By Cindy Lou
By this time we are all too familiar with the horrific violence and racist oppression that takes place constantly in prisons and jails. But we also note the smaller incidents of disrespect that happen everyday. We call these occurrences “microaggressions,” and their daily manifestation contributes to the exhaustion and grind just as much as major issues.

The following are samples heard from incarcerated people in various institutions:

Black and Trans

[At one institution, the officials have confiscated everyone’s tablets, and now incarcerated people can only use them when they are passed out by the guards.]“I am having issues trying to use the tablet. All the other people on the tier think they own the tablets, there are only a few tablets for each tier. The other prisoners form groups, and since I am Trans, none of them want me in their group, unless I pay them by giving up some of my food. I can’t go to the guards, because then I would be called a snitch, which is the WORST thing in prison.

“I have to hoard my food, because I eat in my cell. When I go to the chow hall, the other prisoners give me a hard time and don’t want me at their table. I can’t tell the guards — that would be snitching — besides they like to see fighting among us.
I have a job — it doesn’t pay me money but instead takes days off my sentence.”


During a scheduled in-person visit with my lawyer, what Sgt ***** did was unprofessional and inappropriate. He busted in the Attorney/Client private visitation room demanding to see the law books that the lawyer brought. If this lawyer was a white attorney, he wouldn’t have done that. Before the lawyer came in, they made her take her jacket off, but in the public visiting room people have the same top outfits on. The Attorney/Client room was cold, and I know that the Sergeant (who dislikes me intensely) was doing this to disrespect my lawyer visitor, and therefore — me.”

Plain old-fashioned oppression

“A white guy in this building got a dirty urine. He was not sent to maximum security as others are. I am being forced to work cutting grass in heat like the n**** they think I am; if I do not, then I go to maximum security. I do not care, because I know how to play chess too well. So it is still going on here.”


Shackling after a medical procedure

Major, intense joint pain was the play of the day this time. I was shackled with irons around my left foot and wrist cuffs on my right side (must be opposite hand and foot) from 9 p.m. until 3 a.m. Around 2:15 a.m. I was in so much pain until I was moaning and groaning — begging the officer to change sides that I was cuffed/shackled on. The back/lower back is the most painful area, and then comes my shoulder blades. I needed relief. I needed to be on my left side but couldn’t roll over, because the wrist cuff had no slack between my wrist and the bed rail. I BEGGED . . . I BEGGED and I BEGGED, and she said no, no; I’M NOT DOING ANYTHING! 

“This was the very first time I asked for pain meds that were given to me immediately. Later I learned that the medical staff asked that I be unshackled and no steps were taken to get approval from control.” (from a 70-year-old woman)

Refusing to fix a tech problem

The virtual visit phone has been broken for five weeks, and prisoners’ morale is down. Prisoners depend on those virtual visits with their family and friends. B Unit at this time has only 90 prisoners, so those of us on A unit could use their facility. But administrators are ignoring these concerns, and prisoner morale is down. This has been going on for five weeks now, and the so-called ‘officials’ refuse to fix it. Please raise hell about that phone — I missed at least six virtual visits so far.

“They are always talking about how the PA DOC [Pennsylvania Department of Corrections] recognizes the importance of maintaining family ties. Well, I miss my family, but do they REALLY care, or is it just a front?”

“They have taken our tablets, and when we go to the kiosk on the block to plug in the ones we were handed out, the connectivity signal is so weak that you can’t even read the whole letter or type a response before the screen goes blank.”

The incarcerated people affected in these examples have mostly filed complaints or grievances.

Among other issues, we see prisons slowly choking off communication to the outside — a key strategy of the oppressors.

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