I have personally been housed in Solitary Confinement/Ad Seg/Restrictive Housing, it’s all the same thing in Texas Dept of Criminal Justice System for the past 23 yrs for non disciplinary reasons and at this moment, I am on the Polunsky Unit where TDCJ (Texas Dept of Criminal Justice) houses Death Row offenders and some ad seg but it’s a housing area that is all SOLITARY CONFINEMENT nonetheless. I was transfered here because on my last unit which is the Michaels Unit, TDCJ had a Mental Health Therapeutic Diversion Program that is designed to help Offenders that have been housed in Solitary confinement with therapy and eventually, help them transition back into the general prison population but I will not qualify for this transition or privilege of transitioning back into the general prison population because I am tagged or classified as being part of a Security Threat Group or Gang, but the program was transfered here and to 2 other units bc of how disfunctional Michaels Unit was and had been operating the MH Program.
When one is in Solitary Confinement for any amount of time especially yrs or decades at a time, we obviously develope various and different types of Mental Illness Symptoms and one of them is feeling helpless, depressed and extremely anxious bc there are days when it can get extremely dark mentally but there are also good days too.
When I was transfered frm the Michals Unit to Polunsky, even knowing that I was going to Death Row or where Death Row is being housed, there was a heavy burden being lifted off my shoulders and never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that leaving one Solitary Confinement to be transfered to another, would feel so good and much less being transfered to the same building to be housed with Death Row offenders but that was HOPE that lifted that burden because of all the experiences we had to endure on Michaels Unit, where there had been (6) successful suicides frm July 2021 thru Nov 2021 and all bc these offenders had lost all hope in that dark place, Michaels was that b ad for us all mentally and let me be clear, it was’nt so much the unit itself, it was the administration that was operating it that was making it this dark on all of us there.
The feeling of being hopeless is a feeling that can overwhelme any of us in this same predicament of being housed in Solitary Confinement and I personally sometimes feel as if I’m a prisoner of my own mind and body, I sometimes fear that my mind will go heywire and cause me to revolt but before I even allow this to happen, I battle with my mind, my thoughts in order to avoid destruction by my own actions while in this state of mind and I maintain my sanity necessary to determine and remind myself how capable I am to understand the situation and realize the difference between what is considered destructive and constructive actions and I’ll ask myself, which one, destructive or constructive actions will benifit me longterm?
I always choose constructive actions no matter how far and deep into darkness I fall because I understand my Mental Illness and I am desperately trying to better myself as a person, a son, father, grandfather and more importantly, a participant and contributor of our society upon my release and never allowing Solitary Confinement to completely rob me of my HUMANITY and DIGNITY.
Don Aldaco # 847579
Polunsky Unit, Livingston, Texas
23 years in solitary / ad seg
February 15, 2022
Words by DON ALDACO
Photography by TEXAS LETTERS