Life In Solitary Confinement: Hello World, Can You Hear Me?

Back in the September of 1997, a 19-year-old kid by the name of Jermane Scott was sentenced to life without parole for the aggravated murder of Bertram Thomas. I say kid—Scott was heavily involved in the street life— because in reality, he was just that.

Jermane Scott’s world was a small one, with limited experiences. By his own admission: “Getting money and clothes was the theme of my life. Chasing money was what I lived for.  I was no angel citizen, a punk, a young naive boy who wanted to fit in (with the crowd) I lived amongst.”

Scott, upon arrest, held his hands-up to using Thomas’s credit-card, and cashing two of his checks —one successfully, and one not so— to get money, and to buy clothes at a local shopping-mall. What he didn’t admit— and has never admitted to — was the murder of Bertram Thomas.

Jermane Scott’s trial was one of conviction-by-testimony. No physical evidence— Fingerprints/DNA evidence at the crime-scene or in the victim’s stolen car, murder weapon, or trace evidence (from a .22 calibre weapon) on his person, or clothing— was ever attributed to Scott.

Scott’s conviction, based on what I consider to be fabricated, and quite clearly false-testimony, sealed his fate. However, this story is not for today. Over the coming weeks and months, CJRJ will be publishing further articles detailing Jermane’s case, with in-depth analysis into his conviction, and updates on his well-being.

 


Hello World, Can You Hear Me? Jermane Scott

 

Do you REALLY know what it’s like to live in solitary confinement?

Do the films where A-List Hollywood stars appear in some prison movie REALLY capture the mundane nothingness that stretches out for miles and miles? And is the emotional torture and deprivation really captured on screen? And maybe you’re in agreement with thousands of people in this world that the inmates in solitary confinement deserve everything they get and are subjected to on a daily, hourly and every minute basis. I’m not here to get into that debate. All I’m here to do is to tell you what it’s REALLY like to live your life in Solitary conditions. Do I deserve this treatment? NO – I don’t believe any human being deserves THIS life for a long period of time with no end in sight, with no way redeeming one self and with no regards to rehabilitation. I’ve been rehabilitated years ago – I’m still here!

I have been in prison now wrongfully convicted of a murder for 20 years. I came to prison as just a young 19 year old boy. I am now nearly 39 years old. I have been in Solitary Confinement or some form of High Max Security for over a decade now. The Movies portray only the ‘crazy’ or the ‘serial killers’ to be in Solitary Confinement for long stretches of time (or for life) but that is the movies – that’s not real. The reality is Solitary Confinement is used as a punishment for long stretches of time for any inmate regardless of their crime or misdemeanour whilst in the prison system. And the time frame of these stretches can vary from 1 year or in my case over a decade. The Movies are wrong – it’s NOT a place for the crazies to be kept – it’s a place where inmates are put for punishment for whatever misdemeanour they happened to be involved in. And they are put there for a very very long time. Once you’re in it is VERY hard to get out again.  Rehabilitation means NOTHING in solitary.

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Jermane Scott:  30-years-old and over 10 years into a life sentence.

Solitary Confinement is a form of punishment (or as I believe a form of torture) and it’s not a week long punishment it is for years if not forever. The rules of how to get out of solitary are simple. Behave, do as you’re told, keep your head down, don’t complain about anything and be quiet and then ‘maybe’ we will let you out. I have lived by these rules now for over a decade and STILL I’m here in this small blank cold concrete cell. When will my stay in Solitary end? I don’t know, no one tells me anything. I have played by the rules; I have met all my targets set. Yet I’m still here waiting for my punishment to end……Maybe you’re wondering why I was put into solitary the first place, well I was young, fresh into the prison system with a chip on my shoulder about being found guilty for a crime I didn’t commit.  I was angry by being let down by the Justice System, my so called ‘friends’ who betrayed me, my family for abandoning me and for realising for the first time that the truth does NOT prevail!  I had an altercation with another inmate in those first few years. It was so long ago it feels like another life. A fight broke out and I defended myself as did he. No one died in that fight I would like to point out. I got punished and put here a decade ago. What happened to him? I have no idea. No one tells me anything remember.

After years of being in solitary I was due to have my security level decreased slightly (although to still remain in solitary but with a few more privileges). Unfortunately one day my cell door and another inmates cell door was very mysteriously and accidentally (the prison have since informed me) left unlocked (when all inmate doors should have been safely locked for ‘lock down’). This inmate left his cell and entered my cell. He came for me and attacked me in my cell, unprovoked.  The result of that?  MY stay in Solitary was extended and my security level decrease denied. What happened to that other inmate? Who knows, no one tells me anything.

