|WHAT IS THIS CALLED?|
|EPIEDENDRUM AKA BAMBOO ORCHID|
Brian Nelson, fifty, was born in Chicago and went to prison for murder in 1982 when he was sixteen years old. Nelson was later transferred to Tamms supermax prison after which he spent a total of twenty-three years in solitary confinement in various facilities. Although Nelson was never given a reason for the more than two decades he spent in isolation, he believes it was in retaliation for a lawsuit he won in 1989, Brian Nelson v. Ronald Haws, which forced the Department of Corrections to build law libraries in every segregation unit in Illinois.
[As of 2016], Nelson has been out of prison for five years He currently works with the Uptown People's Law Center in Chicago and is known as a tireless advocate and organizer against the use of solitary confinement."
"Nobody gets it. Every day I cry. I'm afraid of people, really scared of people. Twenty-three years with no TV, no radio. Touched hands once with my mother in court. I'm not a human being everybody wants to try drugs on me. I was in minimum security. I used to make guards' uniforms. I was the warden's fucking trustee. Then twenty-four hours later I'm at Tamms, two pairs of chains on my hands and feet. I can taste it. I can smell it. I can see it every single day. I like being away from people, I am so afraid of people. I used to love hangin' out, even my Mom--how do I tell my mother I'm afraid of her? The woman I love? How do I walk down the street with the prison mentality? No one knows what to do with me. What did they do to me? I went in at sixteen. I'll be fifty next month. I hate it out here. I'm afraid every fucking day.
I love going to work at 5:00 a.m. I'm the only one there and all I do is read letters from prisoners. I try to help them. My office is almost the exact same size of my cell. I need this space. I need a place to go where I can't see the fear in my mother's eyes, her terror at what's left of her son...
I tried to kill myself; the rope broke. I have so much survivor's guilt. I've never spent the night with a woman. I've been been involved with a woman, ever! I'm so screwed up, I don't think I can ever have a normal relationship. I'm your next door neighbor. I'm your next door neighbor! I didn't bomb anyone. I was a kid, a stupid kid that did a crime. I'm working my ass off, I'm fighting...What my brain did to me is not right. I flogged myself daily. I physically created pain in order to feel something They used to find my back ripped open.
One guy I knew at Tamms comes over and we sit in the dark together That's what we like to do. Just sit. There were years when I was the only person in the pod. If I lay down in my cell, I could see grass through the window at the end of the hall. When they found out I could see it, they put a plate over it."
--Brain Nelson, from an essay entitled "Weak as Motherfuckers" in Hell is a Very Small Place: Voices from Solitary Confinement, edited by Jean Casella, James Ridgeway and Sarah Shroud
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