concrete walls of his cell.
When she slits wrist to resist solitary existence
Carving trap doors, underground tunnels
Fire escapes through skin and cell walls
Smeared in their own blood.
Corrections officers will call this attempted suicide.
I call it survival, a last desperate attempt to escape their shrinking cell.
Every day, teens across America sacrifice their bodies to avoid the violence
of forced isolation.
Somewhere in this country a young boy chews his wrist to the bone.
A young woman forces a battery inside herself
A teen knots a makeshift noose around their neck
And ties it to whatever will hoist them from this whole
Self-harming for the promise of human touch
Even if only through coroner’s gloves.
Suicide is more common in solitary than any other part of prison
and we still do it
Send our children to the box for talking back, for horsing around
Many aren’t even convicted of a crime in the first place
Guilty, of simply not being able to afford bail
This isn’t discipline, this is human experimentation
And we already know the results
How many isolated youth will emerge missing pieces of themselves
How many will return to jail like a child to an abusive parent
And how many youth will make caskets out of their solitary confinement cells?
A boy and a girl
Are locked in a box
They are only 16 years old and still growing
But what room is there for growth in a cell with barely enough room to stand
What room is there for therapy and rehabilitation when trauma
Is promised 23 hours a day
Solitary isn’t punishment, it’s torture
Drawn and quartered with no horses
Waterboarding whole bodies buried beneath brick and mortar
Every isolation cell a black site on American soil
Every isolation cell an iron maiden closing around hundreds of youth each year
May each youth’s solitary confinement cells swing open
So we can treat the youth inside
And one day free the youth inside
A boy and a girl are slowly falling apart
with our hands on the doors
all they can do is wait.
Find this poem and more at https://www.revealnews.org/article/what-one-young-poet-has-to-say-about-teens-in-solitary-confinement/