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Fast forward 5 or 6 years later my final security level decrease is now up for review again. If I pass this security level I am out of high security and on my first footing back into mass population prison. I can only hope this time no doors are left unlocked and I am at last allowed to leave this hell hole and return to mass population prison to carry out my Life sentence for a murder I did not commit. I went into Solitary Confinement as a young man with a chip on his shoulder – I leave an adult with many emotional scars from the experiences from the dark depths of despair I have endured during my time in this small concrete cell. It goes for something when a person sees mass population prison as a place of heaven (a place they long to go to) compared to the dark tortuous conditions of long term Solitary Confinement.

My Day: 

Days start like any other in solitary. With nothingness. No reason to wake up. No reason to even take that first breath. I get up though, every day I get up. Every day I get off this concrete slab that is called a bed and stretch. My bed…I am 6ft 4 and the bed is 5ft 8 inches long (give or take). It is a concrete slab with nothing more than a thin mattress to support my back. I have not lay down and stretched in 20 years now. I have issues with my back due to this. I exercise in my cell every day to elevate [sic] the pain in my back and shoulders and to keep my muscles active and alive. The feelings I get from my daily exercise remind me I am human and not a caged animal like I feel I am. I say this about the bed  but even if I had a nice big bed I couldn’t sleep. I haven’t slept now in nearly a decade. Sure I sleep every night but that sleep is broken up every single night by the noise of this solitary confinement unit. The noise is deafening and grates to your very core.

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Jermane Scott: Jermane is currently incarcerated at the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.

I have not had a moments silence in 20 years. Due to this being solitary the guards do checks of each cell/inmate every 30 minutes and that’s 24 hours a day every day. Therefore sleep is NOT an option for anyone in solitary. No one in solitary truly sleeps. We are all sleep deprived. Each Cell block door is SLAMMED shut every 30 minutes and then on top of that a flashlight is shone in your face while you sleep until you open your eyes -throughout each and every night. So if the noise doesn’t wake you of other inmates cries, screams, shouts then the guards slamming the doors and shining a flashlight in your face every 30 minutes WILL! Sleep by day maybe? Not a chance, this routine/noise happens 24 hours a day with no rest bite. We are all so very tired here. Maybe some fresh air will do me some good? No, there is no such thing as fresh air for me. I am allowed 1 hour out of my cell everyday day (bar 2 days a week when all inmates are forced into their cells for 24 hours a day for what is called ‘none movement days’ – what purpose this is for is anyone’s guess). My 60 minutes a day out of my cell is not as pleasant as it sounds. Don’t let that 60 minutes deceive you – what that actually means is that I am taken from my cell and put in another cell with big glass windows separating me from fresh air. Outside recreation is no better and is nothing more than a cage a dog couldn’t even exercise in.  That’s the physical deprivation we face daily on top of the sleep deprivation.

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We don’t eat much better either. The quality of the food goes without saying. Let’s say this – IF I ever get out of prison I will NEVER eat mashed potato or Mac n Cheese EVER AGAIN. It’s not the quality that deprives me it’s the portion sizes. We are grown men living on portion sizes designed for young children. Due to our solitary existence ‘treats’ and food parcels are not allowed. We have no extra luxury food on top of these meals – there is NO alternative or other ways to fill the empty churning hunger we feel daily. I can’t talk about food right now – if I do I will start to daydream about food I long to eat and that sets off long deep rumblings of food cravings that can last for hours. And then we move on to our emotional deprivation. O where to start….I have not had any form of physical contact with another human being in over a decade now. I have not held a person’s hand, received a hug or even looked into another human beings eyes (and seen kindness or love) in a decade.

I LONG to see a smile. I LONG to touch someone’s hand. You DON’T make eye contact in prison. I stare at my photos of my loved ones, I look into their eyes on these pictures and wish I could be looking at their faces for real. If I have a visitor (which I do not because I have no family and the only person I know lives thousands of miles away) I am in another glass box with glass separating me from them. I have not received any form of physical contact with another human being in a decade and that has scarred me more than anything thrown at me in my life so far. The emotional scars are deep and I fear they will never be healed. We try to find comfort by looking at our family/loved ones pictures/photos BUT even that is tainted in here. We are not allowed to put our pictures over our beds (which denies us the ability and that small little slice of bliss of lying in bed staring at happy faces and daydreaming we were with them) because staff have complained they are ‘offended’ by having to ‘look at inmates pictures/photos’ each time they do their routine checks through our cell doors. So even that innocent and pleasurable moment has been denied us. Our cell walls remain bare, cold, grey and miserable.

