United States of America: night terrors in prison

Prison walls hide but do not cure.

People with mental disorders are overrepresented in prison, sometimes at an alarming rate. Isolation, violence, lack of privacy, insecurity… Mental distress may be exacerbated by the prison environment itself.
Kyle had always been around asylums, long before he became an adult, long before he was arrested. He fought his entire life with – according to his own words - the idea of “being crazy”. But it did not stop in prison.

Kyle H. has been incarcerated since 2001 and is serving a life sentence. He is held at River North Correctional Center in the state of Virginia. He bravely tells how an ordinary day goes by, when voices cannot stop, and when he becomes a stranger to himself.1

  1. Kyle also wrote us a letter. He explained: “this isn’t an all-day, everyday thing. Some days are good, others are bad. How do I write this in such a way that anyone would actually understand what it’s like?” You will find more about his call for help at the end of this testimonial. 

I only know that sleeping is not a refuge for me. Never has been.

Sometimes I will lose two or three hours and have no idea where I have been.

"Security, not therapy," that's the way here. I feel the armor snapping back into place.

More about Kyle's situation

Kyle attached a letter to his testimonial. You will find below excerpts of his letter and a link to get in touch with him.

“I’ve been medicated with varying degrees of success, and I’ve met one or two therapists who actually cared enough to try to fix me. When the medication works, I can use the tools those few competent psychologists have given me to evaluate my past actions and the aberrant thought processes that occur to me. I can see there is something wrong, that “normal people don’t think this way”. (…) How do I explain to you that I know I am damaged and that my perception of reality is fracked? That while often I am able to discern the difference between what is real and what is the product of a fractured psyche, I am still victim of a shattered landscape in my mind where I may view the world through a cracked lens and not even know it? (…) This testimonial is an account of a day I had earlier this year and have written about in my journal. It gives you a pretty accurate assessment of the way mental health services are here, and have been for the last 19 years that I’ve been incarcerated. (…) Everyone who has looked at my case has said I shouldn’t be in prison for life, that I should at the very least be in a mental health facility. It’s great that they say that, but to date nobody has made any move toward getting there, and I cannot do it myself. I’ve exhausted everything I can do from within. My only hopes lay outside the walls.”

Write to Kyle