Man sliced off his own body parts as a way to cope in America's toughest federal prison ADX Florence

This man’s story from inside America’s top-security prison will have your stomach churning.

Man sliced off his own body parts including his genitals after horrific treatment in prison
© Sherlock Holmes / Village Roadshow Pictures
Man sliced off his own body parts including his genitals after horrific treatment in prison

TW: mentions of extreme self-harm

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Most of us have never been to prison, but you hear horror stories about what life is like for people who get locked up. A study has even been carried out to determine the first names that are mostly to mean that person will wind up in prison. Recently, a former female inmate revealed the daily object that women use for self-pleasure in their cells. However, this man’s story is darker than most: Jack Powers spent 22 of his 33-year sentence in solitary confinement and it drove him to extreme measures.

Powers’ life before prison

Powers admits that he was a ‘bad man’ earlier in life, and reckons his involvement in crime was due to an underdeveloped character. His crimes involved robbing a bank; a job he claims he carried out unarmed but he also faced punishment for possession of a stolen vehicle and illegal firearms in his home.

He was placed in a federal prison in Atlanta but tried to escape - and this led to a much bleaker fate. Powers claimed he tried to run after witnessing a gang murder and being asked to rat out the perpetrators. As a result of his actions, he was transferred to America’s toughest federal prison - which currently houses drug lord El Chapo.

Powers prison experience

He was locked away for 33 years. He spent most of his sentence in this second institution, ADX Florence in Colorado. The prison was once described as ‘worse than death’ by former warden Robert Hood, and ‘not built for humanity’. No one has ever escaped from it.

It was built to keep violent inmates, terrorists, and murderers isolated but has faced a lot of criticism over the years, especially for their treatment of solitary confinement. Amnesty International’s Americas Director, Erika Guevara-Rosas, said in 2014:

You cannot overestimate the devastating impact long periods of solitary confinement can have on the mental and physical well-being of a prisoner. Such harsh treatment is happening as a daily practice in the US, and it is in breach of international law.

Warden Hood explained: ‘I think that being there, day by day, it’s worse than death’.

Power self-harmed as a reaction to isolation

Power had no history of mental health issues when he arrived in prison, but being in isolation for 22 years made him slice off his own body parts. Since then, he has written a book about his experience. He explained:

The self injury was pretty much my overall response to being locked down inside the ADX control until for more than a decade.

In 2012, the U.S Bureau of Prisons faced a lawsuit involving Powers and other inmates. Men had been diagnosed with insanity after their horrific experience staying in the facility.

Powers, for example, suffered multiple self-inflicted horrors: he bit off his own pinky fingers, chopped off his earlobes and sliced off his testicals. If you aren’t already feeling a bit wobbly at the thought, this next one will push you over the edge: he swallowed his toothbrush and cut his abdomen open to retrieve it.

The action against the establishment did get an outcome and some inmates struggling with mental illness were transferred to other facilities, including Powers.

He is now a free man, and his first few hours were captured by The New York Times as part of a documentary. The filmmaker on the project, Pete Quandt, described ‘the deluge of emotion’ Powers felt upon his release. He called his mother and said:

Hello moma, I’m out. I’m just freaking out a little bit because of all this traffic and all the noise and all the busyness on the street and I am just feeling a little bit disoriented.

He is now dedicated to staying on the right side of the law and working towards justice reform.

Read more:

Fellow prison inmate threatened to steal this woman's husband: 'Nobody messed with me again'

The US rumoured to use brand new execution method on a death-row prisoner

The grim reality of getting your period in prison revealed by former inmate

Sources used:

Daily Star: 'I bit off pinky fingers and severed my genitals in America's toughest jail – but survived'

Howstuffworks: 'The Alcatraz of the Rockies': Why No One Ever Escapes From ADX Florence

Man killed two women and sexually abused bodies in mortuaries Man killed two women and sexually abused bodies in mortuaries