Skip to content Skip to footer

I Was Thrown in Solitary at 14. My Jailers Added a Day Each Time I Fought Back.

Emile DeWeaver describes six days of abuse in solitary confinement as a child.

People protest in front of a New York City courthouse to demand that Mayor Bill de Blasio put an end to solitary confinement in the city's prisons on June 7, 2021.

Day 1 of 3

They strip me to my boxers and lock me in a dry cell. No mattress.

They call it a dry cell because it doesn’t have a toilet or sink. As solitary confinement goes, this ain’t shit because they have to regularly let me out to use the bathroom.

In front of my cell, a tier divides the dry cells from the boys’ dorm where 70 bunk beds and 140 green footlockers line a rectangle hall. Youth counselors monitor wards from a plexiglass and concrete station which divides the dorm into wings.

Standing at my cell window, I see O-Dog watching me. He raises his arms, fists together, to form an “O” over the wave cap on his head. It’s a symbol of solidarity that means, we’re from Oakland, fuck this world. A youth counselor tells him to stop talking to the dry cells.

“O-love, no love!” I shout through the crack under my door, earning another day in confinement.

Day 2 of 4

A pencil nub clatters under the door. I rush to my window, but whoever passed me the contraband is already ghost. The dorm is empty. A chest-high wall and plexiglass divide the dorm from the dayroom where kids shoot Eight Ball and play Connect Four.

I marked two lines on the wall because that’s what convicts do in the movies. I lie on the cool stone slab, determined to accustom myself to the hardship. Goals: That’s how to survive solitary confinement.

Day 3 of 4

I use the pencil sparingly, so it doesn’t run out on me.

I mark the days on one wall, write my age, 14, on the other. On the slab, I draw an eye. A counselor catches me and asks where I got the pencil.

“I found it.”

He smiles but doesn’t mean it.

Day 4 of 5

I glare at O-Dog through my window. He won’t look at me. Nobody will. The counselors threatened to lock up anyone caught communicating with me. I turn and kick my door a dozen times like a mule. A counselor rushes to my cell and tells me to stop. I shout the lyrics to an N.W.A. rap:

Fuck the police!

coming straight from the underground.

Young nigga got it

bad ‘cause I’m brown!

The counselor, square-jawed and buzz-cut, crowds my window. He looks like an angry cop irritated by the blood he’s gotten on his uniform. He says if I don’t stop shouting, he’ll send me to Inyo Hall: the real hole. I stop yelling but keep rapping. I dance because it feels good. I start with a Chuck D strut, throwing my knees high and side to side as I back away from the door, and then I transition center-cell into an in-your-face robot routine.

Fuck the police!

Fuck, fuck, fuck the police!

I make sound effects, as if I’m mixing a record, with my mouth.

Fuck, fuck, fuck the police!

Day 5 of 6

“I’ve gotta go to the bathroom,” I tell the counselor when he comes by for his hourly suicide check. He says he already took me to the bathroom.

“That was number one. I gotta go number two.”

The counselor’s shark-fin nose flares, but he unlocks the door.

***

“I gotta go to the bathroom, I drank too much, it’s hot.”

***

“I gotta go to the bathroom, I might have diarrhea.”

***

The counselor ignores me the next time I ask to use the bathroom. I don’t actually need to go, but what if I did? That would be child abuse — this motherfucker is trying to get away with child abuse!

“You gotta let me go to the bathroom,” I shout. Wards in the dorm find something to do that involves facing away from me: rustle through their lockers, write letters, swing hand-sized radios over their heads chasing better FM reception. O-Dog glances at me long enough to shake his head, no.

***

I’ve been mule-kicking the door for an hour. My sole throbs. I’m strong. Keep kicking.

***

I lie on my slab for three hours. They won’t let me out. I pee under the door. They call me an animal before they duct tape a blanket over my window, draping my cell in darkness.

I shit against the door, wipe my ass with my boxers. The stink grows a body in the dark that bites my skin. I take center-cell and fight it, shadow box it. I expel air through my nose with each punch, suck breath through my teeth dodging shadow punches. Hisses fill the dark.

Fight it, fight it, fight it.

We have 1 day left to raise $25,000 — we’re counting on your support!

For those who care about justice, liberation and even the very survival of our species, we must remember our power to take action.

We won’t pretend it’s the only thing you can or should do, but one small step is to pitch in to support Truthout — as one of the last remaining truly independent, nonprofit, reader-funded news platforms, your gift will help keep the facts flowing freely.