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Mental Health Alternatives to Solitary Confinement Testimony Before Senate Judiciary on Solitary Confinement 2012

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Alliance for Inmates with AIDS
AMI St. Lawrence Valley
Association for Community Living
Brooklyn Defender Services
Capital District Center for Independence
Cephus Attica, Inc.
Coalition for the Homeless
Coalition of Voluntary Mental Health Agencies
Community Access
Correctional Association of New York
Correctional Educational Consortium
Family Justice, Inc.
Howie the Harp Advocacy Center
Human Rights Watch
Jericho Project
Latino Commission on AIDS
Legislative Action Coalition on Prison Health
Mental Health Empowerment Project
Mental Health Association of New York State
Mental Health Association of New York City
Mental Health Association of Suffolk County
Mental Health Association of Westchester
NAMI Buffalo and Erie County
NAMI Champlain Valley
NAMI Chemung & Steuben Counties
NAMI Concerned Citizens for Pilgrim
NAMI Finger Lakes
NAMI Huntington
NAMI New York City Metro
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NAMI Mid-Hudson
NAMI Ontario, Yates and Seneca
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NAMI Rochester
NAMI Ulster and Dutchess Counties
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NASW New York State
New Connections & Rehabilitative Services
New York City AIDS Housing Network
New York State Defenders Association
NYS Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare
North Franklin Public Defender’s Office
Office of the Appellate Defender
Open Door Club
Prison Families of New York
Project Hospitality, Inc.
Restoration Society
Steps to End Family Violence
Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy
TARA National Association for Personality Disorder
Thorpe Family Residency, Inc.
Urban Justice Center
Urban Pathways, Inc.
Venture House
Women’s Prison Association & Home, Inc

“Reassessing Solitary Confinement: The Human Rights,
Fiscal and Public Safety Consequences”
Senate Judiciary Committee
Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights
June 19, 2012
Dear Chairman Durbin and Subcommittee Members:
Mental Health Alternatives to Solitary Confinement (MHASC) is a
coalition of more than sixty organizations and hundreds of concerned
citizens, advocates, mental health and criminal justice professionals,
formerly incarcerated individuals and their family members, working to
end the cruel practice of placing persons with psychiatric disabilities in
solitary confinement in New York State prisons.
The coalition successfully advocated for the enactment of the Special
Housing Unit (“SHU”) Exclusion Law, which restricts the placement of
individuals with serious mental illness in disciplinary confinement.
Although the law was enacted in 2008, it did not take effect until July 1,
2011. MHASC continues to advocate for full implementation of the
SHU Exclusion Law, the end of the placement of persons with mental
illness in SHU, and the creation of a therapeutic rather than disciplinary
response to perceived rule violations due to mental health symptoms.
Many MHASC members and supporters are submitting testimony
regarding the implementation of the SHU Exclusion Law and the
continued use of solitary confinement in New York, including the
Correctional Association of New York, Disabilities Advocates, Inc., The
Legal Aid Society, Prisoners’ Legal Services of New York, and the
Urban Justice Center. In addition, family members active in MHASC
will be providing testimony. To bring you the voices of those who have
experienced solitary confinement personally, we are sharing excerpts
from Stories from the SHU: Psychiatrically Disabled Inmates in Solitary
Confinement in New York State.
We commend you for convening this hearing and urge you to take action
to end the placement of prisoners with mental illness in solitary
confinement in the United States.
Respectfully submitted,
Mental Health Alternatives to Solitary Confinement

Landon Hughes Corney

flying around in the shower. You are also handcuffed to go to the shower
and while you are being escorted back to your cell. Many times this can be
an ordeal, with the officers putting the handcuffs on too tight and pulling
you while you walk. Many altercations are started this way. Due to these
stipulations many choose not to shower at all, and the hall can really be
foul at times.
Remembering my experience in the SHU, I recall that one of the biggest and most inhumane acts is the feed-up policy-referring to breakfast,
lunch, and dinner. When you are served the food, it is always cold, and
I've been told that some officers have been known to spit in the food. You
are given a cup of Kool-Aid or milk and a bag with a fork and four slices
of bread. When you're done eating the officers will come and pick up the
trays. If you don't have your cup, fork, and your light on you will be put on
a bread-and-cabbage diet for a week. Seven days you have to eat

