Saturday, October 04, 2008

Sensory divestment.

This is a post from my prison pen pal friend Shannon, in Tucson, AZ. Shannon's life story is rife with tales of mental illness, abuse, incarceration, abandonment and disease. As is so sadly and inexcusable in the world's richest country (getting to be poorer for sure), instead of treatment and assistance, Shannon gets locked up. I have been pleased to watch his progress as a writer and a blogger, a link to his blog is in my links section to the right. This passage was especially moving and telling.

Sensory divestment.

Pixie's comment to my August 16, 2008 entry, about guys inside not having smelled a grill in over 20 years, reminds me of the secondary punishment that incarceration leads to.

The sounds of birds chirping, water moving over rocks in a stream, soft relaxed voices, conversations without expletives, the crackling of burning wood, and most of all...Silence. Even in the middle of the night you won't find silence. Guys snoring, guards keys jingling, doors clanking, walkie-talkies squawking, etc.

Olfactory. BBQ grills, food cooking, perfumes, clean hair and skin of the opposite sex, campfires, flowers, and so many other scents many in society take for granted. *A little known fact I've noticed: Most guys locked up will smell their mail from female loved ones. I have with many letters from Pixie and Katrina. Often it's just an unconscious thing. The indescribable smells inside prisons and jails aren't found anywhere else together like this. It is like nothing I've experienced elsewhere.

Visual. The sight of wilderness, wildlife, human beings in casual clothes, genuine smiles, little kids playing, pets, and even automobiles driving down a highway. Mainly, prisoners see brown (guards), orange (prisoners), white (kitchen/medical staff) and grey (maintenance workers). Walls, buildings, etc., are grey or off-white. In ADOC, prisoners rarely see trees, plants, etc., and when we do, it is sparse and short-lived.

Taste. The sweetness of a fresh strawberry, the sourness of a fresh lemon, the flavor of a steak, or even that subtle taste of a lover's skin. In prison, the food has 3 levels: palatable, bad, and inedible. Taste has been repetitively assaulted for so long that most of us refer to flavors as colors now. Red (Fruit Punch), Pink (Lemonade), Brown (Tea), Red Death (okay, I'm not sure what that is). We don't even get gum or breath mints. I'd kill for some cinnamon breath strips.

Touch. Not only of a sexual nature, but in addition to...the feel of softness, warmth, coolness of linen and blankets. A soft shirt. The feel of a soft hand in your own. A hug. A kiss. Something so simple as a hand on your arm. Physical contact. I truly believe that many guys locked up roughhouse, shake hands, pat backs, etc., in camaraderie, subconsciously do so more than normal for intimate contact with another human. It's a guy thing. One that I've never gotten used to or appreciated. I am not a touchy person with guys or many women. I have personal space issues.

Yes, sensory divestment is an unavoidable punishment that goes with incarceration. Unintended for the most part, but no less a punishment.

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