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Another way for us to receive some form of emotional support is via communication with our loved ones yet that too is a weapon used against us. We can receive emails/letters from our loved ones (and we too can write emails/letters in response) However our mail (emails/letters) frequently go missing, are not sent to our loved ones or we receive our mail delayed by days or weeks at a time. Loved ones receive partial letters and emails from us or none at all (even though we pass our mail to be sent to them). Phone calls are no better. They are highly priced, the phone system the prison chose is of bad quality and unreliable and our phone privileges are designed to make it impossible to stay in touch with our loved ones on a frequent basis. Some times for no reason the prison will allow us to make 5 to 8 calls a week (each phone call lasting 15 minutes) and yet other months for no reason the prison will only allow us 8 calls a month (that’s two 15 minute phone calls a week) and that includes any calls we want to make to our lawyers, loved ones etc.

The big question for Solitary inmates is who do we call with our precious phone time? As someone wrongfully convicted (desperately trying to seek legal help) do I use my precious phone time to try and seek legal advice/counsel or do I use it on my loved ones just so I can hear their friendly voices telling me they love me which goes a long way in soothing me and making my days seem a little bit more bearable…. If the emotional deprivation doesn’t wear you down along with the sleep deprivation and the physical deprivation maybe the temperature of this prison will beat you.

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Original artwork depicting an artist’s rendition of the conditions of solitary confinement. This image was based on surveys conducted by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism with Wisconsin prisoners in administrative confinement. Credit: Emily Shullaw for the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism

In the cold months the air con is turned up MAX. We are so cold here. We are given standard issue blankets and we wear those blankets in the cold winter months 24 hours a day. We do not receive extra layers of clothes in these months to keep us warm. And that air con is turned up just to add an extra bite of coldness. It was so cold in my cell last month that the carton of milk I receive each day arrived in a frozen block and stayed frozen the whole day long – undrinkable. And no we were not offered an alternative drink. In the summer months it gets hot here in Ohio. Our cells can be dripping with condensation from the steam coming from our bodies. It would be OK if that air con which seems to be a constant companion of mine in the winter months was put on but no it seems that in the summer months the prison likes to put on their heating system and leaves it on a tropical setting for quite a while. In the summer men in solitary boil alive in their cells. In the winter men in solitary literally turn to blocks of ice.

The endless days of nothingness does eventually take its toll. There have been days when I have been in such a state of depression for multiple reasons that the thought of taking my own life was contemplated. And trust me this isn’t an isolated thought. I went without having any outside support/contact or love for 19+ years and combine that with 24 hours a day isolation death seems more attractive than waking up every day to nothingness. And on top of that in MY case all for a crime I did not commit – something I didn’t even do put me in the prison system in the first place. My cries of ‘I AM INNOCENT’ were ignored in 1996 during the investigation, at my trial and all through my time in prison. No one can hear me. No one cares. Can you hear me?  I have been in the grasp of that ‘black dog’ they call depression. That dark, lonely deep place that only the lost souls of this earth have ever visited. Solitary confinement is the daily systematic physiological torture that I and these other men face every hour of everyday with no ending in sight. We are human beings and the use of long term solitary confinement MUST end.

We are a country that prides ourselves on not inflicting/condoning the use of tortuous methods on humans and animals – yet here I am – living proof that we do!

February. 10, 2016.


 

*All content is provided in its original form. No changes have been made whatsoever, apart from pictures, artwork and paragraph-breaks being added.

For background on Jermane’s case with content by himself and Sara Eades, (an advocate for Jermane of over 4-years) please visit: Justice4Jermane

If you have any questions or queries regarding this piece, or indeed anything relating to Criminal Justice Reform, please contact me here.

 

2 comments

  1. I just wrote a long reply that disappeared when I tried to log into my WP account. So I’ll just say, I understand. You can read about Jamie’s life as well.

    Like

  2. I am jermaine Scott aunt, and I would like to help him in any way possible. Like he said no one should be treated like an animal, he is a human being that comes from a very large family who loves him.

    Like

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