some sort of loaf that tastes like bile, and cabbage
for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Many people have written
y first and only experience in a New York State SHU was in August
of 2002. Before I give an account of the situations that followed, I'd
like to briefly state how I got there. In August of 2002, I was taking
my shower just like I always do, when an inmate began shouting profanities
at me. I walked down the company (the hall) to confront him and we began
arguing. Our heated exchange went on for a few minutes. Finally, one of
the officers ordered that I be locked in my cell. Over the cursing and the
ensuing melee I didn't hear the orders. Two officers then came down the
company and escorted me to my cell. After my cell door had slammed shut,
one of the officers poked me in the ribs with his nightstick. As an almost
immediate reaction I slapped him in the face. I was later confronted by the
sergeant, who told me I was going to the SHU. I waited three days before
being sentenced to six months. Even though I didn't ask for assistance, I was
sure the superintendent was going to hit me hard. Once I was there I was
stripped of all my property-books, food, toiletries, etc. Many say that once
you're in the Wende SHU, you are there to stay.
The Box is not a pleasant place to be. You are locked
in a six-by-nine-foot cell with a glass shield in front of your bars twentythree hours a day. You can only go out for one hour in the morning where
they place you in little cages. Even at this time, you are not free to walk
around. The cages are about twelve by ten feet. When you first enter, your
cell door is covered with a glass shield. It's very difficult to breathe in there,
and in the summer, the heat can be sweltering. You are given ten-minute
showers every other day, and the water is usually cold and there are gnats



to Albany from prison complaining about the loaf. While I was in the SHU
a woman from Albany did come to Wende and ask the inmates to fill out
surveys about the loaf. I truly believe something is put in that loaf because
it doesn't look like bread or taste like it at all. I was placed on the loaf the
fourth day I was in the SHU not even knowing that I had to turn in my cup.
Most inmates go hungry for the whole week like I did.
Although I was only sentenced to do six months in the Box, I did eight.
Once again I was a victim of my environment. The small space which I
called my own for that long and devastating time was next to an inmate
who had never seen me, but was racist toward me. Though we had never
interacted directly, he had made the assumption that I am black from my
voice. Three days into my sentence, the man in the neighboring cell began
harassing me, calling me racist names and trying to instigate a fight. The following five months were very difficult. Day after day, hour after

hour, I would have to listen to the inmate next to
me use ~gar language and call me names like nigger and SpIC. To add to the fuel, the correction officer assigned to the
night shift would laugh at the racist slurs the inmate would scream out. One
night, after I was ignoring my neighbor for some time, he began banging on
the walls. The officer on shift blamed me for the noise. I tried to explain to
him that it wasn't me, but he did not have the patience to listen. The outcome of this was that I had to spend an extra ninety days in the Box.
In April of 2003, I was moved to a different program, which worked
with inmates diagnosed with mental illness. Until this point in time, I was


never diagnosed with any mental disorders other than depression. I was
shocked to learn that my diagnosis was changed to bipolar disorder. I did
not understand how everything had changed so quickly. I was told that I
was put in the Box to help control my behavior and help with maintaining
my mental disorder. This was not the experience I had. I could


Jerry Balone

not figure out how being secluded from society,
spending twenty-three hours a day alone and not
having anyone to talk to, was going to help me
with this disorder that I was told that I had.
In closing, all inmates, whether proven guilty or innocent, must learn to
adapt to the rules and regulations put forth by the Department of Corrections,
and must try to do their time with self-control and patience. Patients that are
labeled mentally ill in prison must face many issues. They must deal with
the many stereotypes and stigmas attached to having an illness. One must
work very hard toward not letting the environment in which one is forced
to live cause one to fall deeper into psychosis and delusional behavior. We
as a society must try our best to find alternate ways of helping inmates with
mental illness get the help they need and deserve rather than locking them
away in a secluded place where they are not treated with the care they need.

