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Abu Ghraib in America

Updated on August 28, 2016

Already a trippy place

In February of 2013 I had been dealing with some issues that had been bothering me for a while and one night in particular I was in a bad mood thinking about a tragic event from my past, my stepmom had mentioned that someone needed to spiff up the downstairs bathroom. I didn't realize that she was referring to me in particular until she suddenly raised her voice at me while I was getting ready to make something to eat. Me being already in a bad mood, I wound up throwing the food back in the freezer and going back upstairs. I wound up threatening her in a text message so she called the police. They come into my room and slap the cuffs on and they take me on over to ETS on County Farm Road in Riverside. Me and the 2 cops wait in the hallway for maybe 10 minutes and a nurse finally comes and she opens the door. “We’ll take him from here. Johnathan, you're 3 years early, we weren’t expecting you until 2016.” I'll have to explain why that was said later on in a different chapter.

I waited in the lobby for a few hours and finally got tired of waiting so I went up to the counter. “Can I please just get my stuff and get outta here? This is seriously just a waste of my time.” I said. The nurse then asked me rudely, “Do you want to talk to a pastor? Because there are none here.”, “No, I just wanna get my stuff and go home.” I said. “You have to talk to the nurse first, now go sit down!” A guy on a reclining chair looked up and said, “Ey dude just listen to them because they’ll just give you a shot if you don’t and then they’ll never let you go. That’s what happened to me once.” So I just go back and sit down at the table next to a deck of cards laying there. I fiddle around with the deck and take out the ace of spades and decide that its now mine, so I took it and put it in my back pocket.

Finally they take me to my room. A guy who suffered from schizophrenia who was assigned to the same room thought that he was Elvis Presley. He comes in and talks about some of the things he was interested in and winds up randomly saying, “I’m Elvis… Elvis Presley. My first name is Elvis, my middle name is Elvis Presley and my last name is Presley.” So I guess his full name was, Elvis Elvis Presley Presley. Almost sounds like a skipping CD... I’m laying there in my bed like yeah whatever dude. These two nurses come in and tell him to leave the room and they then for some odd reason tell me that they weren't there to hurt me. "We aren't the ones who are going to hurt you... THEY will. But we won't.", one of them said as they pointed toward the counter outside and across the way from my room. "But if there is anything that you need just let us know.". They left the room as I wondered what they had meant but quickly dismissed it. I was beginning to get really bored and wanted to get out of there. So I get up and walk out to the common area and run into an intern and ask when I could leave. She said that I had to talk to the doctor first but I didn't care much for that kind of answer so I decided to ask one of the staff behind the counter.

Violations of Human Rights

Before I continue, we all know that there are some really really really really bad people in this world who I think just don't need to exist and definitely don't have any business working at a place of hospitality of any sort. So I walked up to the counter, which stood maybe about 5 feet high, and I ask to make a phone call. None of the staff answered me and just ignored my presence altogether. So I just leaned up against the counter and waited for them to notice me. As I’m waiting for their assistance, I couldn’t help but notice, the commotion going on in the office that was located inside a room behind the counter.

There was a woman in there who was clearly crying in pain along with a female voice who was speaking to her harshly as I could hear hard thumping on some sort of surface. “Keep your hand right there! Why would you think something like that about someone!?". There was a short pause as I could hear the victim blubbering. "Are you going to tell me?... ANGELA! AM I GOING TO HAVE TO PULL ANOTHER NAIL?! THERE ARE ONLY 4 LEFT!” The voice shouted sternly. “No! Just let me go!” the woman cried. “Your not going anywhere! Now why would you think that about her? This country already has enough crazy people running around, and your only making it worse.” I then heard this small metallic “click”. The woman screamed as I could hear the clanking of her nail being dropped into a tin tray. This particular scream was loud enough to arouse a staffs attention who was sitting there going through what appeared to be some kind of log. I'm standing there staring into the doorway of the room as she gives a quick glance over her shoulder and quickly slams the door to it. She then glances up at me with this scolding and menacing look, "Go sit down or you're going to be next!!!".

