Letter from Josh O’Connor: solitary confinement, food access, and being Native in prison

The following is excerpted from a letter sent to us a Prison Health News reader, published with his permission.

My name is Josh O’Connor.  I’m 20 years old and serving a 22 yr sentence for a crime I committed at 17 years old.  I’m Native American and a vegan. 

I’m in solitary for a fight I got into and have been here for 4 months and was told I would be forced to stay in solitary confinement for the next 6-8 months.    I fear the mental/physical detrimental effects being in solitary confinement for so long and how I may suffer permanent health effects.   I have met many inmates who have spent years – 7, 10, and even up to 20 in solitary confinement and you can easily see the adverse/detrimental deterioration of their health.  Many have had insufficient brain activity to communicate with others not to mention get a job, and you can see many don’t get enough nutrients, because of the lack of sun/vitamins, which makes us very sick.  I hope something will be done soon regarding limiting or abolishing solitary confinement.  

Continue reading “Letter from Josh O’Connor: solitary confinement, food access, and being Native in prison”

Growing Through Depression: A Toolbox for Mental Wellness

By Faith, Latyra, Kima, Rusty, and Stephanie; Women in Re-Entry at the People’s Paper Co-op Arts & Advocacy Fellowship

From PHN Issue 39, Winter/Spring 2019

The following is our truth. Our voice. It’s written by powerful women, all formerly incarcerated. We want you to remember your worth, to know that we hear you, that you’re thought of, and that we’re sending our love!

WE KNOW THE PROBLEM:

I know what it’s like to be depressed and behind bars. Waking up, day after day, living in a box… not knowing when you’re going home… Locked down. Feeling like a number, not a person. I’d sit and wait. Continue reading “Growing Through Depression: A Toolbox for Mental Wellness”

New Mail Rules in Pennsylvania May Spread Nationwide

By Suzy Subways

From PHN Issue 38, Fall 2018

On September 5th, after a 12-day lockdown of all 25 prisons in the state, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) made drastic permanent changes to mail and visits. The DOC claimed that dozens of guards had been exposed to synthetic drugs, and that the lockdown and new restrictions were intended to protect them. But no tests showed that the drugs were in the sick officers’ bodies. Toxicology experts and the medical directors of the hospital emergency rooms where the guards were taken told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the guards’ symptoms were consistent with anxiety. They called it a “mass psychogenic illness” — anxiety symptoms that can happen when groups of people share a contagious fear of being exposed to something, even though they haven’t been. No mailroom staff reported getting sick. Continue reading “New Mail Rules in Pennsylvania May Spread Nationwide”

Beat the Winter Blues

By Leo Cardez

From PHN Issue 34, Fall 2017

As the winter approaches, I find myself getting tired and moody. It starts as early as September and gets really bad in January. Although I’ve never been officially diagnosed, I’m sure I suffer from some degree of SAD (seasonal affective disorder). As I look around my cell block, I don’t think I’m the only one. The good news is I’ve found that some small tweaks to my daily routine (tips and tricks) can help keep my spirits high. Continue reading “Beat the Winter Blues”

Yoga for Beginners

by Alexandra S. Wimberly

From PHN Issue 33, Summer 2017

Have you ever tried yoga? Ever been curious about what yoga is or if it might be something that you would like to try? The following is a short introduction to yoga, along with a few yoga practices to try. One of the great things about yoga is that it can be practiced anywhere and needs no special equipment—just your mind, your body, and your attention. Continue reading “Yoga for Beginners”

Surviving Your Stay in Solitary Confinement

By Russell Auguillard

From PHN Issue 29, Summer 2016

My days consist of reading, exercising, writing, studying criminal and civil law, working on my case, studying medical periodicals as well as other studies, and watching television programs. With these particular routines, I manage to basically keep myself occupied. Yes, of course, doing the same thing all the time has a tendency to get boring. But when it comes to that point, you can do the same thing but switch it up. Continue reading “Surviving Your Stay in Solitary Confinement”

Burpees: An Exercise for Stamina

by Corey Crawford

From PHN Issue 27, Winter 2016

One thing we have more of inside than out is time. We need to use it wisely; exercising is one way to do that.

Exercise gets the blood circulating, which in turn spreads oxygen to the body’s cells, keeping them fresh and healthy. Continue reading “Burpees: An Exercise for Stamina”

Fasting for Rights and Dignity: From Guantanamo Bay to California

by Suzy Subways

From PHN Issue 18, Fall 2013

From Gandhi’s independence movement in India to women demanding the right to vote, from Cesar Chavez to Irish Republican Army political prisoners, oppressed people have used hunger strikes to show their deep commitment to freedom. This year, two major hunger strikes shook U.S. prisons. Continue reading “Fasting for Rights and Dignity: From Guantanamo Bay to California”