All people, including inmates, should be given the
.opportunity to fight their illness, and be embraced
and liberated.


n December of 1999, I, along with many others at Sing Sing Correctional
Facility, were sent to a Special Housing Unit (SHU) at Upstate
Correctional Facility in Malone, New York. In spite of my vigorous
defense, I was found guilty and sentenced to eighteen months in SHU for
supposedly being involved in a statewide protest of prison conditions. The
only evidence used against me was the word of a confidential informant
whom I was never able to confront or question. In order to bring attention
to what happened to me and others, I went on a forty-day hunger strike.
After hiring an attorney, filing an appeal, and receiving a lot of publicity,
I was completely exonerated of all charges. By the time the whole process
was over with, I had spent ninety-nine days in SHU, I was sent to five different prisons, and my family and friends had to spend thousands of dollars
in legal and travel expenses.
What happened to me was not uncommon. If I had not gone on my
hunger strike and hired an attorney, I would have served the whole eighteen
months in SHU for something that was completely fabricated. I never received an apology from anyone; nor was I ever compensated for destroyed
and lost personal property.
The vast majority of people in prison are not capable of representing
themselves at their disciplinary hearings. For those with mental
disorders, It s even worse. Many of them are innocent, but
since they have no legal skills, they are found guilty. Since they are unable
to file an administrative appeal within the prescribed time limit, they end up
serving their complete SHU sentence.



For those who have been classified as "mentally challenged," there
should be some impartial person within each prison to assist these
people at their disciplinary hearings. Mitigating factors should always be
considered in deciding how much time a person should serve in SHU.
Alternatives to SHU time should be strongly encouraged. Unless new

Joseph Davis

procedures are implemented as soon as possible,
injustices will continue to occur.
At Collins Correctional Facility, if a person is found smoking a cigarette in an unauthorized area, he is sent to SHU for thirty days. Almost all
rule infractions automatically send a person to SHU. Too many SHU cells
have been built, and many of them should be turned into regular blocks for
therapeutic programs to help people instead of adding to their problems.
Keeping people in SHU just because those cells need to be filled is an insane
policy. It creates more problems than it solves, and the sooner new

policies are implemented, the sooner people can
receive help instead of unjust punishment.
rior to my prison experience I was a telephone technician, just enjoying my life on my own terms, then things began to fall apart with the
loss of my father, then my job, then I was diagnosed in 1984 with a
severe mental illness. Shortly thereafter I began to use drugs, which led to
other negative behaviors that eventually landed me in the sniU'e of the prison
system in 1999.
While in prison, in the beginning, I was taking my medication timely
and all was well with me. But I discontinued taking it because I wanted to
participate in the work release program offered by the state, and did not
want to be denied due to taking psychiatric drugs. I was accepted and placed
on work release when the negative affects of not taking my medication
kicked in. Although I did not provoke the altercation that landed me in
SHU, if I had been taking my medication properly, I would not have reacted
to the incident so angrily and negatively; I would have just followed the
officer's instructions. .
I was charged with threatening an officer and placed in SHU for three
months. While there I was only allowed to exit my cell for recreation one
hour per day, and twice to pick up medication. How did this environment
affect me? I felt lonely, isolated, depressed, and anti-


social and contemplated hanging myself to end it
all. When I needed to speak with someone about what I was feeling, the
psychiatrist was never present, or present only twice per week, and I still
might not get to see him or her.



Yet many things can be done to improve how mentally ill prisoners
are treated while in prisons. I will offer a few suggestions now as possible




Mentally ill prisoners should be placed in a separate environment from general population.
Officers should be specially trained to deal with mentally ill
prisop.ers at all levels at all times, and not so quick to write
tickets for negative behaviors.
A psychiatrist, or other qualified mental health personnel,
should be available to mentally ill prisoners at all times to deal
with their problems and medication.
Mentally ill prisoners with long-term, chronic illness should
be constantly monitored and evaluated, and never placed in
SHU at any time, because this is a life-or-death situation.

I thank each of you for your time and for allowing me the opportunity to
share my experiences with you. I hope that it will assist in improving conditions for the mentally ill prisoners remaining in prison, and those who will
eventually end up there, and the elimination of SHU as a disciplinary tool
from the lives of mentally ill prisoners statewide permanently.

Tanisha Jackson

The author writes that the following letter and poem (the latter
written while she was in administrative segregation) are "a reo
flection of my time in SHU and a plea to stop the confinement
of mentally ill inmates. [And] my emotional response to it as
well." The poem was "written and endured by Tanisha Jackson
(TJ), October 2002, one and a half years into administrative
segregation. Seven months in an observation cell. One year and
one month in an isolation room on the medical unit of BHCF
RMU [Bedford Hills Correctional Facility Regional Medical
Unit] V. Eighteen months in SHU upon return from CNYPC
[Central New York Psychiatric Center] .... On May 3, 2004, I
was released from admin-seg/SHU after eight years of confinement to either an OB [observation] cell, CNYPC, or a SHU cell.
I've been succeeding on my own terms for eight months. It's not
easy, but I will never forget where I came from and those of my
peers who still remain."

ating back as far as Octobe~· 9, 1996, I can recall the lonely, isolated
days I spent in 13edf0rd Rills SHU block. My mother was dying and
being that she was my only surviving parent (my dad died in 1992),
it made my stay there that much more hopeless. I cannot c.ount the number
of times I had hurt myself in SHU either by stringing a noose made of
shoelaces to the knob of the window and/or by slashing my arms till blood
covered my floor, and still ...





