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Photo by Obed john on Unsplash

(This submission was originally sent in May 2020)

Greetings from this side of the wall. So far we have yet to feel the full weight of COVID-19. The worries are real. No free 15-minute phone calls can change that. I don’t want to pick up the phone. No Skype visit can make me feel safe when I have to explain to my loved ones why I’m inside a dog kennel.

Five feet 7 inches, I stand. 179 pounds, I weigh. I was convicted of a crime, but do I deserve to be described as an animal? I, and everybody who resides in North Bend Correctional Institution, have wondered if this is the end of the line. What is destiny in control of? Do I belong here or do I merely just co-exist with society’s label of broken?

It is common practice for education on issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic to be learned through word of mouth or from the television or radio. No one has educated those of us who are not able to have a radio, TV or newspaper source. My property sits in the back of NBCI’s segregation building. So I ask again, why must individuals who are without money to purchase these things — and individuals like me, on disciplinary segregation — be forced to rely on the mentally ill person next to us or the same individual that swears the calendar has 375 days on it? 

This is not a complaint. This is a chance to show the world why illumination is a must. 

This is not a complaint. This is a war cry of consciousness to those who wade around in darkness. 

This is not a complaint. This is a 29-year-old who has realized, at this point, he will only add to the recidivism rate because he has yet to receive the proper mental health treatment that causes night terrors and maniacal behavior. 

Conversations are being had now. An awakening is taking place. Change is in the air and I am afraid that now will repeat then. 

I wear an ID card around my neck with an SID number and DOC number on it. Along with weight, birth date, complexion. On the back, my medical alerts and my allergies are listed. I am more than that, I swear. Just ask me to identify myself and you’ll look past the 300-something tattoos that I carry on my body. Allow my ID to tell you that I got them to cover up old cut marks I made as a juvenile and gunshot and stab wounds as an adult.

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.

Chris.X is a writer incarcerated in Maryland.