Control Units - John Perotti

Prisons or "Penitentiaries" originated over 202 years ago with the Quakers in Philadelphia who believed that sinners, or law breakers, should spend their time alone to study the Bible to be penitent for their crimes so as to be released as a productive member of Society. Rules of complete silence were strictly enforced. It didn't take long to realize that this approach wouldn't work, as prisoner after prisoner suffered nervous breakdowns and displayed signs of mental illness due to their complete lack of human contact.

Over the years the Quakers realized that prisons are not the answer to the underlying roots that lead to criminal activity, nor an effective or humane punishment. But it was too late, Society as a whole picked up on the idea and turned Prisons into a major industry. Today, as it was in the 1800's, isolation cellblocks, or "Control Units" are rapidly becoming the standard in prisons across the country. While not quite as harsh as the total silence and isolation the Quakers instituted other factors are combined to produce the same results - a breakdown of a prisoner's spirit as well as physical and mental well being.

Nowadays, as in the 1800's, you no longer have to break a rule to be placed in the Control Units. Placement is made on the vague concept that one's mere presence constitutes a threat to the security of the operation of a prison, or suspected gang ties or affiliations. Once the label or stigma is attached by prisoncrats, it's very hard to be removed. It is not unusual for prisoners in this day or age to spend years and even decades in a control Unit. I have spent 10@ years out of the past 12 in Control Units.

The most vicious and inhumane guards work in the Control Units. Most are delegated there due to their inability to interact or treat prisoners fairly. In a sense, they too are considered the outcasts of the prison, and have free rein to experiment any way they want to.

Life in the Control Unit is constant chaos due to the effects of total isolation and boredom on a prisoner's well being. The newer units have solid steel doors with a small window for counting, a food slot that is locked and only opened to push food trays through. Guards are so lazy that they won't even use the bowls that are sent with cereal and soup so they don't have to open the food slot to retrieve them; instead we have to push the empty trays under the doors. Mail is thrown on the floor then shoved under the cell door. Every aspect of life in the Control Unit is meant to debase and degrade a prisoner's very soul the purpose being that when released to general population where conditions are somewhat improved, the prisoner causes no problems for the prisoncrats for fear of being sent back to the Control Unit.

However, if you view the prison system as a whole, as being wrong - it doesn't matter where you're imprisoned. You must use the lock down time in a manner to improve yourself,get in tune with your body and mind, study, and you can come out stronger. "Whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger." I personally use the time to litigate my criminal appeal, inhumane prison conditions, as well as study and maintain contacts I taught myself how in the Control Unit first as a form to fight back, then as I progressed with the knowledge that sometimes small portions of justice can be obtained through the ruling classes, own unjustice system. But many men break under the harsh conditions. We must try to assist those brothers who aren't as strong mentally, by steering them to productive ways to spend their time in lock down. Exercise and reading overcome the boredom and constant din that occurs in the Control Units. Unity amongst the prisoners keep the oppressive tactics of sadistic and brutal guards to a minimum. When there is division amongst the prisoners, these guards will focus in to create a wider chasm of division - after all - the name of the game to them is divide and conquer.

Above all, while many don't believe in the courts, prison litigation is a necessary form of self defense - and should be utilized against injustices within the Control Units. After all, physical violence is met by the unlimited amount of guards available - but using intelligence, something the majority of guards in Control Units lack, often pays off in the long run.

We must also put aside personal prejudices and loyalties and work together to overcome our oppression. Prisons have always been neutral grounds for any prior conflicts in the free world. We must strive to maintain this tradition, and join together to stave off the oppression meted out by the prisoncrats.

Last but not least,when the depression that the Control Unit causes to set in, think of the wife, children, mother, friends and family who love you out there, and the knowledge that one day this will all be a bad memory, and that you'll be out there with them, and use that glimmer of hope to pull up out of it.

Stay Strong,
John Perotti

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