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The Sensitive Needs Yard (SNY) is a place specifically for prisoners with sensitive needs based on situations that may have taken place on the active general population mainline. Prisoners convicted of sex crimes as well as people in the LGBTQ community, people with mental illness and others who were attacked and victimized in the general population come to SNY for their protection, so they can do their time safely. It’s essentially protective custody. 

Every prisoner’s situation is different but the adopted mindset is universal. Prisoners are taken captive by a destructive prison mindset based on the mainline rules, regulations and the prisoner “code of honor” lifestyle.

Everything learned while on the mainline is embedded in the minds of all those who have been removed, victimized or chosen to walk away and separate from the active general population. Though some cannot function on the mainline because of case factors and safety concerns, they still adopt this mindset due to the negative influences of other prisoners on SNY. 

Fear, power and control are the driving forces of the SNY prison mindset that continue to keep the prisoner captive in a destructive cycle, unable to fully recover and be free. Influences include all the toxic prisoners on the SNY, as well as prison officials, who make it impossible for other prisoners who seek true change with rehabilitation. 

Additionally, almost every prisoner on the SNY continues to suffer from a mindset of racism, violence and gang mentality. Paperwork that tracks a person’s criminal cases define prisoners as good or no good. There’s segregation from the so-called weak prisoners because of an old belief system that “only the strong survive.” Drugs, gambling, alcohol, extortion can stop and block the SNY prisoner, destroying himself from the inside out, leaving him with no hope of true survival. 

Deep down many prisoners are crying out for effective rehabilitation. But the prison’s stronghold mindset and its influences around them make it  impossible for them to be free from the prison within their mind. 

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.

Angel M. Garza is a writer incarcerated in California.