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People housed in prisons can feel like caged animals.
Photo by Ksenia Raykova on iStock

Pelican Bay State Prison
Where the shortcomings begin
Inside the security housing unit
A situation that’s a no win —

The exercise yard
Is a cement matchbox
Designed for those
From the school of hard knocks —

The human dog kennel
Where even birds don’t fly
Through the screen and canopy
Is a picture to the sky —

It’s the end of the line
At a terrible cost
A checkpoint of sorts
Where life and death cross

A lot of the men
Won’t leave their cell
It’s like a turtle’s armor
They hide in the shell —

Their spirits are broken
Like the snap of an arrow
It’s long since flown away
Swift as a sparrow —

Not much is left now
As this story is told
They’re dying mental death
From all the control —

The state built this bed
For a chosen few to sleep
A cutting-edge hell
Flames licking at your feet

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.

Horace Thomas is a freelance poet and writer incarcerated in California.