From: SF Bay View, October 26, 2013
by Mutope Duguma
It was on Aug. 23, 2013, that I was removed out of my Ad-Seg cell around 5 in the morning and placed on a CDCr transportation bus. I had been housed in Ad-Seg since Aug. 5 due to my participation in a mass hunger strike.
I was stripped of all my belongings except my shoes, socks, T-shirt and boxer shorts and given a dark blue jumpsuit, in which I could not fit, so I was allowed to wrap the arms around my waist.
If you have to spend a vacation in prison, this looks a lot more inviting than Pelican Bay.
Our mass hunger strike started on July 8, 2013, and we were 47 days without eating at the time we were placed on the bus. I heard several prisoners ask, “Where are we going?” The response from the transportation officer was “New Folsom, CSP-Sac” (California State Prison Sacramento).
We pulled out of PBSP Ad Seg around 8 a.m., and it was a grueling ride due to our conditions. I was in a dual situation, where I was able to enjoy sights that I hadn’t seen in years, yet I was very conscious of the pain and suffering that we all were enduring.
It was one of the most physical challenges that I had ever experienced in my life. I considered myself to be very strong, yet here I was dealing with my obvious physical weakness and my mental strength, which was creating a contradiction in which my physical weakness had begun to attack my mental strength. It was obvious to me that I would lose this battle eventually, because time would dictate my fate and I was running out of time.
Once off the bus, it seemed surreal, because there were people everywhere, something unusual for me, especially since I had been held in a solitary confinement cell for the last 13 years, isolated from people and normal outside environments. My reality of the last 13 years is concrete and steel and that’s it; no normal human relations for me. This created a contradiction in which I would be overwhelmed.
CSP-Sac was wide open. People were everywhere, 24/7, doing everything. I saw New Afrikans, which is something I hadn’t seen in years. I saw countless Mexicans, Asians and Afrikans off the continent. I saw regular behaving white people. I saw every nationality under the sun in one day’s time.
I was dying of starvation but I was alive. I enjoyed every single bit of my human interaction. I felt just like my grandmother’s dog Roscoe. Every time I went to her house as a young boy she would tell me, “Darren, go out back and take Roscoe for a walk.”
Roscoe was a golden retriever three times my size and very strong. He was a real happy, energized dog, but when I got back there with him, his excitement was unmeasurable. I couldn’t get the chain loose to free him because he kept knocking me down in pure joy that I was back there with him.
Roscoe knew that I wasn’t there to feed him or to briefly play with him and leave. He knew every time I came back there, he would be free. This is what drove his excitement, freedom.
On hunger strike after 49 days by then, I was extremely excited. I felt just like Roscoe. It was literally overwhelming. I took full advantage of every human being I came in contact with, except those green suits! They were psychs, RNs, assistants to RNs, countless LVNs. It was crazy different people every day, in their regular clothes – no uniforms – every single day.
I talked to the Imam, a Muslim chaplain, who was allowed in the solitary unit at his will. I talked to Christian chaplains, who were allowed to visit the solitary units at their will, too. I talked to maintenance – free persons who worked inside the prison.
I talked more in a period of 12 days than I had in my whole 13 years of solitary confinement. I was taken to legal visits across the yard. I saw countless prisoners moving about freely.
The sun was beaming down on me, with no blockers – just me and the atmosphere – although I had waist chains on in which I was made to walk to the attorney visit, which was a half a mile away from B Facility to A Facility. Under any other circumstances this would be exactly what it was, torture, but I was so overwhelmed, my mind was absorbing it all rapidly.
I saw so much in such a short period of time, after being isolated and confined in solitary for 13 years in PBSP. This was my freedom. It started to have an adverse effect on me personally, because if the 20 representatives had not suspended our mass hunger strike … I, for sure, would have been dead, because this was one vacation that I, under no circumstances, would ever have ended.
I reminisce over Roscoe today, and I now realize that he was imprisoned most of his life, because we humans unconsciously didn’t recognize his imprisonment. And I look back on all my loneliness, quiet time and wonder, “Did Roscoe suffer in silence as I do today?”