I was sent back there to rot, to sink further into
the depression that this isolation inflicted. In November 1997 when
I got the news that my mom had been admitted again to hospital for her second liver transplant, I lost it. You'd think that a person such as myself with
an extensive mental health history would be taken seriously when telling an
officer that "I'm gonna kill myself" or "I feel like hurting myself."
Were these "attention-getting tactics"?
For me, they were cries for help, asking for the officer to help me before I
hurt me. You see, I wasn't able to actually verbalize my need for help. I could
not even cry! To no avail, I'd end up hurting myself in one way or another
and then the "cleanup crew" would come whisk me off to OB and after a
stay down there, in which of course I'd abuse myself unmercifully, I was
either sent to CNYPC or returned to SHU. The bottom line is this: Albany
knew I was mentally unstable, as did BHCF administration. I was one of
the top five inmates at BHCF at risk for self-abuse, and I was continually
sent back to SHU! Not only to finish my time, but also to "think about why
you're here." "Use this time to learn from your mistakes."
And so as I lay there day after day getting sucked
back into a depressive vortex, I thought, learn from my mistakes?
Well, I learned from my mistakes all right. A total of 158 self-abusive
mistakes, all beginning when I went to SHU in 1996. I also learned that
because of such severe methods of isolation and sedentariness, coupled
with intentional provocation (by officers and inmates) and neglect, several
of my peers have and will kill themselves in this place designated for
punishment and isolation to make one "think" about what we've done. It
doesn't matter if you're mentally ill. You broke a prison rule and you will
suffer for it in SHU.
One woman, very close to me, killed herself in Bedford Hills, in the
Special Housing Unit. Mind you, Jessica Roger made her first attempt at
suicide in SHU, and she [would have] succeeded then too, but luckily the
response team was able to [revive] her. But on August 17, 2002, she was not
that lucky. She died this time. She attempted to take her life and she did.
She's dead now and should not be!
In the male prisons as well, in their SHU buildings, men with mental
illnesses/ emotional problems have and will take their lives because of the
extreme condition of loneliness, isolation, and deprivation that are not
human but inhumane. Though we are not the same gender or live in the


same penitentiary, they too are my peers, and we are in this battle together.
Being mentally and emotionally disturbed, we share a common bond.
All of us who suffer from psychiatric problems need to be treated for
such, not thrown into a pit and left alone and deprived of proper nourishment and human interaction for the sake of being "institutionally correct."
We need help to speak out for all of these inmates who are still suffering in
prison SHU buildings. Dying by their own hands for breaking prison infractions. Killing ourselves because we do not know how
to cope with loneliness and isolation because we have an
impairment in our way of thinking because we are mentally ill. Let's stop
this epidemic before more of my peers kill themselves. I know what it's
like to die in the Special Housing Unit, because the day my friend

Jessica Roger killed herself in SHU, a significant
part of me died in that cell, that cold and lonely
place, right alongside of her.
I died that day too.

The Effects of Isolation
My tears fall and smash to the ground.
I feel alone
even when there are other people around.
My cries echo in the silence of night.
I haven't the strength to continue riding
on this cold and lonely flight . . .
The many years that I've wasted
are nothing! Compared to the hurt-filled tears
that I have tasted.
So much pain from this empty loneliness
fill the days of my perseverance . . .
One more try, just one more chance,
this is all I am asking for.
H this opportunity cannot be given, then .
I'll endure this solitude until I can walk freely
from Bedford's holding doors.
But the pain still remains!


Right here! Right now! Where the agony is excruciating,
and the silence, too loud!


There is no way to fix
What has been broken for so, so long,
even regaining freedom could not heal
this gaping wound . . .
To hear, to see, just to speak to another person
is the only thing that will ultimately assuage
the hurt that fills my soul.
Every night and every day I hope a miracle will come about,
"For prayer is the only way to conquer doubt."


