George Jackson University            

Long Live The Dragon

The Vortex of Dementia

By Abdul Olugbala Shakur 

Transcribed by Kilaika Baruti

Though I have been active in the struggle for practically all of my life, from a Panther cub to an Urban guerrilla in the service of the underground, I have never considered myself to be a writer or at least not a good writer, but I felt it was imperative for me to conjure up whatever hidden skills I may possess to find the words to articulate this man-made construct that many of you out there call the Prison Industrial Complex.  But for many of us trapped within its catacomb of solitary madness, this man-made construct of nefarious intent possess a more sinister title:  The Vortex of Dementia.  

For the vast majority of us, when we initially enter these gates of hell, the protection of our physical being was of paramount concern, not realizing the booty bandits were the least of our worries.  But this realization doesn’t become manifest in its fullness until we enter into its vortex of twisted official-sanctioned configuration (i.e. the security housing unit: SHU) where our inherent stability becomes subjected to conditions specifically designed with both deliberate and malicious intent to disfigure our basic grasp onto the center gravity of our sanity, often times these conditions are subtle, but effective nonetheless.

My first three years in the security housing unit (SHU) was a blur, any attempt to probe my sanity was undetected by my conscious awareness, but it was my fourth year in isolation that my captors’ motives revealed themselves.  While in the adjustment centers at San Quentin State Prison, I was arbitrarily placed in the quiet cell, no running water, no lights, no mattress, or blankets, just my boxer shorts and t-shirt.  I didn’t sleep at all that first night.  I was still trying to wrap my sensibility around my new reality.  The cell stanched of urine and fecal matter, and on each side of my cell there were screams of torment, and constant banging on my walls, obviously an attempt orchestrated by my captors to deprive me of sleep, while I contemplated the now visible probes into my sanity.  

Many of you are unaware of the overall objective of the Prison Industrial Complex, may be quick to dismiss the above experience as an aberration, not an elaborate scheme designed to break the spirit and torment the minds of its captives, the New Afrikan Revolutionary prisoners in particular.  On the tenth day of being in the quiet cell, my neighbors were informed that if they did not kick on my wall late at night they’d not be removed from the quiet cell, a clear incentive in their complacent involvement to facilitate my captors’ endeavors to rob me of my sanity.  For an entire month my neighbors kicked on my walls,and losing myself in sleep to escape this psychological torture was not an option, I was forced to confront this deliberate assault on my sanity.  This scheme would repeat itself two more times.  Each time longer than the next, the second times was approximately 45 days, and the third was 90 days.  Then I was emergency transformed to Old Folsom State prison in 1985.  San Quentin called Folsom Administration and lied to them about my alleged involvement in a prison guard murder, I was not even in the unit when it occurred, nor was I ever implicated in this matter, but it was San Quentin intent to evoke Folsom Administration to continue my psychological torture.  Folsom placed me in four point restraint, butt naked under the guises that I allegedly had contraband in my rectum, which was not true.  Two days later I was placed on the exercise yard and left out there all night in the rain, the next morning I was placed in the quiet cell in 4-A , where I stayed an additional six months.  Then in 1987, I was placed in the first ever Bedrock Unit, I along with 24 white prisoners, I was the only New Afrikan(Black) Prisoner assigned to this unit and spent approximately eight (8) months in an environment designed to encourage a racial attack on me.  I was eventually released from Bedrock (i.e.) behavioral control unit) once my captors realized their plan of racial attack did not work, about four months later I was placed back in Bedrock, where I spent over a year (note: both Corcoran and Pelican bay State Prison) were modeled after the original Bedrock Unit).  My second return to Bedrock was under the false allegation that I was involved in a conspiracy to assault prison staff, in response to this fabricated charge, I was physically assaulted and had Tasers placed on my testicles while handcuffed behind my back.  

The above experiences represents the traditional methods of both psychological and physical torture, each challenging the resilience of my mental health, which I admit was beginning to succumb to the seduction of dementia.  Then, in 1989, I entered the Gladiator yards of Corcoran state prison, where fights were staged daily for the pleasure of sadistic pigs.  Though I only received two (2) disciplinary reports, I was involved in at least fourteen staged fights.  Another experience that took a toll on my already exhausted sanity, then 22 years ago, I entered the cold corridors of Pelican Bay State Prison, that have exposed me to a new form of mental torture, a more subtle, but sophisticated and systematic assault on one’s sense, a deprivation so complete that it leaves one drowning within the depths of one’s own emptiness.  This was (and is) a sanctioned assault or attrition being waged upon our mental health.  A constant probing of our undiagnosed psychosis, as dementia was beginning to look more enticing, as I personally watched hundreds of prisoners around me surrender to the temptation of insanity, an escape from the harsh reality of sensory deprivation.

