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I’ve been incarcerated since I was barely 18 years old, when I was sentenced by the Federal Bureau of Prisons to complete a 34-year sentence. As a D.C. prisoner, I felt the odds were against all of us from the area, due to not having our own prison. Instead, we’re housed as prisoners all over the country, thousands of miles away from our families and friends.

Throughout the years, I never expected it to become a bigger challenge than it was already. But when the pandemic hit, a lot of changes came and are still in play, which have made the challenge of being miles and miles away even more difficult. I’ve been on lockdown in the most secure supermax prison in the U.S. going on 12 years, when past situations as a youth landed me here. Although you grow and become wiser over the years, sometimes you can still be put in isolation.

Rules frequently change due to different administrations and staff running through a spot like this. It’s easy to get stuck in a place that classifies prisoners as the worst of the worst, when in reality, many are not. One change that has affected the average D.C. prisoner here was a policy implemented in 2018. It stated that if we had a phone number on our phone list that was on anybody else’s list in the entire Bureau of Prisons (BOP) system, then it would be blocked on our list here. The BOP has over 100 facilities throughout the U.S. This made it impossible for prisoners from a small city like D.C. 

This one rule extracted all my immediate family from my phone list, leaving me unable to share through the limited communication outlet I had. For two years, I filed grievances and tried to fight a process that never gets resolved — only to receive a statement saying it’s a risk to security. It’s a risk to talk to my mother, sister and father.

Now back to the present. We were unexpectedly hit with a pandemic and, sadly, left in the dark as to how family is doing — unless we write. In isolation, we’re already subjected to being alone and caged like an animal, so the little things that are taken away can make or break some of us. Fortunately, I’ve been blessed to endure and remain strong mentally and physically.

“With every hardship comes ease,” I wrote to my daughter in a letter, trying to relieve her stress and anxiety, since she would not be able to attend graduation or go to prom after working so hard to complete high school. This pandemic has affected many and changed events in our lives that would stick with us forever.

Being housed in this supermax prison is the biggest trial a person can face, and being thousands of miles away from your loved ones — where, in most cases, getting a visit is impossible — we feel the odds are against us. We may have already felt like the odds were against us as kids, growing up in certain neighborhoods, trying to survive the violence or brutality we faced daily at such a young age.

My grandmother used to say that whatever is in the dark will come to light. So many issues are now coming to light, exposing many who may never have thought they would be exposed. Many voices are not heard from within these walls, so connecting with whoever is willing to listen means a lot. The experiences here are very real for me since I live them firsthand. During this time, things that were already limited are now even more restricted. There is no social distancing in prison. It’s impossible.

We must learn to be patient, because with patience you are able to endure anything.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Abdulshahid Hafiz Al-Muhaimin is a writer from Washington, D.C. who has been incarcerated at the Federal Supermax Prison in Florence, Colorado since 2002 and is scheduled for release in 2027. He said he writes to let his story be heard.