Property of Florida
By Emil Zakarian
Alone I stand, I sit, I lie.
They’ve made my small world even smaller.
Who is supposed to stop them?
When they are the law.
I’ve been beaten, sprayed with gas.
Tears stinging because I talked back.
Ribs bruised because I called my lawyer.
But I’d rather be beaten than alone.
I forgot to make my bed one day,
So they took away my clothes and sheets.
A fitting punishment, no bed to make.
Could death be better than my bony back against an empty bed frame?
I wonder what that judge thought this would teach.
In 15 years, I’ve only learned that people can be cruel.
This summer I have been working remotely with the Florida Justice Institute, a public interest law firm in Miami. I’ve mainly been helping them with a class action lawsuit focusing on the harmful effects and use of solitary confinement in the Florida correctional system. Solitary confinement is extremely overused in prisons and has lasting negative effects on the mental and physical health of inmates. It is especially harmful for inmates with pre-existing mental health issues. Some prisons are actually increasing solitary confinement use in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak in lieu of amnesty or more humane alternatives. This poem is a short amalgamation of the stories in of several inmates in prison and solitary specifically who I have read about and listened to.