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I Cant Heal Inside

Dispatches from the Pen

The Beat Within, Commentary, Mike Mckinney Posted: Mar 29, 2008

Editors Note: First sent to jail at age 14, Mike Mckinney is currently serving two life sentences in the Florida State Prison system. He writes about the adverse effect a life in the system has had on his mental health. Mckinney is a regular contributor to The Beat Within, a weekly magazine of writing and art from inside juvenile halls and prisons.

My psychological state of mind has been damaged. People are afraid of me because they dont understand me and what I have been through. This has made me lose friends and become even more isolated. Im not a bad person at all and Im very easy to get along with, if you just get to know me and understand the damage that has been done to me.

My psychological damage started before I came to prison.

When I was young, my father was taken away from me by a number of gunshots to the back and head. I really wanted to get to know my father Big Mike a.k.a. Chief Crazy Horse but I never got to. We spent time together, but the times were so short. I had some good talks with him on the phone when he was doing time in prison up in Alabama. During these times he expressed much love for me.
When Big Mike got killed, it was a big turning point in my life. I got wilder and worse than I already was. I already had a bad temper just like my father. I went on to get into all kinds of trouble with the law, which landed me in prison in 1985, at 14 years old.

My psychological state of mind did not get any better. Anger and bitterness was building up in me by day by day. While I was waiting in Jackson County to be sent to the prison, I was caught in hell because they were holding me in this redneck jail. I was a young black kid and I didnt like to be called a nigga. Some of the white guards would always be calling me a lil nigga, and always be telling me how much they hated black niggas. I was very rebellious when it came down to being treated this way. They were always hanging me up on the bars with handcuffs and chains in the holding cell that was right across from the guards station. And all the way up until I left Jackson County Jail, I was always fighting the guards. They would chain me down to a steel bed with chain handcuffs and leg irons and they would tie something around my mouth.

When I went to court to get sentenced, they jumped on me and carried me into the courtroom tied up. I was given three years in prison. And for three years, I was a violent and rebellious young inmate. Known for fighting other inmates and fighting with the guards, I was in and out of the hole. I had been injured, defeated, and deprived by a power structure that was bent on breaking me or trying to make me lose my mind.

I got out of prison after doing three whole years. I was 17 years old, full of anger and bitterness. I ended up going on a shooting rampage and much more. And once again, I was back in the county jail with a lot of time hanging over my head.

While being held in the Tampa County Jail, I got into many fights with the inmates and guards. So much, until they had to keep locked down in a one-man cell. I ended up getting two life sentences. This was not any help to my psychological state of mind, because I did not have understanding. I was ready for trouble at any cost. I went to a few camps and then ended back at the East Unit for going on a little rampage at Martin Correctional Institution. I did like a year and a half on close management or CM lock down in the East Unit in Florida State Prison.

Then in 1994, I was released to open population, but just two years later I got into a big fight in the Chow Hall. And I was placed back on CM and I am still locked down to this day. I have been locked down for 12 years and, at this point, I have spent five years in Disciplinary Confinement. And this is enough for any man to lose control.

I have been a victim of much abuse. I been locked down in a strip cell for weeks at a time, and a few times, Ive been locked up for more than a month with no mattress, no clothing, no property. I have been gassed more times than I can care to count. I have been a victim of starvation. And for years, I have suffered greatly from sensory deprivation. I also feel like I have not gotten access to my legal documents, so I could never work on processing any appeals, meaning all hope for me getting out of prison has been taken away from me. The anger I feel from living like this for so many years sets off emotions that few will ever know, sort of being in a hostage situation.

I have become to be very sensitive to everything thats around me, especially to prison security. Sometimes I get that paranoid schizophrenic feeling, thinking that everybody is against me and out to get me, and that people are talking bad about me. This state of mind sometimes made it hard for me to trust people in prison.

Prison has changed so much over the years. Some people in prison think doing time is a joke, and they take everything thats around them as a joke. And that makes it hard for me. My experience in prison has been too painful for me to take any of this I have been through as a joke.
Other people can see far enough to understand the psychological and emotional damage that has been done to me, but they cannot feel my pain. I am a strong dude. I have a strong mind. I have courage. I have a strong will. I have strong determination to do better. But all the damage that has been done, all the rough years of being in isolation locked down in a one man cell in Florida State Prison has taken its toll. If all this could just be understood, people would get along with me real good.

Related Articles:

How I Survived Men's Prison as a Woman

Dispatch from San Quentin: 'West Block Weather'

Black Market In Tobacco Makes Prisons More Violent



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