A Summary of Life ... My Life as an Old Man …”
By: Clifford Smith AM8913
(AKA) Robert Amin Atkins
It’s (2018): I’ve been incarcerated for 36 years, watching my life, my hopes, dreams, and visions slip away. That’s my perception. It’s a reality that society, my correctional community see me, and all the elderly at SCI Frackville.
The saddest part is, I know it’s true everyone sees me as nothing more than—a dead man walking.
Administrators, correctional officers, staff overall, in my environmental setting. That’s just the beginning, I am the one with a lump in my neck possibly cancer. Yes, I’m afraid to deal with medical due to past experiences with other elderly. I know the concensus is—you are not dead yet old man. All decisions are based on cost effectiveness. Can we wait out their demise?
No one can understand our plight as elderly, just waiting to die rather than building a constructive adjustment, bridging the gap between the youth, corrections and the elderly. We are taken for granted.
I am dismissed; my opinions, concerns, input, and willingness to assist don’t matter. We’re invisible to all. In fact I don’t matter. My proof is my various forms of meaningful participation. I’ve tried to be a productive asset in corrections, but my efforts are constantly rejected by staff. My fellow prisoners will one day be just like me—the elderly of corrections.
I express everyday my desire to help, change, foster, create things I (we) can be proud of as a correctional community--to give my life even now, purpose, pride as I slip into another, final part of my journey.
It’s my new hope that through our continued fight to change the culture of corrections for the elderly we can do something positive. Other than placing us/me on a waiting list to die, we all experience various continued forms of abuse growing old inside corrections. Just the other day, I was pushed aside because I couldn’t move fast enough, to use the phone. There are countless examples I will address over time.
Is it unreasonable to request civil, fundamental, basic human rights for the elderly? Fair treatment programs that inspire growth? Awareness of how to transition to old age? It’s a difficult task, with deliberate indifference from staff, and other inmates who don’t understand that they will eventually grow old, and die in prison. Why can’t we die with respect and dignity?
I’m fighting for the right to be treated fairly as we grow older. I’m afraid I will have my job taken from me because I am an old man and continue to question, challenge our treatment.
When you speak truth to power there are consequences; but we won’t be silent. The simple things we do day to day are a challenge, like walking to the dining hall. I’m bumped, pushed just because I don’t move fast enough. If I don’t chew fast enough, I’m not allowed to finish my meal. I’ve outlined many examples of abuse and questions about the treatment of the elderly.