Photo by Matthias Heyde on Unsplash

A is for Anxiety, their daily bread
B is for Beatings, shades of the past
C is for Crimes they did not commit
D is for Depression, cruel sleight of hand  
E is for Enemy, the Department’s device
F is for Freedom, the hope of persistence
G is for Gangs, and Guards, too often the same
H is for Human, what all men can be 
I is for Isolation, the ruse of confinement
J is for Justice, yet to be realized
K is for Kill, ideology of suppression
L is for Love, what keeps them alive 
M is for Mind, yearning to be free
N is for Nothing, which most inmates have
O is for Opportunity, growth always at hand
P is for Paranoia, part of the package
Q is for Questioning, not generally allowed 
R is for Rules, too often ignored
S is for Solitary, also Suicide, too often the same
T is for Torture, humanity denied 
U is for Unity, the backbone of brotherhood
V is for Visits, too often cut short
W is for Window, a portal to life 
X is for Excessive, force gleefully employed 
Y is for Yard, the miracle of camaraderie
Z is for Zebra, in memory of prison stripes

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.

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

R. Keppler

R. Keppler is a journalist whose husband has been incarcerated for nearly three decades in California. She has been an advocate for over 10 years, including as chair of Inmate Family Councils and as a member of several grassroots justice reform groups. Her poetry was an outgrowth of noncontact visits at Pelican Bay State Prison’s Security Housing Unit (SHU). She has asked that her real name be withheld to mitigate any potential backlash against her husband.