If You Want Us to Change, Please Help
A prisoner pleads for systemic reform
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If You Want Us to Change, Help Us
By Gilbert Paliotta
This piece comes via Prison Writers, which gives a voice to the incarcerated. Learn more and support their mission at prisonwriters.com.
By definition, redemption is: the act, process or result of redeeming something or someone, such as the act of making something better or more acceptable.
The only redemption taking place in this prison is the self-redemption that one hopes to discover in the confines of his or her cell.
There’s nothing being offered here at Ely State Prison (ESP) in Nevada to rehabilitate inmates so they don’t reoffend upon release.
There’s nothing being offered here at Ely State Prison to rehabilitate inmates so they don’t glorify the criminal lifestyle to the youths and negatively influence them to repeat the mistakes we have all made.
There’s nothing here to break that cycle.
The practice of Ely State Prison is to keep us locked in our cells for 23, sometimes 24, hours a day—seven days a week. How is one to accomplish anything while confined in their cells, anything positive that is? The ESP does not offer programs and has memos posted notifying the inmate population to that fact.
Speaking for myself, the only rehabilitation and redemption I discovered was done on my own. There does come a time when a person ages out of crime. After turning 25 years old I wanted a change for myself as I grew tired of being the animal that the prison administration wanted me to be. These changes took time as I was attempting to do so on my own while being detained in segregation, commonly referred to as “The Hole,” between the years of 1998-2014.
Being in an environment like “The Hole” for 16 consecutive years was a battle that I personally witnessed others lose, taking their lives by committing suicide, or succumbing to psychological medication that the administration forced on them, there are hundreds of accounts written about “The Hole” by prisoners and even employees of the Department of Corrections, everyone similar and their own version of personal events, I don’t even want to write about it, because I didn’t think I would make it out of there alive and don’t want to bring myself back to that negativity.
Just imagine trying to go through the process of changing yourself with someone’s foot on your head as you fight to keep it above the water.
Once I accepted the fact that the ESP and its employees was not going to help in my need for change, I disconnected myself from my surroundings, even going so far as to be anti-social since there wasn’t anyone who wanted the things that I wanted for myself. I began to see myself and other people differently. Seeing people around me suffering, and experiencing it myself, it … how do I put this into words… it hurt my soul. I exhausted of it all and needed to protect myself because it felt like I was dying slowly.
There is absolutely nothing going on here that’s promoting rehabilitation and/or redemption. Do they think providing us high school educations/diplomas is the path to rehabilitation? Please stop with the blinders. That piece of paper doesn’t solve our core problems. What programs or courses are available to help the incarcerated to manage their emotional responses to stress? How to handle conflict? Gain practical life skills? The answer is: there are none.
One of my first actions was to learn how to deal with others, mainly prison administration and the calculated way they mistreat and abuse inmates in “The Hole,” the stress they purposely create and dissecting their intentions to see me fail. Being able to see things for what they are took a long time to figure out, and even longer to strip me of negative thoughts, ideas, and how to deal with that type of conflict. Coming to the understanding that we cannot control others, only ourselves, but, that we can influence them. I had to exhibit and emote in my actions what I thought and felt internally. To begin to live a normal and productive life. This was how I found my way to rehabilitation.
The ESP played no direct part in that process. It is a sad and upsetting way to be while being held hostage in “The Hole” because it took the first 8 years out of the 16 I did in “The Hole” of learning how to do that. One can’t help but wonder how much faster I could have reached that revelation and began the healing process had the prison afforded its offenders programs geared towards rehabilitation?
There was a time period I believed a life preserver would be thrown out there when the policymakers made a production of changing “prisons” in its title (Nevada Department of Prisons), to “corrections,” making it now known as The Nevada Department of Corrections. They, including its predations, publicly made proclamations that their focus would be on rehabilitation, preparing offenders to return to their communities, and developing and implementing new programs to lower recidivism rates. These statements come from Wardens, Directions, and now-Senator Catherine Confez Masto. Flash forward to today and see those promises expired long ago.
Studies have proven that a big part of rehabilitation is repairing relationships between offenders and their family members. Having familial support drastically reduced the chances of an inmate reoffending. For some reason, the ESP is strongly opposed to this.
Throughout my 25 plus years here of the Ely State Prison repairing the damaged bridges between family members and myself has been a long process, eye-opening, heartbreaking, emotional, life-changing, and one of the main focus points in my rehabilitation and redemption. The prison hasn’t made it easier.
For example, I continuously request to be transferred to a medium-security facility closer to home, my family, my offending city but have been denied. Consequently the 25-plus years of being held hostage of the ESP that I meet every requirement to be classified to a medium-security facility, actually, I could be of a minimum-security facility if my sentence structure was not a life without parole. The administration here has continued to deviate from its declaration of rehabilitation of its offenders.
For some of us, the ESP has become the “Hotel California” you can check-in, but you can never leave. In 1989 it was strategically placed here, in the mountains, as far away from the two major cities (Las Vegas and Reno), creating distance from humanity, making it complicated for family members and loved ones to make the long trip out to visit.
With that in mind, experiencing the Covid Pandemic, nothing has changed here from 1989 through to and inducing 2021. Still being locked down 23 sometimes 24 hours a day, visiting nearly-eliminated “due to Covid,” the ESP has not provided any way for us to at least video chat with our families. We have generic tablets, but they have disabled the camera function. How does one continue to program positively when intentionally being distanced and separated from your loved ones?
As I just mentioned, we have tablets here, but the only functions we’re able to use are the playing of music, receiving emails or photos. That’s it. But it has the capabilities to do video, galleries, and camera functions. That is just the start of the potential of this technology: they could easily be providing online courses on our tablets, providing programs and the like to work on the previously mentioned emotional responses to stress, how to handle conflict, and gaining practical life skills, but they don’t. The solution that the ESP utilizes when dealing with these matters is to outright lie to the public when they make their group walkthroughs, lie to the Director (who in turn never does his due diligence as to the actual functions on the tiers), lie to the policymakers, lie to its practitioners. The only ones who know the truth are those on the inside, so thank you for listening.
Question for the skeptics: Who benefits if people like me, who have paid their debt to society, are rehabilitated instead of just punished? Answer: It is better for everyone! Me, you, tax-payers, society at large.
On some real talk, whoever has the power to shut the ESP down should pull the plug on it. Take it out behind the shed and put a bullet in its head. This warehouse is a slave ship.
In the meantime, please write to me:
Gilbert Paliotta #46244
Ely State Prison
P.O. Box 1989
Ely, NV 89301
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