Stories from the SHU


By Tanisha Jackson

Stories from the SHU

. . . And so as I lay there day after day getting sucked back into a depressive vortex, I thought, learn from my mistakes?

Well, I learned from my mistakes all right. A total of 158 self- abusive mistakes, all beginning when I went to SHU in 1996.  I also learned that because of such severe methods of isolation and sedentariness, coupled with intentional provocation (by officers and inmates) and neglect, several of my peers have and will kill themselves in this place designated for punishment and isolation to make one “think” about what we’ve done.  It doesn’t matter if you’re mentally ill. You broke a prison rule and you will suffer for it in SHU.

One woman, very close to me, killed herself in Bedford Hills, in the Special Housing Unit.  Mind you, Jessica Roger made her first attempt at suicide in SHU, and she [would have] succeeded then too, but luckily the response team was able to [revive] her.  But on August 17, 2002, she was not that lucky.  She died this time.  She attempted to take her life and she did.  She’s dead now and should not be! . . .

All of us who suffer from psychiatric problems need to be treated for such, not thrown into a pit and left alone and deprived of proper nourishment and human interaction for the sake of being “institutionally correct.”  We need help to speak out for all of these inmates who are still suffering in prison SHU buildings.  Dying by their own hands for breaking prison infractions.  Killing ourselves because we do not know how to cope with loneliness and isolation because we have an impairment in our way of thinking because we are mentally ill.  Let’s stop this epidemic before more of my peers kill themselves.  I know what it’s like to die in the Special Housing Unit, because the day my friend Jessica Roger killed herself in SHU, a significant part of me died in that cell, that cold and lonely place, right alongside of her.

I died that day too.

Faces of the SHU

FINAL SHU FacesFor more stories from family members and individuals who have experienced solitary confinement, please check out MHASC Faces of the SHU – “Family Members and Mental Health Consumers Speak Out About the Horrors of Solitary Confinement for People with Psychiatric Disabilities in New York State”.