Letter from Josh O’Connor: solitary confinement, food access, and being Native in prison

The following is excerpted from a letter sent to us a Prison Health News reader, published with his permission.

My name is Josh O’Connor.  I’m 20 years old and serving a 22 yr sentence for a crime I committed at 17 years old.  I’m Native American and a vegan. 

I’m in solitary for a fight I got into and have been here for 4 months and was told I would be forced to stay in solitary confinement for the next 6-8 months.    I fear the mental/physical detrimental effects being in solitary confinement for so long and how I may suffer permanent health effects.   I have met many inmates who have spent years – 7, 10, and even up to 20 in solitary confinement and you can easily see the adverse/detrimental deterioration of their health.  Many have had insufficient brain activity to communicate with others not to mention get a job, and you can see many don’t get enough nutrients, because of the lack of sun/vitamins, which makes us very sick.  I hope something will be done soon regarding limiting or abolishing solitary confinement.  

Continue reading “Letter from Josh O’Connor: solitary confinement, food access, and being Native in prison”

Healthy Eating: Non-Diet Hacks and Tips

By Leo Cardez

From PHN Issue 41, Winter 2020

At Prison Health News, we try to avoid talking about diets, in part to be accepting of all body types, and also because changing eating patterns is more healthy than dieting. I’m going to focus on healthy eating tips you can use in almost any prison. Some might work for you, and others might work for other readers, so don’t feel like you need to try them all.

  1. Water is your friend. Drink a cup of water before you walk to chow, another during your meal, and another after. Doing this can fill you up, help with digestion, and help clean your teeth.
  2. Slow down. Eat mindfully. Focus and enjoy the meal. Chew your food at least five times before swallowing. Try eating vegetables and protein first off your tray.
  3. It may help to keep a food journal and write down everything you eat, as long as this doesn’t increase your stress. The idea is that being more aware of everything you’re eating will help you get more control over what you are eating.
  4. Here’s another tip that may work well for some of us but not for others: Create a daily meal and snack schedule to plan what you will eat. Stick to it.
  5. Find a healthy eating buddy to hold each other accountable and for support and encouragement.
  6. Try to eat the opposite of traditional meal portions throughout the day. Have a large breakfast, reasonable lunch, and smaller dinner.
  7. Prepare your cell-made snacks and meals in advance. For example, if you plan to have a snack or meal later that day, set them aside in the morning.
  8. Some people find it helpful to eat all their meals in an 8-to-10-hour window, not eating the other 14 to 16 hours each day. This is often referred to as intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting, or limiting your eating to certain windows, draws on 20 years of medical research and literature, encompassing a large number of studies, and has been proven to be safe, effective, and highly beneficial. It’s been associated with longer life span, weight loss, maintaining a healthy weight, and may help prevent cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s.
  9. Create small daily goals, and start the day with personal affirmations. For example, “Today, just today, I won’t eat any bread or processed sugar.” Review this every morning and mix it up.
Continue reading “Healthy Eating: Non-Diet Hacks and Tips”

Second issue of Turn It Up! prison health magazine now available

Our sister publication, Turn It Up! Staying Strong Inside, has just released its second issue! This is a beautiful, detailed and comprehensive resource for people in prison about how to survive, thrive and advocate for their health. Turn It Up! is published by the SERO Project.

You can read it online here and order a copy for your loved one in prison here.

Visit TheBody for a wonderful interview with the editors.

Taking Care of Yourself When You Have Hepatitis C

by Karon Hicks and Seth Lamming

From PHN Issue 39, Winter/Spring 2019

Hepatitis C is a disease of the liver that is caused by a virus spread through blood. It is most commonly transmitted through shared needles or other equipment during injection drug use. You can also get hep C by being tattooed or pierced in prison or using other people’s personal care items like razors that may have infected blood on them. The risk for hep C transmission through sexual contact is low, but the risk increases if you have HIV, multiple partners, or a sexually transmitted illness. In general, anyone who has ever injected drugs, had a blood transfusion before 1992, or was born between 1945 and 1965 should request testing for hepatitis C. Continue reading “Taking Care of Yourself When You Have Hepatitis C”

Hepatitis A and B

By Arielle Horowitz

From PHN Issue 37, Summer 2018

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a virus that can make it harder for your liver to work. You can get hepatitis A from food or water contaminated with fecal matter (poop), being near someone who has hepatitis A, or having sex with someone who has hepatitis A. It is not spread by sneezing or coughing. Washing your hands often, especially after using the toilet, may help you avoid getting hepatitis A. You can also prevent it by getting a hepatitis A vaccination. It is important to speak to your doctor to be sure that you are properly vaccinated, as everyone’s vaccination needs and effectiveness can be different. Continue reading “Hepatitis A and B”

How to Avoid Food Poisoning

By Sarah Frankl

From PHN Issue 36, Spring 2018

Foodborne illnesses can be painful and serious. Symptoms can include vomiting, diarrhea, fever and aches. Even if you eat bad food and end up vomiting (or having diarrhea) later in the day, some of the microbes that made the food bad can stay in the gut and continue to cause health problems. Although food poisoning symptoms usually last a few days, some foodborne illnesses can cause more serious health issues that can last for longer. Continue reading “How to Avoid Food Poisoning”

Nutrition Tips from Our Readers

From PHN Issue 35, Winter 2018

Preparing your own meals from items you purchase from commissary allows you to control what you’re putting into your meals and pay attention to the contents. Just as our body must consume a particular number of calories, it must also consume vitamins. Unfortunately, in most cases, kitchens overcook the vegetables and its extracting the vitamins we need. To make up for this, you can eat fruit…Regardless of what you eat, it’s good to drink water throughout the day in order for the body to function properly. Drinking water will help you digest food properly. Continue reading “Nutrition Tips from Our Readers”

Beat the Winter Blues

By Leo Cardez

From PHN Issue 34, Fall 2017

As the winter approaches, I find myself getting tired and moody. It starts as early as September and gets really bad in January. Although I’ve never been officially diagnosed, I’m sure I suffer from some degree of SAD (seasonal affective disorder). As I look around my cell block, I don’t think I’m the only one. The good news is I’ve found that some small tweaks to my daily routine (tips and tricks) can help keep my spirits high. Continue reading “Beat the Winter Blues”

Managing Diabetes

by Julie Carney

From PHN Issue 33, Summer 2017

Diabetes is a group of diseases caused by too much sugar, or glucose, in the blood. Our bodies have a hormone, insulin, which is produced by our pancreas, that helps move glucose out of the blood and into our cells. In diabetes, less glucose enters into the cells, and instead it builds up in the blood, causing high blood sugar. In Type 1 diabetes, the body makes no insulin. In Type 2 diabetes, the body does not make enough insulin or can’t use it well. In Gestational diabetes, a person gets diabetes when they are pregnant, increasing their risk of Type 2 diabetes after the pregnancy. Continue reading “Managing Diabetes”