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Marble Surface

Two women from different countries have joined forces to give those on  death row a safe platform to speak their truths. From artwork to articles, their site has made a difference. Not only for those who languish on death row, but for those of us who read what they have to say. Kudos to you Karine Omry and Jessica Hawkey! Your work is an inspiration!

Marble Surface

The Death Row Soul Collective

A collective used to express the feelings and opinions of a select group of men confined to Death Row or serving life sentences. We do this by using poetry, prose and art!

Please take a look at the Petition Page. I have added the petitions from The Death Row Soul Collective website. Check out their work and get to know those they support; it's phenomenal.

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Art by Rejon Taylor
Marble Surface

Rejon speaks...

I'm not necessarily a writer or artist on federal death row. I don't get much pleasure from translating trauma into articles or artworks. I am, at my core, a resonator; my heightened susceptibilities vibrate with the emotional tones of my neighbors. As such, I yearn for proximity to others. I do what I do to find nourishment in social connections.

And so I write and paint to draw you near. My expressions are little cries for help. "Come close to me" I whisper through the subtext of my posts. "Don't leave me for dead in this dehumanizing isolation."

But some of you view my post and don't respond. At least not publicly. Don't you know your emotional support mitigates the harmful effects of this painful solitary confinement? And yet you give me the silent treatment. How unnerving!

But I won't let that stop me. I still have to step out there in that damn cold, bracing myself against the icy silence, and expose myself to the world. No matter what, I have to take a stand on social media, trembling in fear, my sensitive heart in hand, and speak about death and trauma, solitary confinement and trauma, the harmful effects of all this trauma.

So no more whispers. No more subtlety and cuteness in the subtext. It's time for me to brandish my damn trumpet and start blowing like I got no damn sense. Even if my words fall on deaf ears. Even if most of my audience don't respond publicly.

I AM NOT THAT DAMN BOY WHO CRIED WOLF. My cries are real. My reporting is true. My perceptions are rooted in the dangers lurking around my community, dangers I feel scurrying through my viscera, terrorizing my head, keeping me up at night.

All around me is the adverse effects of prolonged isolation. Sanity does teeter on the edge. Men are dissociating from the here and now, roaming around in barren deserts, just to escape this psychological harm. Our fundamental human capacity to connect with others is atrophying as we languishing in social deprivation.

And so I can't help but sound the alarm, blow my damn trumpet, but not many are listening. I'm still gonna post, if only to memorialize this cruel and degrading punishment, before social deprivation takes its toll on me, before my mental health is beyond repair.

I will continue to post because I now have evidence. Empirical evidence. Expert witness testimony. I stumbled upon some court documents that bear witness to the the psychological harm, the dehumanizing effects, caused by prolonged solitary confinement here on federal death row.

And I'm about to tell you all about it!

IT WAS A TYPICAL WORK DAY. I was moving around death row, without those cold restraints pressing into my flesh. It was a relatively quiet day, not much happening, but in the air was that familiar staleness, that awful reminder that nothing fresh grows in this barren land of hard steel and concrete. And in my heart was that psychic pain I'd gotten used to over the year. It's the pain of social deprivation, of existing in an abnormal environment where intimate social connections are hard to forge.

It was about 3 in the afternoon and I was already feeling burnt out. It's hard on the psyche to absorb trauma all day, to resonate with a restricted range of others' emotional life. I needed an escape so I went upstairs to do a routine check, making sure all was clean, all was in order.

To my surprise, in the upstairs leisure room was "Money Baggs," a man in his mid to late 30s, sitting at the small table toward the back of the room, his head tilted down, his back facing me. I had given him that name, which he happily accepted, almost a year or so ago, because he always talks about getting them "money bags" from the government once he wins his 400-million-dollar lawsuit he filed against the government (for subjecting him to this cruel and unusual punishment of death).

I stood at the window watching him. He was oblivious to my presence, withdrawn into himself, something that happens quite often in isolation, one of the many adverse effects of solitary confinement.

I tapped on the window, snatching him back to the here and now. As he gazed up at me, his face registered quiet relief. My heart then resonated with gratitude as if I were sensing his gratitude over being recognized and engaged. Animated, he got up from the table and walk to the steel door, where I stood on the other side.

Without a greeting, without assessing my mood, he plunged me right into his suffering. "Jon-Jon, these people know what they are doing," he said, fidgeting with his pinky ring made from the foil-like inside of a chip bag. Around his neck was soda-can tabs linked into a necklace. "They are torturing us by design. Our attorneys know it!" I had heard him say this countless times, but still I engaged him. "The death penalty is unconstitutional, it's cruel and unusual punishment, and this solitary confinement is psychological torture. But our attorneys won't file a lawsuit about this because they are paid by the government."

That's typical Money Baggs: No small talk, no kidding around, no conversation but about government-sanctioned torture. Whenever we talked, it was always one-sided. He was never interested in what I had to say. The emotional weights on his chest, well, he had to get them off, and so I mostly listened to him, but this time I had to say something. Hell, I was burnt out and sort of looking for a spat.