I am so near to God,
but yet, I am too far out and away

to feel His touch.
I can only pray and ask Him to alleviate the pain
of being and feeling lost as well as alone.
Because it hurts too much
When I lay down
before going off to sleep
I try to reach from under the lonely desperation
that has me buried so deep.
I awaken in the small hours to sit,
ponder, and to cry.
Only to fall back into a restless slumber
that leaves me afraid and
aching inside . . .

n June of 2002 my significant other was an inmate at Marcy Correctional
Fa~ty. At th~t tim.e he was.bein g se~n by mental heal~ in that facility,
havmg been diagnosed prevIously WIth PTSD, depressIOn, and anxiety
disorder. He often suffered panic attacks. He spent a lot of time in SHU
throughout his bid [sentence] for various disciplinary infractions and was in
SHU at the time of this incident.
One evening he complained to the correction officer on duty that he
was experiencing chest pains. To the facility's credit, his complaint was
taken seriously and he was transported quickly to an outside hospital for
evaluation. Medical staff there recommended a stress test and other tests.
He was over three hundred miles from home and very anxious and worried. I was able to speak with medical staff by phone and they explained his
condition and their recommendations. He refused the tests and demanded
to be returned to the facility, which they did. When facility medical staff
saw his condition they returned him immediately to the hospital, where I
was fmally able to speak to him and strongly suggest that he go ahead with
the tests.


The tests revealed serious blockage of the blood
vessels surrounding his heart. I was able to speak to the


cardiologist and he recommended immediate triple-bypass surgery. Both
medical staff and the correction officers assigned to watch my "other" in
the hospital were very generous in allowing me to speak to him. The surgery
was scheduled within a few days and I traveled to Utica to be with him during the surgery. Again, staff and correction officers were more than helpful
and sympathetic. The surgery was successful. I asked the cardiologist to
try to keep my "other" in the hospital as long as possible, knowing that he
would be returning to prison rather than to cardiac rehab or a supportive
home environment.
I had to return home before he was released from the hospital but he
promised to call regularly and let me know as soon as he returned to the
prison. I got one phone call when he returned to Marcy, from the infirmary,
and then heard nothing from him the next day. Concerned, I called the facility, on a Saturday, and was told, laughingly, by the correction officer who
took my call that my "other" was in the Box. She would give me no further
information. This was nine days postsurgery.
First thing Monday morning I was on the telephone with the superintendent, who himself seemed surprised and assured me he would check
into the situation. Within hours my "other" was back in the infirmary.
I can only imagine the horror of what he had gone through. When
correction officers had delivered his property to him when he returned from
the hospital, they had found a lighter and a half pill of one of his psych
medications and written him up for contraband. They took him
from the infirmary and put him in the Box. Because
of the open-heart surgery, the hospital had given him a heart pillow, w~ich
he was to hold to his chest any time he coughed or sneezed. This was taken
from him. He had several heart medications that it was very important for
him to take per instructions. These were all placed in a plastic bag, together,
and given to him. Unfortunately he wasn't allowed to have his glasses, so
he was unable to read the instructions for the medications. He was not allowed to have the pain medication prescribed by his cardiologist because it
was something not allowed in the facility. He was without his psych meds
because mental health didn't know he was back in the facility and didn't
know he was in the Box. Here was a man with mental health problems to
begin with, having just gone through a very scary and stressful experience,
thrown into SHU for an infraction that could easily have been dealt with
at a later time.
SHUs are not known for being clean and sanitary, and he feared infection in the still-open wounds-chest, arm, and leg-from his surgery. Even

though he was in the Box only a day and a half, the experience was frightening, extraordinarily stressful, and, to my mind, totally uncalled for.
Thanks to an understanding superintendent, my "other" was spared
Box time until he had recuperated a little more. I wrote letters of complaint
to every conceivable DOCS official, the Commission on Corrections, and
everyone else I could think of, with no response. The cardiologist even
wrote a letter of complaint, at having one of his patients treated with such
Although time has passed and [my significant other] has recuperated
from the surgery, he will never forget the experience and remains affected
by it to this day. He still has nightmares about the Box. I
still can't believe, although I do believe it, that human beings can be treated
so badly.




