by Free Alabama Movement
This year at Holman in Atmore, Alabama, there have been five suicides in its segregation unit – more suicides or homicides than in its population. The latest was a mentally ill young man in his 20s.
“Stop isolating suicidal people” was a major message delivered by hundreds of protesters who traveled from around California to the infamous California Institute for Women (CIW) state prison near Los Angeles to protest conditions that have caused a spate of suicides and for a vigil in remembrance of recent victims. – Photo: California Coalition for Women Prisoners (CCWP)
The state of Alabama began criminalizing incidents stemming from citizens having mental health breakdowns in the 1990s following the closing of its main mental health facility. As of October, the toll stands at five suicides.
The state of Alabama houses its mentally ill in the same general population as its regular inmates. The strain of being inside of a cell 23 hours a day is too much for them to bear. The punishment for having incidents relating to mental health setbacks drive them over the edge.
Because we understand that solitary confinement is torture to any sane man, now multiply that torture by 10! The screams continue at this very moment.
I can hear them this very instance. Screaming for help. Screaming for the voices to stop.
I wish they didn’t have to find the release from their pain by tying a sheet or rope around their throats or taking razors to their wrists. I hear them. I will always see their faces. They were cool guys. I knew them.
Contact Free Alabama Movement via National Representative Pastor Kenneth S. Glasgow of The Ordinary People’s Society, 334-791-2433 or Freealabamamovement@gmail.com.
Suicides out of control at largest prison in Texas
by Keith ‘Malik’ Washington
Peace and blessings, Sisters and Brothers!
My name is Keith “Malik” Washington. I am a humyn rights and civil rights activist.
Recently I was placed in long term solitary confinement, commonly known as Administrative Segregation, at the H.H. Coffield Unit located at Tennessee Colony, Texas. The conditions on the Ad-Seg housing wings on Coffield Unit are horrible, and these conditions have driven prisoners to suicide.
We have had approximately 13 deaths just this year! The most recent was on Sept. 28, 2016. The preferred method has been death by hanging (strangulation).
I cannot sit by while humyn beings die. These deaths can be classified as sub-humans.
The conditions on the Ad-Seg housing wings on Coffield Unit are horrible, and these conditions have driven prisoners to suicide. We have had approximately 13 deaths just this year!
We need the broadest exposure of this horrifying trend that has now become my reality. Here is a copy of a communique I recently sent to the senior warden:
“Men are dying on this unit because TDCJ employees refuse to acknowledge the harm that solitary confinement can do to a humyn being’s psyche. Locking us up in small cages for 23 to 24 hours a day with few opportunities for outside recreation has a detrimental effect on all of us.”
We need the broadest exposure of this horrifying trend that has now become my reality.
Sisters and Brothers, I am pleading with you on behalf of myself and the other prisoners housed at the H.H. Coffield Ad-Seg Unit. Please contact U.S. Sen. John Cornyn and Texas Sens. John Whitmire and Royce West. Contact investigative journalists and the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice hurts humyn beings. Only the broadest exposure of this problem will aid us.
Dare to struggle, dare to win!
Send our brother some love and light: Keith H. Washington, 1487958, Telford Unit, 3899 State Hwy 98, New Boston, TX 75570.
It was the recent suicides of these beautiful, beloved and promising young women, Shaylene Graves and Erika Rocha, at CIW that sparked the decision to organize a statewide protest. Shaylene left behind a young son. Their families fought for them before their deaths and are working to prevent more deaths. “No More Deaths!” was the theme of the protest.
Suicide prevention update
by Natalie Le DeMola
My name is Natalie Le DeMola and I wrote an article back in December 2015 about Alissa Kamholz who attempted to commit suicide. Since that article, I have been flooded with mail from inmates and individuals who are not incarcerated from different parts of the United States. In these responses to my article, many individuals have expressed their own feelings of suicide and/or that they know someone who has attempted or actually has committed suicide.
One male inmate wrote: “I am now surrounded by men young and old of all colors that are battling with thoughts of harm. And from an early age I always wanted to find out why. Why would a person want to end their life? I just want to do the right thing and save a life or try my hardest to save a life. I would like to join the cause and give people hope again in any way I can muster together. Will you educate me so that I can help those in need here?”
Families of women prisoners turned out in force to protect and defend everyone’s loved ones living under intolerable oppression in prison. Prisoners’ families are taking leadership in prison movements around the country; an excellent example is Mothers and FAMilies, an arm of Free Alabama Movement, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Many family members refuse to mince words; note the man holding the “Abolition of Prisons” sign. – Photo: CCWP
As an inmate facilitator and peer mentor here, I have dealt with many issues of women wanting to commit suicide and even finding out that their own children have attempted suicide while they were incarcerated. I have helped the mother through the guilt of not being able to be there for her child.
I also have helped women heal from rape, molestation, incest, being abused in relationships, losing their loved ones, and helped them understand and deal with the fact that they started out as a victim and turned into the victimizer.
I know the hurt that is in this prison because I grew up here, but for some naïve reason I thought and maybe only wanted to believe that the pain was isolated here. I was overwhelmed with the responses that there were so many who were incarcerated who had thought about committing suicide.
Most of them were men who said they didn’t feel comfortable expressing their emotions to their peers or staff but wanted to tell me because I was open about my own experiences. In one letter, a man actually wrote a suicide letter to me, but there was no return address that I could write back to. Usually a letter won’t even make it to me for that reason.
My heart was so heavy that all I could do was pray. At that moment I understood and empathized with the mothers who felt helpless and couldn’t be there for their children who wanted to commit suicide. I also understood the pain and worry that my loved ones felt every time I wanted to give up on my own life.
The part that got to me the most about the suicide letter was that I could not help him and don’t know if he actually went through with it or not.
We have mental health staff that are supposed to deal with all suicide situations, but most of the time the inmate does not feel comfortable to talk to the mental health staff and prefers to talk to her peers.
When they talk to mental health and express that they want to hurt themselves, they are isolated in a room with nothing in there and stripped down to nothing but a suicide vest. Their only communication is with the mental health staff and they can’t talk to their friends or family on the phone.
For these reasons and others, inmates are resistant to talk to mental health and reach out to their peers. When we asked to be trained in suicide prevention, mental health stated that it would cause confusion in the roles of who responds to suicide crises, and the inmates may go to us and we may deal with the situation incorrectly.
Truth is no matter how qualified someone is, the person experiencing the crisis must feel a connection with the person they talk to and feel comfortable. As inmates, we live together and see more than staff. We are dealing with the crisis one way or another by being around it, so we should have that education under our belt.
As the male inmate wrote, “Will you educate me so I can help those in need here?” That is the need of the institutions so that we can deal with those we interact and live with daily.
Help us save our peers. But for now, we need to be more open to discuss sensitive issues. As we begin to exchange dialog, it will allow those who may be suffering with self-destructive thoughts to get help and support.
I have not been able to write everyone back. However, as a collective response to those who have wrote me:
“I want everyone to know that all of your letters were read and have influenced my vision for change. The ones who have encouraged me have helped me move forward in my fight to help preserve life. You are all in my prayers and your feedback has allowed me to gain other perspectives to view from.
“I would have written everyone back, but due to institutional regulations of writing other institutions along with lack of stamps and hours in the day to keep up with all the mail, I could not respond to everyone. You don’t need me to create the change that you want to see in this world.
“All you need to do is use your past pain as your gift to touch those who have suffered as you have. Give back from the place that you once have hurt and have hurt others from.”
Send our sister some love and light: Natalie Demola, X-12907, 512-29-3L, P.O. Box 1508, Chowchilla CA 93610.