Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

My thoughts and prayers go out to the world as we all try to deal with the deadly coronavirus. It does my heart good to see everyone come together to help one another. I only wish it didn’t take tragic events like this pandemic or 9/11 for most to go out, or in this case stay home, to help one another. It shouldn’t take a tragedy to show that we care. 

As I sit in my Texas prison cell and listen to the radio, I hear all the good and bad going on in the world. It deeply saddens me that in times like this people will hurt or try to take advantage of others. I know that may seem useless coming from a man in prison, but I’m still human and a man who can love, hurt, and feel more than you might think. 

One of the things I love the most is also one of the things that hurts me the most: we are alone together. Most of the prisoners in America understand exactly how lonely, depressed and unhappy you must feel, for we have been alone together for some time. 

Me, I’m going on 12 years of being alone together. While most of the people in prison committed a crime and by doing so put themselves here, no one should have to feel they are alone together all of the time. It’s my hope no one will ever feel alone or alone together ever again. 

The feeling for us in prison of being alone together has increased 100 times over since the coronavirus, as we have been confined to our eight-by-ten-foot cells. As Texas does not sell TVs, books, PlayStations, iPads or tablets in prison, there is nothing to help occupy time except chess sets and dominoes. The loneliness, the horrible feeling of being alone together, is devastating. 

There is no word for how or what this loneliness feels like. Most of you now know a touch of how that feels. Think if you had five, ten, fifty years worth of this loneliness, the alone together feeling.

If one in prison is lucky enough to still have family or friends out there in the free world, they can ask them to send some reading or educational books, magazines, or comic books. Aside from that, there are some free books that prison organizations will send us to read. This can take four to six months, but we are very grateful. Other than that we are left to our thoughts, only fueling our depression and loneliness. 

I will admit that Texas has given each of us two free 15 minute calls home every week , so we may check in with our families. This is important to all of us. My father is a city bus driver in Hartford, Connecticut and they are still working. Yes, I’m glad he is still working and I’m deeply sorry for those who can’t go to work. Still, he is more at risk of getting the coronavirus due to his exposure to the public, so I’m worried about him. My stepmom is a cancer survivor, so you can see how risky this is. 

If something were to happen to them, someone could write and tell me. But currently, the mail is taking two to six weeks to get to us. Someone could call here and ask to have us notified if something bad has happened, but that takes weeks too. On lockdown we don’t have phone privileges. 

Do you know men and women in prison spend more money on trying to find a penpal than on anything else? They do this to find a friend to help keep the loneliness and emptiness away. 

To get mail here is like winning the Mega Millions twice over. For a week, one letter can make you feel loved, cared for, wanted and much more. Many a prisoner has taken their own life because of the feeling of being alone together. Most of you are starting to understand this feeling. One letter, one note saying you are not alone could save a life. I know it did for me. By my own choice, I hadn’t really seen or spoken to my dad for years. One day, he wrote to me and now has come back into my life. 

I was two days away from finishing the list of the last things to do before I die in prison. Then my plan was to take my own life. That letter from my dad changed everything. You may ask, Why would you even think about these things? Because day in and day out, we are alone together in here.

Yes, we have others physically around us. Some of us even become friends and few become even closer. But in Texas prisons, when they see us making friends, they move us somewhere else. Over time, most of us lose the desire to try to make friends. Why try when they will only move you again and again? It only causes more pain and loneliness. 

I’m trying to get transferred to Connecticut so I can be closer to my dad. I know it can be done on the state level, but I’m not sure how. Please keep your fingers crossed for me. With any luck, I’ll get my transfer and I’ll never have to do another Texas lockdown.

I understand your pain and what you’re going through, even if I don’t know exactly what you’re going through.

 
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.

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William T. Jacobsen

William T. Jacobsen is a writer incarcerated in Texas.