Gregory Warner (staff researcher,
Correctional Association of New York)

Excerpted from Correctional Association of New York, Mental
Health in the House of Corrections: A Study of Mental Health Care
in New York State Prisons (New York: Correctional Association

of New York, 2004).

R is a 30-year-Old African American man who has been in prison for 11
years. For six of those years he has lived in solitary confinement. We first
met JR .in Southport Couectional Facility. a freestanding disciplinary
lockdown correctional facility for 780 inmates. The cellblock was relatively
quiet when we arrived.
We stopped outside JR's cell because his disheveled appearance and the
barrenness of his living quarters caught our attention. His cell lacked the
typical (though illegal) wall adornments, such as family pictures or pin-ups,
and there were no books, magazines, or papers on his desk. His black plastic
glasses were broken in places and missing an eyepiece; they hung lopsided
across his nose. His T-shirt was stained. His expression was expectant and
somewhat fearful.
JR's responses to our questions were repetitive and highly disorganized,
some unintelligibly so. When told that the Correctional Association was located on 15th Street in Manhattan, he responded like a proud first grader,
"I know 15th Street! I know l25th Street, l38th Street, 42nd Street ... "
When asked how long he had been in SHU, he responded, "Oh, fifty days, a



hundred days, a hundred fifty days, massive days ... " In fact, JR had served
more continuous SHU time than he could probably count: 2,067 days.
Inmates in nearby cells, listening to our odd conversation, began to
snicker. "He's crazy!" they shouted. "He's a bug! Help him!" Some prisoners began to tease him. "Whore Street!" they shouted, causing [JR] to
spring to attention like a soldier. "Whore Street Representative!" he barked
in response. This was repeated several times to the great amusement of the
inmates on the tier. Later, an older inmate on the block said that JR gets
mocked every day. "Guys here have nothing to do," he explained. "He's
their TV."
JR entered prison in 1992, was screened by mental health staff and
found not in need of services. Fivt: years transpired before mental health
staff saw him again, when JR was sent to the SHU for assaulting an officer. Over the next two years, mental health staff saw him eight times. The
picture that emerges from his records shows an individual experiencing increasing difficulty coping with the isolation of the SHU environment. When
mental health staff first screened JR upon arrival in SHU, they found him
naked in his cell, wearing "nothing but his glasses." The screening social
worker wrote that he appeared "lucid and coherent," but based on "his appearance and the fact that he assaulted an officer, patient will be evaluated
for service need." Despite that observation, JR was not seen again until
three months later. At that time, he was found to be healthy and not in need
of mental health services.
One year later, JR began exposing himself to nurses and masturbating in front of female officers. He received several tickets for this behavior
and additional SHU time, and was interviewed by the then-Unit Chief
at Attica. Her report of that interview is the only clinical write-up on JR
throughout his incarceration. She wrote in part:
Patient has no psych history and after 7Y2 years in prison this is
the first time he exhibits this behavior. Patient claims he has SHU
[time] till 2001 and thinks he won't be able to handle it.
Alert, excited. No evidence of hallucinations. No delusions.
Coherent. Organized. . . Patient made several sexual remarks to
this writer and interview was ended. Patient seems to be acting out
as a means to get out of SHU. Diagnosis: Antisocial Personality


(According to Hans Toch, Distinguished Professor at the State University
of New York, Albany, School of Criminal Justice, "Mental health staff gain
most freedom by asserting that typical infractors are of no interest to clinical
professionals in that they at worst have a character defect [like Antisocial
Personality Disorder] that is unresponsive to therapeutic administrations.")
JR quieted down for a while, then resumed exposing himself to female staff. He was transferred to the SHU at Wende, another maximumsecurity prison, '~~d finally to Southport in April 1999, where he was

screened once, found not in need of services, and
never seen again. There his official mental health file.ends.
What happened to JR between April of 1999 and May of 2002, when
we first met him? Since the medical file had no answers, we turned to JR's
sister, his closest relative. She has corresponded by mail with JR since he
was incarcerated, and she stated that about five years ago (when JR first
arrived in SHU), his letters started becoming strange-rambling, confused,
disturbing, inappropriate, and repetitive-sometimes 5 or 10 letters saying
exactly the same thing. When she visited him in 2000, she was shocked at
the change. "He wasn't himself," she said. "Only at the end of the interview,
he touched my hand, and I started crying. I thought, maybe he actually
knows who I am."