Voices from Solitary: Coyote Calling.
January 24, 2010
by James Ridgeway and Jean Casella
One of the aims of Solitary Watch News is to build an online archive of literature, drawings, and reportage by people who are, or have been, in solitary confinement. These will be compiled in the Voices from Solitary section of the site, and sometimes featured in blog posts. Readers are encouraged to send in their suggestions.
A reader from Nevada Prison Watch recently told us about the writings of Coyote Sheff, which are now being published by his friends on the outside on a blog, Coyote Calling. Coyote has been in Nevada’s Ely State Prison for about a decade, much of it in Discliplinary Segregation. In fact, of the eight units at Ely, seven are in some form of permanent lockdown, where prisoners are held in their cells 23 hours a day, either alone or with a cellmate.
Ely State Prison, located in a remote town in Eastern Nevada, is currently being sued by the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project for ”grossly inadequate medical care” to its 1,000 prisoners. The ACLU filed suit after state officials failed to act on the findings of an expert, Dr. William Noel, who was sent in to investigate medical conditions at Ely. According to the ACLU:
In his report, Noel wrote that medical care at ESP shows “the most shocking and callous disregard for human life and human suffering that I have ever encountered in the medical profession in my 35 years of practice.” According to the report…there is a horrific pattern of neglect, misguided health care policies, and little accountability for frequently under-qualified staff. Noel also noted numerous instances where important medical records were missing from prisoners’ medical files. Finally, Noel and the ACLU have raised serious concerns about prisoners who died and were cremated before autopsies were completed and their families notified.
This piece by Coyote Sheff is called “Solitary Enslavement.”
We sit in these cells like dead bodies sit in cemeteries. Death fills our lungs, fills our minds, fills our hearts and fills our souls as it lurks and lingers and seeps through the concrete. Our minds go numb and our spirits fade into inactivity. We sit here waiting to waste away, erode, dissolve, and disappear into the cracks of the cement.
Solitary confinement. What an evil concept, what a wicked notion, what a clever way to destroy a man without even laying a finger on him. Solitary confinement — the murderer of minds, hearts, and souls. The person who designed such an evil conception must’ve had murder on his mind and hate in his heart.
We die alone in these cold cells, as our hands stretch out to clutch concrete, but fail miserably to hold anything in their grasp other than the death-stenched air. We die alone — a lonely, miserable, suffering death. We die alone….