There were two points during my prison stint when I was subjected to extreme and extended periods of confinement. They called it CM, Close Management. Six DR’s, Disciplinary Reports, in 6 months would earn you an express ticket to “The Red Roof Inn,” the CM building. It was designed for the most dangerous and belligerent inmates. I never considered myself to be amongst the most dangerous and belligerent, not even close, but I do believe there was something about my indifference towards “The Box” that may have irked some of the guards.

One time, as punishment for “looking at” a female officer, I was given a 5-gallon bucket by another officer, a skinny dude with a big mustache, and led to a desolate area behind the medical building, in sight of a Guard Tower.

“Fill it to the top with those rocks,” he said.

I’d heard stories of officers handing inmates brooms and instructing them to “sweep the sun off the sidewalk,” or handing them toothbrushes to “clean the toilets” with. I always told myself I’d refuse to complete any of those ridiculous requests. I looked at the officer and nodded my head. “Okay.”

He returned a half hour later and I was sitting on the bucket smoking one of those hand-rolled jail cigarettes.

“What are you doing,” he asked. “I told you to fill the bucket.”

I stood up. “I was,” I said, “but I got tired and needed a break.”

He came over, looked in the bucket and saw three small rocks in it. “When I come back this bucket better be halfway full,” he demanded, then walked away.

When he returned I was 20 feet away from the bucket, shooting buzzer beaters. I was caught in the middle of one of those 3-2-1-he-shoots-scores-and-the-crowd-goes-wild fantasies.

“Varela,” he said, “I’m gonna lock your ass up! Is that what you want?”

“Honestly,” I responded, “Whether I’m on the compound or in confinement, I’m still locked up, I still can’t see my family and I’m still not free, so I don’t really care.”

His face did a near-perfect impression of a strawberry. “You just got yourself a D.R. Turn around and put your hands behind your back.”

For the most part, those were the types of infractions that got me to CM the first time. Nine months later I was released from CM. Three months after that, I was back on CM, this time would be for 13 months, for a more serious infraction. I was accused of “Attempting to Incite a Riot.” It was a situation that could’ve gotten out of control, and yes, there was a tension about the incident that felt as if a sudden eruption was imminent, but I didn’t orchestrate the moment. It just unfolded that way. But that’s a story for another time. Right now, I’m focusing on the combined twenty-two months on CM in just a twenty-five month period.

Close Management is 24-hour lockdown. You’re taken to the showers on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, in cuffs and shackles. And you’re allowed to go to the “rec yard” once a week for 3 hours. The rec yard is a fenced-in square that’s cut through diagonally by another fence, so it’s more like two fenced-in triangles butted up against each other. Most inmates would go to the rec yard to get that 3 hours of sunlight. Not me. On the way to the rec yard, or on the way back, or sometimes both, there’d be a strip search involved, where you’d have to grab your “sack,” lift, turn around, spread your cheeks, lift both feet, showing the bottom, squat down and cough. It was way too much degradation for 3 hours of sunlight. I would go out maybe once a month.

At first, I was able to deal with being confined to a cell all day. I think I was able to block out the reality of it. Then it got more comfortable. I could relax in there, read all day and pray and think and plan what I was going to do when I got released. Then it was normal. I eventually got to the point where I preferred it. I know that sounds crazy, to you, but it’s true, I preferred it. Not once did I consider the psychological effects of long-term isolation.

Close Management wasn’t my first time in confinement. Throughout the years leading to that point I had visited The Box many times, a month here, two or three months there. Stepping foot in prison, I knew that if I became familiar with confinement then there would be nothing that the officers could threaten me with. And it worked, maybe all too well. I sometimes wonder if the time I spent in confinement is the reason I’m so introverted today. I wonder if it’s the reason I chose to major in creative writing, something I can do in solitude. I wonder if I have Social-Sensory Deprivation Syndrome. Most times, however, I do not question my introversion. It seems the most natural state for me, the most comfortable, where I’m free to just be.

17 thoughts on “100 Years of Solitary

  1. I am appreciating your honesty in your writing. We all make mistakes in life and we pay, often dearly, for them. Perhaps one day I will be brave enough to tell my own story. Reading your posts is helping.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Remember what God did with Paul? Paul was on a Mission.

    Introverts are very successful and blossom in positions more cerebral. The only difference is “we” get energized by our solitude. Crowds, parties . . . . things like that are personally draining. It’s great being an introvert!

    Not just anyone can stand to live inside their own skin. Think about that. People have an innate desire to cling to others, when Christ wants us to “let go”, and give all of “self” to Him . . . . not another or others. (It’s in the Bible.)

    One final note: It is NOT easy learning to enjoy your own solitude, but once you do . . . . there’s no turning back!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, please don’t mistake my post as a complaint against introversion. I do feel as if my introverted ways are natural to me. I am very comfortable with myself and, like you said, after being around people for any amount of time I find it necessary to seek out solitude in order to recharge my batteries. One of the best book I’ve read in the 15 years since my release is titled “Quiet,” by Susan Cain. It’s a fascinating book about introverts. During my teaching days it was one of those books I’d recommend to my students.

      I read your sentence about people having an “innate desire to cling to others, when Christ wants us to let go” and thought for a moment. I’ve never heard it put that way. Thanks for supplying the “Wow moment of the morning.” 🙂

      I also must agree with your ‘final note.’ I find so much peace and relaxation in my quiet times of solitude that there is definitely “no turning back.”

      God bless.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Definitely not mistaking it as a complaint. God broke me of tv, music and people. . . . it too was not pretty, but His Grace is sufficient in weakness. We are here to encourage each other.

        I find encouragement from your written words! Listen for God’s direction, because it should be interesting to see what He has planned for you.

        Thanks for mentioning that book.

        God bless you mightily.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, I find myself watching less (secular) TV and listening to less (worldly) music as I get deeper in His word.

        To write that you “find encouragement” from my words is one of the greatest compliments I could receive. Thank you so much.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. How do I tell you, “you’re welcome” when God is the tie that binds? Thank God for His blessed work in our hearts.

        I really do pray for you . . . . in my solitude.

        Together, we can thank Almighty God for His Infinite Plan. Amen?

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I used to have trouble feeling “alone in a crowd” or “in a crowd when alone”. As I have aged I have begun to let go of fear, get my ego in check, and just “be”.

    Your story is a good reminder that solitude can be a blessing, not a curse. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.
    Ω

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a great blog – I think you were destined to share your story and I think it will be an inspiration to others. Thanks for following my blog – stop by anytime – and there will be a shout out to yours soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Reblogged this on My Name is Jamie. My Life in Prison and commented:
    ……This is such a familiar story I feel like it is a letter from Jamie. There are so many names for solitary. There was a time Jamie was acused of winking at a very large unattractive woman and put in 23 hr lockup. This woman had wishful thinking he had winked at her. He has been in lockdown almost 3 years this time. It worried me how he will be in 2023, when he he gets out after 17 years. Your description of the squat and cough – is in a chapter in my book. I think the guards enjoy humiliating people and getting away with it. Kick the dog syndrome.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on My Name is Jamie. My Life in Prison and commented:
    ……This is such a familiar story I feel like it is a letter from Jamie. There are so many names for solitary. There was a time Jamie was acused of winking at a very large unattractive woman and put in 23 hr lockup. This woman had wishful thinking he had winked at her. He has been in lockdown almost 3 years this time. It worried me how he will be in 2023, when he he gets out after 17 years. Your description of the squat and cough – is in a chapter in my book. I think the guards enjoy humiliating people and getting away with it. Kick the dog syndrome.

    Liked by 1 person

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