Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
– William Ernest Henley
Walking into the prison can be disorienting. Your state of mind immediately changes. There are no windows, some grayish walls, people moving around and shouting, and continuously slamming doors. Everyone is in some manner of uniform. Women roll big buckets by and drag mesh bags. If there were no clocks or calendars, you might not know the time of day or year. You might lose your place in time like losing your place on a page, a story.
But prison is a controlled place. No one is supposed to lose track of time or a single individual. Space and time are regulated but always under someone else’s power. Each story is constrained, scratched as much on sign out sheets and documentation as in a prisoner’s mind. As an assignment, we asked our writers to examine the impact this has on their state of mind.
Below, you’ll find one writer’s examination of her own thoughts, her support, and her experience.
State (of) Mind
I believe, as always, state of mind is circumstantial. With that said, based on my circumstances at this present moment, I am weighed down by this burden of incarceration. Now, don’t find me deluded. I know my actions have placed me exactly where I am today, and with my feet planted firmly inside the walls of this facility I can tell you that there are people who deserve to be here. And others who do not. They are merely victims of the circumstances that happened to reign them in.
I am not here to argue that crime should go unpunished. All we have as humans is time. Life essentially is a timeline, in sequence with our decision and choice. I pay for my mistakes with the years of my life. And with nothing to show for it. You’d think they’d put us criminals to good use, give us something productive to do with our time. Something for the greater good.
You ask, do I feel safe and supported… I feel a victim whose cries go unheard. A useless voice that will never be acknowledged. Mental health. Hmm. How can that be obtained when any shred of dignity you hold is ripped from you the very moment you step though these doors? You are property. If you do not comply, you are forced to comply with physical force. Yet they tell us not to react.
These officers. Well, they are people. They have hurt feelings and they have anger. They retaliate and they provoke. The difference being that their voices are heard, loud and clear. They believe in fair treatment? Piss off the voice of authority and see how fairly you’re treated. This is an environment where conformity is forced. I’ve raged against it. Segregation is the outcome. It is their failsafe. And who do they have to answer to but themselves. The master of puppets condones all forms of punitive measures, people die, and all they do is take a pay cut.