In this episode, we share a phone call and three short essays from Timothy Smith. Smith spoke to us from inside Cook County Jail, the most recent place he has been held over ten years in custody. Timothy has been at a several institutions around Illinois, and describes entering prison and specifically Menard Correctional Center. He describes solitary confinement and repercussions for acting out in prison- specifically in response to racist behavior from other inmates and guards. For instance, you’ll hear him describe a moment where a correctional officer made monkey sounds over the intercom, or a neighboring prisoner giving him a copy of Mein Kampf– both prompting a reaction from Smith.
As we heard in the past two episodes, which covered the rise of the Nation of Islam in prisons during and after the Civil Rights Movement, prison is often a space for politicization. Smith describes his own political evolution, including telling us about time he first came across a zine, which was written by a prisoner in a different facility, and how that affected him.
We end with three short essays that Smith wrote and sent to us. As someone who is clearly affected by the power of others’ words, it feels appropriate to close the episode with things Smith himself has written while on the inside. We’ll hear more from Smith in future episodes, as he describes conditions in Cook County Jail and other issues he has faced during his time on the inside.