By Josey Bartlett. Excerpted from the Queens Chronicle.
About 12 years ago Five Omar Mualimmak — who says his unique numerical name is the subject of a whole other article — was arrested on drug trafficking, possession of an illegal weapon, money laundering and tax evasion charges and sent to Rikers Island. Those charges were changed and dropped and then a few reissued, Mualimmak, 38, said, keeping him in the system for 11 years.
Once he was put in prison, a fight landed the Bronx man in solitary confinement.
“I got stabbed at Rikers,” Mualimmak said. “If you are a victim, it’s not where they care about you. Five people were involved in the fight and everyone was going to the box.”
This was just his introduction to solitary.
More brawls kept him there — 23 hours of time spent in a room where the light never turns off, and one hour, “maybe,” spent outside — for about five years. A family member sent him a book that the prison deemed an organizing device, Mualimmak said, and he was given more time in solitary.
“Mathematically it’s impossible to bring everyone outside,” he said. “It’s torturous. The yard is like a dog pen. Have you seen a dog kennel? It’s like that.
“To go out you have to be at your gate fully dressed for the rec run.
“Then they strip search you in your cell. Take off all your clothes, then from there you are cuffed, shackled around your waist, cuffed around the ankle, brought to another room where there are dogs and you are stripped again, then cuffed, shackled, cuffed.”…
The inside 23 hours of solitary confinement are spent pacing, sleeping — about half the time he slept, something much different from his current insomniac life — writing, drawing and reading — Mualimmak was allowed 10 books a month, which “ran like water” — and just spent being bored.
He watched other prisoners hold open the cell flap where food would come in, just for human interaction. That infraction broke solitary confinement rules and was penalized with more time in the box.
“You just have to have some sort of emotional breakdown and emotional outbreaks are treated with more solitary,” he said.
Since being released last year he can’t sleep for days at time; he’s paranoid, angry and antisocial.
“What has affected me is not only just about sleeping right or having nightmares or having my sleeping patterns totally messed up, which all happens, but it’s about socializing. I just don’t any more,” Mualimmak said. “In the box all you have is your memories. Your brain contorts that, then you start to expound upon that and it leaves you with this distant thought of that memory.”
Now outside of prison, he has a difficult time living beyond those thoughts.
Read the rest at the Queens Chronicle.