The Suicide of X

Far too many times I have sat behind this antiquated machine and written about the suicide of other prisoners.

Last evening on March 1Oth, as I waited in the medication line here at Shirley Medium, I heard the screw's radio barking about a medical emergency and that he "was cutting him down." The transmission came from the segregation unit, and the message was painfully obvious: another prisoner had taken his own life.

The nurses along with several screws ran over after the fact to provide CPR. As I waited in that small area, I could see down the "hospital" corridor all the way to the door leading into the seg unit. About half-an-hour after the call had gone out, the nurses returned with the equipment, and by the looks on their collective faces, I knew the suicide had been successful. Someone there with me wondered who it was, while I said: "What does it matter who it was?" It was a human being at the depth of his despair. A man that lost hope long ago and merely marked time in a prison system without hope. This prison in particular is known for its hopelessness.

Had X asked for help with his depression or despair, here's what would have happened to him: He would have been stripped naked, then placed in a "turtle suit" (a green, thickly-padded thing that allows for minimal movement and maximum humiliation). He is then placed in a "bubble cell" and placed on eyeball watch, until he decides the punishment is not worth it and declares himself "all better-not- suicidal-ready to go back to his cell mentally stable." In his mind a new plan is formed. He now knows that these people do not give a damn whether he lives or dies, just as long as he doesn't do it on "my watch."

Perhaps for a short while he will be depressed and get past it, or he will be formulating a new plan to end it. This time he knows from his past experience with the crack staff at MCI Shirley that he will not ask for their "help." Quietly he sits in his segregation cell. His mind is racing and his heart beats like the hammer on a galley slave ship racing to a place where there is no return. The noose is around his neck and the air now cut off from his brain so slowly until darkness takes over, for the rest of what remains of his life. His last thoughts are of his family, and he hopes they will understand or at least forgive him. There is possibly a note left behind that they may or may not receive from the prison.

He is not pronounced dead here at the prison even though the four nurses that worked to save his life know he was dead. No, he will be pronounced at the Leominister Hospital by a doctor on duty there. No one dies in prison anymore. It sounds so much more palatable when the public is told he "died at the hospital."

I knew X on the periphery of the prison. I knew from other friends that he was "a good guy," meaning he was not a snitch nor one to walk the camp with his head down. Today I see the shock and utter disbelief on their faces, and I hear anger in their voices, at the cycle of death they cannot change.

Any person in prison that wants to kill themselves can and will kill themself if they really want to. No prison authority or family hugs can stop it. Still, with effort and love, it might just be put on hold for one more day, and then one day more, until something makes them believe that life is indeed worth living and that the prison will not win.

They will not win!

   Joe Labriola, Prisoner
   March 11, 2012

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