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.

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Horace Thomas

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