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Truth About Prison

A series of poems by Maddie Donches. Each one tells a daunting story about prison life.


Internal Battle

I put on my badge

Another day in the black hole has begun

Step inside and I'm filled with anxiety

“Project confidence”

See another CO and the mask goes on

Report to Cypress Unit and I'm filled with remorse


These criminals are getting what they deserve

They wanna disrespect me, they have it coming to them

I’M the one in power, remember?

“Wow, you’ve really embraced your character haven’t you Mr. journalist?”

“Why don’t you send some dudes to solitary while ur at it!”

“Say that again and I’ll send your ass to solitary”

“Hahahaaaa you forget who you’re talking to, psycho”

“Now wait a min”--You know this isn’t what most of these guys deserve.

Don't forget,

You were one of them not so long ago

You are here to investigate

Remember that.”

I put on my badge

Another day in nirvana has begun

Assertive and authoritatively, I walk to my post.

Project confidence?

Been there, heard that

I am here to make sure justice is served

I am here to enforce the rules

I am here to make sure inmates are dealt with

I am here to uphold my duty

I am here to prove that I am a legitimate CO

I am here to….


Bad Guy

Step 1: wake up. No scratch that, step 1: actually get sleep at night

Step 2: wake up and try to remind yourself that it was just another nightmare… or was it?

Step 3: get dressed and put on your badge of justice, no, your badge of punishment

Step 4: remind yourself that you aren’t actually one of the bad guys, you just have to pretend to be. But wait, doesn’t that make you a bad guy?

Step 5: now that you’ve realized that you are in fact actually a bad guy, try to be the less bad, bad guy… but at the same time, show the other bad guys that you are just as bad as them.

Step 6: harass inmates and order them around, wait no that's what bad guys do.

Step 6: make sure your recording pen and hidden camera mug are both turned on.

Step 7: write up inmates for various reasons to prove that you are really a bad guy… I mean officer.

Step 8: remember that time when you were in their place? Yeah, so stop being such a dick and let that guy keep his extra cookie he stole from the cafeteria. It isn’t that big of a deal… but it would be to a bad guy... Oh shit.

Step 9: bust ur ass back to that inmate's locker and confiscate that damn cookie!

Step 10: remind yourself that you are only doing this to fit in with the bad guys so that you can expose them.

Step 11: contemplate whether you are actually a bad guy after all.

Step 12: you are.


Are You Sure?

“You must be tear gassed to pass training”, the instructor said.

“No staff is required to be exposed to tear gas”, CCA tells me.

“There aren’t enough staff members to allow for rec and outdoor time”, another guard says.

“The Louisianna DOC considered the staffing patterns appropriate”, CCA tells me.

Inmates get ten minutes to eat.

CCA states they get twenty.

Inmates are required to have three meals a day.

Winn only feeds them two.

A CCA contract states all inmates are entitled to a “productive full-time activity’

Few are.

CCA says guards can’t beat inmates,

Guards do so in areas without cameras.

So Mr. Warden, you say your prisons are built upon honesty and fairness... Are you sure?

“The 13th Amendment abolished slavery”

Black male inmates pick fields of cotton bare-handed from dusk till dawn.

Droplets of ancestors' blood drip down his back when he is short a pound.

Dripping in defeat, he submits to the ropes.

Wrists wrapped

Ankles attached

His feet hover an inch above the ground

His blood drains from his fingertips

He feels so much in the first hour, that by the ninth he cannot feel anything.

The sun rises along with his release.

Back to the fields.

So Mr. History teacher, you say slavery was abolished in 1865...Are you sure?


Is this Human?

Institutionalized, not individualized

Placed in purgatory,

It starts to change my story

Names turn to numbers

Peers turn to enemies

Eyes that once gazed at stars, now stare at concrete confinement

Lips that once spoke words of love, now fulminate firey idioms

My bed turns to rock, and my sheets turn to sleet

At least I don’t have that much time left right?

Wait how much longer again?

What day is it?

What month is it?

What year is it?

What am I?


No, that can’t be right.


Whose Fault?

Alone in my thoughts all day,

My mind starts to deteriorate

Rusted bars cage me in as if I’m a dangerous animal

Constant fighting makes it seem like everyone is a cannibal.

Lunch looks like mud, dinner looks like dirt

It's like all they want is to hurt.

Officers always on my case,

What is this some sort of race?

Trying to see who will last longer, the inmate or the guard.

They get to go out and drive their cars,

While we sit here behind bars.

So I can tell you who won,

It's definitely not me,

But maybe it's not them either.

It's the creators.

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