"Money Baggs, you say that same thing every week. How you gonna prove this in court?" He tensed up, as he always does when I interrupt his monologue. "Though I know what you are saying to be true--hell, we live it every day!--courts are about evidence and you have none."

"See, Jon-Jon, you sound like one of them attorneys," he shot back, giving me a look of pity. "I got evidence! I got court documents about the psychological torture of solitary confinement on federal death row."

Now that got my attention. He had never talked about having evidence. I asked him for the documents and he gave them to me.

THOSE DOCUMENTS ARE THE TRANSCRIBED TESTIMONY OF DR. CRAIG HANEY, a social psychologist at the University of California at Santa Cruz. He gave expert testimony in federal court about the adverse effects of prolonged solitary confinement here on federal death row.

I knew it. Dammit, I knew I wasn't crazy or crying wolf! This isolation is killing us.

In my next articles, I will be sharing this with you.

*Rejon Taylor is on Federal death row - Terre Haute Indiana

#EndSolitaryConfinement

#EndTheDeathPenalty

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Anthony Speaks...

The one-year-old had cigarette burns, bruises and hair pulled out; the two years old was put in boiling water that was so scolding it melted his skin, where his toes were gone. Either their mom or the baby sitter did this. Sounds like a horror story, but no, this was the beginning of my life and I was the lucky one year old and not the two years old who was my brother.

I grew up protecting and fighting all that called him names like "fried chicken" or "Freddy Kruegar." Life didn't become easier but we all become chameleons in our lives to survive. We started using drugs as fun but then it becomes part of the lifestyle to ease the pain and survive with a gorilla on our back called addiction.

I was in and out the Juvenile system and at 18 years old, with no guidance, I woke up freezing and starving in the tube of a slide at the elementary school so I wouldn't be rained on. I went up the street and pounded on a door to a house. No answer, no one home. I went around, broke a window, pulled the glass out leaving my fingerprints, but needed to eat. So took a camera or something. Total damage and theft under $1000 but still First-Degree Burglary, in California "a strike" (property crime). Three weeks later I was with a dude and his girl driving around industrial area, stealing boxes off loading docks for hopeful treasures to sell. Well, a worker comes out of nowhere chasing us back to the waiting car. We jump in and he grabbed the steering wheel, at which point out of fear I grabbed a BB gun Replica on the floor board and pointed it at him, to back away. We got away for a few weeks until like always they caught up to us, they acted like this was a bank heist and I'm the gunman so I get Second Degree robbery "strike".

I go to prison at 18 until I'm 23 and get out, no clue of life. Lonely, so I go back to easing the pain with ”drugs". Do three parole violations, the last time I get released I'm with a group and we run up in a drug house and rob the dealer. He gets pistol whipped and cut but not by me. Shit! My hands are full of "valuables" by that point, but when chips fall, the story way different. They catch up to me and I got nothing to say because that's the culture belief I've been taught. I know I'm going to get serious time and deserve some of it but I had no clue. I was 25 years old and let a truck lawyer get me 36 years to life under California 3-strikes law.

I'm a different person today and have been doing a lot of rehabilitation, courses, college and ways to deal with the past pain and anger that life does to us because I know how blessed I am just breathing. I still don't understand how they came up with this punishment that took away my hope, my life, that I must continue to fight! Hope they have mercy on me…to get my freedom one day.

This is a little of my story and I hope the system and the people will see that California 3-Strikes is so wrong in many ways.

The punishment doesn't fit the crime.

P.S. A Good Friend Told Me “My Freedom and Happiness Are Number One.”

Thanks

#SecondChancesMatter

#EndThreeStrikes

#EndLWOP

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Tony speaks...

I recently spoke with a law student, and she asked what I missed most about life outside of prison. This is something I have thought about many times before, and have answered dozens of times to different people. It's something that changes from day to day for me. That day, I told her that I missed walking barefoot on grass, or feeling the sand under my feet at the beach, or floating about in a swimming pool on a hot Texas summer day...They are little things that a lot of people don't think of, but I miss them so much...

Then last week I was reading a book, and there were a couple sentences in there that really made me think. They made me think about how much I missed being touched by another human being. I am talking about that bone-deep feeling of security that comes from being held. There is a primal reassurance in being touched, in knowing that someone else WANTS to touch you, to hold you. That someone wants to be close to you. There is something so incredible that goes with the brush of a human hand from someone that cares.

I thought back to what it was like to feel the soft, warm fingers of a pretty girl laced with mine. I thought back to what it was like to have a girl wrap her arms around me on a cool night as I hold her tight.

So, what do I miss, I miss human contact. I miss knowing that someone is THERE...

#HumanityFirst

#EndSolitaryConfinement

#EndTheDeathPenalty

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Art by Reinaldo Dennes
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Reinaldo Speaks…

“When We Believe That The Creative Spirit Is Within Us All Guiding Us To Choose Better…Then We Will Never Destroy Any Other Being.”

#EndSolitaryConfinement

#ArtMatters

#EndTheLawOfParties

#ChooseKindness