Many have asked how I’ve survived 30 years of solitary confinement/isolation under constant assault of one’s mental state.  I tell them, first of all, my ordeal is far from being over, so I have yet to survive my isolation, but I am surviving in spite of my  (our) situation.  For me, I believe identifying the symptoms are essential in resisting (our) situation.  For me I believe identifying the symptoms is essential in resisting the attraction of dementia.  Many convicts because of the stigma attached to dementia, deny any symptoms.  I don’t care who you are, anybody that have spent 20 years or more in solitary/or the security housing unit (SHU) are going to have some symptoms, though they may be subtle, they have the potential to mature into a full blown psychosis if ignored.  This is why I believe by embracing the symptoms helps us to subdue them, I recognized my symptoms 20 years ago, and I refused to give into them, but it is a constant battle, dementia is forever present, waiting to claim our sanity!

Before I close, I would like to briefly touch on a hypothesis that I’ve yet to hear anyone speak on, which I believe is worthy of further examination, and that is the Stockholm syndrome.  Many people became aware of this syndrome during the Patty Hearst Trial, when she was captured on camera robbing a bank with her alleged captors.  Simply put, the Stockholm syndromes when a captive(s) begins to emulate the characteristics and or belief systems of his/her captors(s).  Many prisoners don’t even have a clue that they are emulating the same cowardly and immoral practices of their captors.  I provide you with two brief examples:

1). First of all, the prison guard is an active participant within the CDC sanctioned torture scheme.  Guards will identify number of noises that they believe will serve to agitate and or irritate prisoners.  For example:  Loud whistling, slamming our food ports, stumping up and down the stairs, talking loud over the P.A. system, just to name a few . Once identified, staff would begin to incorporate these cowardly tactics in their daily routine, but so called convicts have also adopted these methods.  I have witnessed a number of times so-called convicts direct the pig’s scheme towards other convicts, thus collaborating with the pigs to wage psychological torture on their fellow convicts. As New Afrikan political prisoners we refer to these so –called convicts as collaborators.  I believe these so-called convicts are suffering from Stockholm syndrome.  I personally tell them about it every time I witness it, but for the most part, to no avail.  They are so far gone into the syndrome they have become captors (i.e. guards) by proxy.

2). The security housing Unit (SHU) is a deliberate construct, and sensory deprivation is the product of a sick mind, anyone and or profit from such a destructive scheme is void of any sense of humanity, especially when she/he can work in this environment and completely ignore the impact it is having on its captives.  You often become a product of your environment, if it’s void of any sense of humanity and moral redemption, you are going to for the most part produce a product of like values.  Many prisoners upon release are emulating the lack of humanity and redemption displayed daily by their captors, unfortunately, society suffers as a result via re-offending.  A deliberate ploy designed to guarantee their return, and the survival of the Prison Industrial Slave Complex.  I ask:  what can you produce from a depraved environment? I believe recidivism has a mental component that is directly linked to our captors.  Being in prison alone has an impact on our mental state, but within the control unit prisons/control units there exist a deliberate and systematic assault on our sanity with a clear purpose.  If they (i.e. dept. of corrections and bureau of prisons) can weaken our mental stability we then become more vulnerable to the trappings of recidivism.  A disciplined mind allow us to resist any temptations that can bring us back to prison, such as drugs and alcohol, or even negative friends/relationships.  The key to solving this matter lie with us as prisoners.  The prison system/SHU is not going to shut down anytime soon, so we will have to be more realistic and pragmatic in our approach to addressing the mental health of prisoners.  We can start off as prisoners by pledging never to become collaborators, with CDC in their endeavor to assault our sanity

Olugbala Shakur
S/n James Harvey
D.1.119/c-48884 (SHU)
P.O. Box 7500
Crescent City, Ca. 95532
Pelican Bay State Prison

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