portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting united states

prisons & prisoners

torture in the Meriwether jail

A story about the state of human rights in a rural jail.
Dear Auntie,
Let me tell you about the hole. I went to the hole because I complained about the food. For several days after I got there I was sick. It's because when they brought our meals they would leave them sitting on the carts, out in the hallway going bad. So I got sick.
I rang the little buzzer and asked for some medicine. Kao pectate or Pepto or something. They said no. I said then can you do something about the food, I have been sick since I have been here. The lieutenant said if you don't like the food, don't come here. I said poisoning is not a legal form of punishment. She was so mad she came down herself and took me to the hole.
The hole is cold. I was in there around the first of December. They have a teeny little cell and the air conditioner runs 24 hours a day. When I say cold, I mean COLD.
I made up my mind to get out of there. After they put me in there they brought my worn, thin little blanket and stuffed it into the tray hole. I didn't even pick it up, it was pretty much worthless for that cold place.
There was the usual stainless steel sink and toilet in there. I started throwing water on myself. I kept it up so I could stay wet. The plan was to spend the day lowering my body temperature, then after dinner, when there was almost no guard traffic outside, I would lie down on the bunk without the blanket. By morning one of 3 things would happen.
1) I would have pneumonia
2) I would have hypothermia
3) I would be dead
I didn't give a crap which one. When the guards opened the door in the morning they would find out which, and then, by hook or by crook, I would be out of there.
Meanwhile I walked the floor continually. The rubber sandals insulated the bottoms of my feet. If I touched any surface in there within a couple minutes I would be shivering convulsively. I thought if I walked all day I would be worn out enough to lie down and stay there until the shivering stopped.
At dinner they brought my tray and opened the door to hand it to me, as my blanket was still in the tray hole. They had piled my tray full of extra food. Mostly starch, but I ate it all so my blood sugar would be high. High blood sugar causes diminished consciousness. I save a lot of money on drugs these days, because if someone dies I just eat donuts instead of taking tranquilizers.
A couple hours later the guard and trustee brought my store order. Supposed being in the hole is punishment and such privileges as the store order are withheld. But they brought it. I had sunflower seeds and sausage sticks in there. Carbs won't help me generate heat, but sunflower seeds and sausage I can work with.
Then they opened the door and the guard handed me the blanket. Just because she was holding it out
to me I politely reached out and took it, and then let my arm drop limply to my side with it. It was useless. Then the trustee stepped around the door and handed me another blanket. It was a brand new thick, cushy blanket. I snatched it and thanked him for it.
The blanket and the store food were nice ... no, essential ... but the fact that the two of them actually showed me some concern and kindness was a huge factor. Having spent a lot of time on the street, I can tell you the huge impact a small kindness can have on someone. I have seen it many times. And from this occasion I knew exactly how it feels.
I had already been sick for several days and had spent hours lowering my temperature, so even with the extra blanket it was a tough night. My store order had a pad of paper in it, so I tore off the cardboard and put it up over the intake of the continuously running air conditioner. The blower had old toilet paper stuck over it where other sufferers had tried to stop the air by plugging it up with clumps of wet toilet paper. That clearly didn't work. I covered up the intake to the point where I could hear the motor laboring. I didn't dare cover it completely and burn out the motor or I would have been charged with destroying their property. But I slowed it down enough to be helpful.
I had a tough night, but got through it. After lunch the administrator stood outside my door and asked me if I was ready to go back to my cell. I said sure.
The other prisoners told me that a man died in the hole, sometime before I got there.

homepage: homepage: http://auntieracist.tripod.com