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Nothing can truly prepare you for the horrors of prison; the first time you walk through the door, you come to realize that you are not considered a human being and that most correctional officers do not have your safety and well-being at heart. It was a huge learning curve when I arrived at prison at the age of 31.

After ten years working in the medical field and nearly 52 months in county jail due to COVID-19, I figured I had an idea of what to expect, but I was shocked at how much worse it could be. Riding shackled to another person on a bus of inmates, we pulled up to the Cummins unit. I was shocked to see such a dump. The ceilings leaked in the rain, the buildings were falling apart, and there was no professionalism from the start.

Someone told me to find an open rack by the correctional officer on the barracks door. Walking in a cell block of 90-plus men is always going to be stressful, but being openly gay with a natural falsetto voice made it even more so. The falling started quickly, followed by bickering and arguing about where to put me. Finally, after rearranging, I had a rack and was exhausted. Feeling like nothing was left to lose since I didn’t qualify for a good time credits to get time off my sentence and Arkansas does not pay inmates, I eventually caved and tried to skate for the first time. I figured, why behave?

I’ve been mostly abandoned, mental health doesn’t help anyone here, and I am tired of the way I am feeling. I fell down the rabbit hole and, within three months, began hustling to get my next fix. I’ve been in the hole twice, assigned to segregation for four months, and lost my class three times due to my poor choices and new addiction. Still, I find it a major battle because I suffer from mental illness, and mental health refuses to listen or help.

I get tired of being severely depressed and lacking the drive to do anything, so I keep getting high on medicine. I hate feeling so bad and want to be medically treated. Yet they refuse, and I keep falling into the cycle of getting high, hustling, getting high, getting in trouble, trying to behave, being ignored by mental health, giving up again, and starting over. Struggling to change in a system designed to make you fail, demean you, and treat you like a slave is so complicated it is next to impossible!

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