In this week's CW cover story on the plight of four mentally ill inmates in solitary confinement, one voice is absent: Cameron Payne. Just as the story was going to press, a letter arrived from another inmate in the form of an interview with the 29-year-old.
Payne suffered a traumatic brain injury following a motorcycle crash. A number of inmates contacted his parents and civil-rights groups after he was sent to the maximum security wing of the prison, citing concerns that Payne, imprisoned for aggravated assault, was being victimized by manipulative inmates and guards.
Uinta 1 inmate Carl Winfield describes himself as a "jailhouse lawyer." Using the questions I'd sent to Payne, he interviewed Payne while he stood at his cell door and Payne was on his one-hour recreational break, which he gets every other day from his single cell.
The questions I asked dealt with his life before prison, the charge, conviction and judge's order that led to his imprisonment and his experiences since being incarcerated, notably his time in "max."
While the answers Payne gave Winfield were largely unintelligible, offering just fragments of the facts Payne's parents, brother and court documents had already provided, they offered their own flavor of his suffering in lockdown.
Payne told Winfield through his cell door that he wanted to see his parents. He also wants to see several guards charged "with murder" for slamming his head against the floor, kneeing him in the face and knocking out a tooth.Winfield writes that Payne's head and face are "visibly damaged."
Winfield notes that when he writes down the word "inaudible, "Payne is talking but its like gibberish, you can't understand it." Much of Payne's answers, Winfield writes, were inaudible. He had to repeatedly ask Payne "to calm down, to try to remember," he wrote. On several occasions, Payne simply screamed, "I don't know!"