This letter was written by a person incarcerated at San Quentin.
So to combat my fears of infection and to work through my claustrophobia, I write all the time. Up to 15 hours spent writing and rewriting articles, essays, poetry, and strange tales. I have about four penpals I write to. Sometimes I send them stories.
I’ve sent my writings to prison reform and social justice organizations and collaborated with activists and even helped with class curricula with my writings. I work as a peer literacy mentor, so I write lesson plans and book reviews via correspondence. I attend college classes and self-help groups through the mail. People stop by the cell and see me in the throes of scratching out something strange or useful.
Mostly, I write to keep my sanity. I don’t receive visits from the outside, and I haven’t looked at my bosses for months. The little time we get to move around is equally divided between showers, a phone call, and some form of movement to maintain my health.
I am terrified of the complete breakdown of my mental faculties. I test negative every time I test for COVID-19, but I worry that the chunks of my fractured mind will crumble and I will be left a babbling puddle on the floor.
So what do I do? I write. That’s how I cope with a life of sequestered days of punitive stress. That’s how I keep myself from attacking myself by lashing out at others who have nothing to do with my issues, and especially at those who have caused them.
These are my issues and I have to be responsible about them. So all those feelings of anger, fear, and falling apart? I write about them. That’s my daily routine.