July 4, 2016-Today I felt like a dog, a cat, or some type of animal-dehumanized. I stood by my cell door and peered through the five-inch by twenty-four inch glass slot in the door eagerly anticipating my breakfast tray being served. It suddenly dawned on me-I'm just like the dogs I raised as a child who would wag their tails in earnest at feeding time when I approached the feeding trough with their meal. The pigs did the same in their sty. I looked across at the other cell doors and, like me, the other convicts stood at their doors in anticipation of being fed. Now I really understand what it means to be dehumanized.
I've heard that word used many times to describe the prison environment but I never felt it in my gut, in my marrow. The description, though apt, felt more abstract-as if it described what took place in the other convicts' cells-but not me personally. Now I know. Even the multitude of strip-searches, invasions of privacy, cell searches, general harassments and abuses I've long suffered never brought home the feeling I felt today.
I took my tray and sat down to eat my breakfast. Things just were not the same. I would not say that I was angry, but more ashamed. I wished I would refuse to eat this tray of food. I didn't. I ate it anyway. "Weak," I scolded myself-another stinging defeat. Add that to the million other micro-defeats I've sustained over the years at the hands of the prison and justice system. The breakfast was tasteless, though not a bad meal-oatmeal and a breakfast pastry along with half-a-pint of milk. Usually it's one of the better breakfasts to me, but not today. Today I chewed mechanically and swallowed just for swallowing's sake.
"Dehumanized," I whispered. Death by incarceration is the sentence the good citizens of Pennsylvania have visited upon my Black mind and body. Am I to feel like this for the next twenty years? It's been twenty-six years already. The way I feel at this very moment, better that death visit me now if this is where I'll find me twenty years hence. I can accommodate the punishment of the loss of freedom. I have trained myself to be content with nothing. However, I cannot tolerate being dehumanized. Maybe tomorrow the feeling will pass.
Trevor Mattis DC# BH 3126
P.O. Box 945
Marienville, PA 16239