“Understand what you do and the effects of what you do.” LC DeVine
I’m not going to go into a long story of how and why I got involved with someone incarcerated. All I can say is if you believe in divinity, it was meant to be. As crazy as that sounds when you finish reading this story you will think so too. Neither am I going to attempt to explain how we appeared to be from different worlds, to ever think we could be perfect for each other, but we are more alike than not.
As with all relationships, there is the unknown. No matter how much you think you know a person, life has a way of presenting undesirable situations. I chose to enter into a partnership with Akili. Neither of us knew that he would end up dealing with Post InCarceration Syndrome PICS.
I wrote this short prose entitled Unknown Victim to briefly express the effects of someone’s action on those whom their life is apart of. It is how I felt and feel about how PICS affected my life at that time.
Our story started when Akili wrote to me after reading a newsletter I published. It was distributed to many inmates all over the country. After going through my legal situation, I wanted to reach out and help others by providing them with legal and informational resources. It was early into the newsletter start-up that he first wrote. I thought he was a mad man from the contents of his letter. He stated he was in solidarity confinement in a SHU unit. As intelligent as I thought I was that is, a college-educated woman with a BS connected to my title. I had no idea such places existed, especially not in the American prison systems. I put his letter away as I had no time for what I thought was the raging of a mad man.
Over the course of several months, I received hundreds of letters requesting the newsletter and inmates sharing their personal legal stories. I learned quickly that I could not reply to all their correspondence. Especially, those that saw a pretty face and thought I was available for their advances. I, however, became concerned about the letters from what I now call “encaged persons” stating they also were in solidarity confinement. I received several other letters from Akili. Now that I was aware that he was not a raging lunatic I was able to read his correspondence. His letters shared his situation and were far more disturbing to me than all the rest of the letters because he informed me not only was he in prison within solidarity confinement but in a housing unit of even more restricted solidarity confinement. This took my state of disturbance to outraged. The very thought that our country allowed this situation to occur to individuals that are not mass murders on death row was heartbreaking.
I took it upon myself to learn more about solidarity confinement and this special SHU and became more disturbed. Our country and people in this country treat mad dogs better than they do incarcerated persons. I bring up all of this to set the stage for Post InCarceration Syndrome and to tell this story. I entitled this article “I didn’t agree to this,” because no one ever signs on to the unknown.
I had made big plans for Akili’s homecoming. I had flown to San Diego, had a suite overlooking the Pacific Ocean, his family and friends would join us. A month earlier I mailed him an expensive outfit including undergarments and shoes. I wanted him to feel like a king once he got off that bus. When the bus pulled up to the Greyhound bus station I walked over to the bus, two guards got out and had me sign a paper releasing him to me. [Wow, I just thought about that that’s deep. I mean like he was a piece of property, but like a slave in Akili’s words] When we got back to the hotel his family and friends arrived crowding the suite to overflowing onto the large terrace. I hadn’t expected so many people. Though he was glad to see people he hadn’t in over 25 years I believe now he was overwhelmed. As a matter of fact, I had to ask his brother to tell everyone it was time to leave.
We spent the next couple of days eating, walking, and hanging out by the ocean before we left for home. We had purchased a condo and had it totally renovated. I had sent him some photos but had left some out just to give him something different to look at when he arrived. Like the large oversize bathtub big enough for two and the large shower area with a waterfall flowing from the ceiling. I wanted our place to make him quickly forget where he had spent the past 25 years. [Now that I reflect on that thought I realize how foolish that was to think.]
God’s favor was on our lives as everything felt in place so quickly. Akili was enrolled in a trade school and had a job paying twenty-two dollars an hour. [Imagine that someone coming straight from prison enrolling in school and getting paid $22 an hour. I say this because in most places people are only earning minimum wages under $9].
I thought we were on top of the world. We had a great relationship in all areas I THOUGHT. After about six months things started to shift. One day he called and said he needed time to himself. He was going to ride to the park. I was surprised but tried to be understanding. I knew he was having some issues with his supervisor at work. Hours went by and he wasn’t answering his phone. I had no idea where he could be. He really didn’t know anyone. It was after midnight when he finally arrived. I tried not to flip out. Being a woman I thought he might have been with another woman so I started questioning him.
Over the course of several weeks, he was staying out late or not coming home at all. When confronted the truth came out he was using drugs this included smoking cigarettes and a vapor. My world literally and figuratively felt like it ended. I told him early in our relationship I didn’t want to be with anyone using drugs and he assured me he was not into drugs. I will not get into all the nightmares I endured over the course of eight months before he decided to go to rehab.
It was there that he learned that most of the issues that lead him to using drugs were due to him experiencing of Post-Incarceration. Stay tune for part two.