First of all, thank you, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!! Thank you for your incredible support, your kindness, and your strength! Ya’ll are the best.
So, today is my six week anniversary of being in the SHU. Yesterday was my first day with a pen (or pencil, or quill, or marker, or…) in a little over a week. (What? What?) That’s write (like my pun?). I haven’t had access to a writing utensil in over two weeks…Let me explain.
Ok, so in general population, you can order pens on commissary (if you have the funds to do so), and there are pencils provided by the institution (they run out…often), BUT in the SHU have to use special writing utensils, provided by the institution and they run out…ALL THE FUCKING TIME (I think this time they were out of SHU pens for 3 or 4 weeks. Luckily I got one right before they ran out, and it held out for a bit). So as I sit here with a pen in my hand I got to thinking about what I wanted to write to y’all about and I guess this is what’s on my mind…
So, in the SHU, you get one phone call a month (which I know I rambled on for a bit in my last public letter, but this will tie back to to the pen thing…I promise. Well, it should be noted that some people’s phone privileges get taken away completely so that they get zero phone calls a month. Or, because they can no longer make the minimum amount of money that they made at their prison job before life in the SHU,(you can’t work in SHU) then those folks have zero access to phone calls too. Phone time costs!! Any way, what I’, trying to get at is in the SHU the phone is not a consistent form of communication, so letters become even more essential than ever. They are our lifelines to our families and our family’s lifeline back to us. They are how we handle our responsibilities, and how we stay connected. When we are not allowed our writing utensils, (whether it be an oversight, budgetary, or intentional form of punishment, the result is the same and the implications are pretty similar. It is either more important that people are hurt, without communication, or that communication doesn’t matter). Our communication with the outside world; with our families and communities, drops to basically ZERO, which hurts and which hurts our loved ones.
PRISONS AND PUNISHMENT WITHIN THE PRISON DOES NOT JUST EFFECT THOSE WHO ARE INCARCERATED.
I don’t know…I don’t mean to continue to harp on that point, but almost everything here (at least in my head it seems) goes back to that. It’s why (again, in my head) a simple thing as a pen running out of ink has such larger consequences…and speaking of those consequences that are associated with this issue, there are more. (I hope y’all don’t mind if I ramble on a bit more)
It limits our creativity, our self-expression, and our academic pursuits. If we always have to worry about; “When is my pen gonna run out?” “I need to save my ink to write letters.”, or simply; “Shit, my pen ran out…wonder when I will get another.” (All three are regular musings in my brain), then the time our pens spend creating; drawings, verses, and prose; it becomes limited. Even if the primary use of your pen is academic and/or creative, when that pen runs out, one can become lost.
This was just something that I wanted to share with y’all. I know that before this experience, even in general population, I had never thought of pens when considering prisoner’s rights, now the two will be forever linked.
SO, the SHU is meant to punish, and it does…it totally DOES, but honestly y’all, I feel stronger than ever. After being in the SHU for six weeks, (five by myself, with a bunkie for weeks 3-4.) I now feel like there is nothing in the world that I can’t accomplish or do now. I wake up every morning with a smile on my face, and I know that they will never, no matter how hard they try, be able to take that; my smile, no one can take that away from me, and that knowledge makes me strong.
The knowledge that there are women in my unit (at least back when I was there), but women, who smile everyday, who laugh everyday, and who resist everyday by not allowing this place, this institution, to have complete control over their emotions makes me strong. Y’all make me strong! Your support, your kind words, your passion, our funny drawings of animal friends—knowing you’re out there, makes me strong, and with every letter I read, I grow stronger.
The amazing work that people are doing in support roles makes me strong. What I am doing would not be possible without the hard work of those awesome folks (this includes my lawyer, she is the raddest). The love of my families, both the one I was born into, and the beautiful ones that my friends and I have created makes me strong. The fact that every single one of those people have not let a second of this experience go by without making me feel their incredible love, that makes me strong.
Well, before I close this, I want to say I do have a pen now, but that is not a constant state. The ink issue, along with postage is going to make letter response time even longer, plus its taking longer for my mail to get through; both in and out. Please know how much I appreciate you all, and that the long response time is not due to a lack of gratitude, I cherish every single one of your letters. I truly hope everyone is doing well.
Keep smiling, keep struggling,
In solidarity and gratitude,