To mark the 23rd of the month, invoking the 23 hours per day that prisoners spend isolated in special housing units, activists throughout California are taking action to bring attention to prison conditions. Below, Jeff Gomez, a class member in Ashker v. Governor of California, shares his experience of being released into the general prison population after 22 years in solitary confinement, following a settlement in the case that effectively ended long-term solitary confinement in CA prisons.
My name is Jeff Gomez, I’ve been held hostage by CDC in isolation since 1993! 1994!
I was held in a cell 6 foot by 10 foot, 23½ hours a day, every day for twenty-two years.
The “living conditions” were that of a third world… calcium deposits and rust in my water, cells so hot/humid that it was cooler outside my cell – then it was inside myself – in the summer time. I had no direct contact with human beings – except when I was in shackles – waist chains and sometimes leg shackles.
For what did I endure these inhumane conditions – confidential disclosures – that I was not allowed to review/see… yet was told a thoroughly redacted version – in which I could not counter nor offer a rebuttal – because the same C.D.C. officers who certified these confidential disclosures, were the same officers who heard my grievances – pertaining to the confidential disclosures!!! A blatant mockery to due process – an American staple of justice.
I am now on a general population setting after 22 years… it is a surreal experience... it is, as through I stepped from a altered reality to that of the “norm” of California prison life, – which in itself is still a archaic existence. California incarcerates the second-highest number of prisoners in the country…as well they spend (or waste) $75,000 per prisoner a year – that’s mainly for the paycheck of the guards – with their overtime pay and health care and pensions – CDC pays $3.32 – yes, $3.32 per prisoner – each day for food!! That’s $1.10 per meal!!
The years I existed in the SHU – at Corcoran State Prison California – warped my mental state in that the happiness I should be feeling at my general population setting – instead I feel anxious, inner turmoil and anxiety… which I can only surmise is a form of P.T.S.D.
I’m slowly becoming normalized to my setting… I am hopeful that I will eventually become more even keeled in my own inner well-being.
I long to be able to interact freely with my loved ones… at this time…I am… just taking it day by day… slowly acclimating myself to my new life… I only wish CDC would of enacted change by themselves – but not by public pressure due to a 30,000 prisoner hunger strike.
But I’m hopeful that CDC will become a more rehabilitated entity – instead of a punitive behemoth that it has been since the 1960’s… Thank you for reading my words – my name is Jeff Gomez of San Jose, Cailfornia.