Overcoming Solitary Confinement

Ten Steps for Maintaining Peace of Mind

“There are many ways to destroy a person, but the simplest and most devastating might be solitary confinement.” – Lisa Guenther

Truly, Solitary Confinement is inhumane. It has become a hot button issue, and more and more people are beginning to speak out and organize around the issue. So, hats off to the activist community for keeping the issue front and center. And let’s not forget Anthony Graves, Former Texas Death Row inmate, who was exonerated in 2010 for Capital Murder. He is not only a survivor of Solitary Confinement, but he is also a fighter and advocate for a fair and better system.

Now, if you find yourself in Solitary Confinement, the first thing you must do is to remain calm. Don’t Panic! Yes, you have been placed on an emotional roller coaster and you will experience psychological ups and downs, from yourself and others. Even the guards are affected by this situation. However, the most important thing to protect is your mind. The mind is like a baby; it is very easy to shape. The environment you are in is designed to break you down starting with the mind. I can not stress this enough. Solitary Confinement is no different than Guantanamo Bay when we take into consideration the torturous psychological effects it has on inmates. When we think about Solitary, we picture inmates locked away in small cells for 23 hours a day, and isolated from other people. Some inmates hit rock bottom and slide into a mental abyss of toxic and twisted thoughts, drowning in a sea of hopelessness. Meanwhile, some others are heavily medicated and slowly drifting away in a delusional world.

For fifteen years, I have been on Texas’ death row and I have witnessed first hand a lot of mental illness among inmates in the form of self mutilation, suicide, dropping of appeals, floods, fires, throwing feces and urine, assaults on inmates by guards, screaming, hollering, and grown men crying for no reason. And let’s not forget about Squirrel, who plucked his eyeball out and ate it. This is the American Horror Story that takes place here on Texas Death Row. Now, despite the doom and gloom, there is hope and light at the end of the tunnel. I do not claim to have all the answers to the problem, but I do have a couple solutions that will help.


1. One of the ways I maintain a Peace of Mind is through meditation. I always say that meditation is the only medicine for the mind. Therefore, I highly suggest that you order the free meditation course on Siddha Yoga. I’ve practiced Siddha Yoga for over a decade and, believe me, it works!

Write to:

SYDA Foundation

Prison Project

PO Box 99140

Emeryville, CA 94662

2. Another way to maintain peace of mind is to stay in touch with your family, especially if you have kids. The thought that your family and children are safe and sound will allow you to maintain peace. So, it is very important that you write them and keep the lines of communication open.

3.There are many people incarcerated who don’t have any family at all, and so, reaching out to pen pal organizations is a good way to maintain peace of mind. Some organizations like Human Writes, Life Spark, and Life Lines cater to inmates on death row. While other groups like Inside Outside and Inmate Resource help inmates in general population. There is nothing like meeting new people and making friends.

4. The more you read the more you learn; reading a good book will help you maintain your peace of mind. You can check out books from the prison library or your pen friends can send you some, including magazines, if permitted.

5. Exercising is a good way to maintain a good state of mind, and there are several books on Hatha Yoga that will help you with basic movements like “Sun Salutation”. The general idea is to keep the body moving; exercises like jumping jacks, push ups, and sit ups will help you overcome stress and depression.

6. Painting, arts, and crafts, if allowed by the prison, can be used for creative projects in your cell. Here on Texas Death Row they sell water colors, color pencils, and illustration boards so inmates can draw, paint and create nice gifts for their friends and family. This is a good way to maintain your peace by tapping into your creative side.

7. Maintain peace of mind by furthering your education; sign up for a college course or get your G.E.D. You can write to the prison school principal and ask which courses are available to inmates. There are some colleges in the free world that allow inmates to take their courses and receive credit for them.

8. Writing poetry is another good way to maintain your peace of mind. You should take time every day to write a poem or at least begin a new one.

9. Maintain peace of mind by reflecting on your situation. Start a journal about your day to day activities. What did you eat for breakfast? What book did you read? Did you enjoy it? Write a memoir about your life.

10. You are in Solitary Confinement in a small cell and you know some people are catching hell. However, to maintain your peace of mind and free yourself from any other negative energies it is best to first forgive yourself, and to next forgive those who have wronged you in the past and present. When you do that, the healing begins from the inside and you become a walking, talking, source of positive energy and inspiration.


By Pete Russell, #999443



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