I didn't know what to think or even know how to process what it was that I had just witnessed so without saying a word, I quickly scurried back to my room, sat on the edge of my bed... thought for a moment and began weeping. I guess witnessing something of this nature that you only see happen in movies traumatized me quite a bit. Being inside a locked down facility with no way out besides being authorized to leave is uncomfortable enough. But adding what I had just experienced kind of breaks the threshold. Now, I didn't get an actual visual of the interrogation but I was close enough to it, to hear it going on. It wasn't like witnessing a simple fist fight or anything and we've all seen more than one of those no matter how bloody. For some reason it just seemed way outside of the realm when it comes to violence.

Arial view of this small torturous place.
Arial view of this small torturous place. | Source

Analyzing this

Try picturing for a moment, being inside a room with a few people in lab coats. Imagine yourself leaning up against one of the walls of the room, watching a woman in a lab coat sitting at a table with her back facing you with a patient sitting across from her who has a look of despair and physical agony on their face. The woman in the lab coat has a firm hold on the patients arm in one hand, and a pair of forceps in the other. Struggling to keep the patients arm still as shes barking questions and demands at the patient in a stern manner while the patient is blubbering and squirming with red fingertips. Try to really get an actual sense of what it would feel like deep down inside to see something like that or to know that you were only a few feet away while something of this severity was happening to someone. While I was an outpatient at Hope recovery, a couple of the staff sat down with me and spoke about my drinking. Stacy, had said that if I didn't quit drinking that something very bad was going to happen to me. That it would be very scary and very painful. Maybe this was what she was talking about.

I very frequently sit and imagine the visual aspect of this experience even though I only witnessed it by ear. What the patient and interrogator may have looked like. What kind of furnishings and equipment may have been in the room. The smears of blood on the surface of the table along with surgical instruments. I've even thought as far as wondering what the interrogators friends and family might think. How often do things like this happen here? What was the point of it? Why hasn't this facility been compromised and shut down for it yet? It gives me anxiety every time I think about it, so I try not to.

When you watch a scene similar to this from a movie you can watch it with ease and comfort in the safety of your own home. You can still sleep soundly that same night. You don't physically feel anything from it. It's much different when you're actually in the same vicinity and only feet away from this kind of evil taking place. The shock and fear feels almost like a living presence that suddenly enters your body that makes you feel lighter than your usual body weight and makes your legs feel weak. The blood drains from your face and you get slightly lightheaded. It's an experience that's very sobering and unsettling. You can sort of feel it tugging on your soul. It is something that's never going to go away for me. Simple as that.

Meeting my nurse

Sometime later a woman who was my nurse, called my name. I look up and there was a short blonde woman in a lab coat holding a clipboard. She tells me to follow her. We walk down a hallway and she sits down facing a doctor who was this big black guy wearing a suit and glasses, sitting there looking at a folder. "Sit there next to her.", he says briefly as he flips through pages in the folder. So I sit down next to my nurse as she takes my vitals and the doctor starts asking me the basic questions like if I felt sick? If I felt homicidal or suicidal? I said no and didn't even dare bringing up what happened earlier. I figured they were already well aware of it anyway. He asked me about why me and my step mom didn't get along etc. I ask him eagerly when I could go home. He holds up the folder that has an orange sticker with the number 72 on it. He looks at me mischievously and all he says with a foreign accent is, "Seventy-two hour hold". He eventually explained that they didn't know whether or not I was ever going to make it home in spite of the reason for me being there. He then looks down at the folder for a few seconds with a look of hesitation. He finally looks back up at me and asks, "What is a guidon?".

"It's a long spear with a flag on the end of it." I say. He then stares at me with a serious look and says, “You know... you could get into a lot of trouble for talking about this." he says as he motions at the folder. "You could be PERMANENTLY placed somewhere... It would be a very ungodly place. It is a place where you do NOT want to be. Nobody would be able to help you there. You would never get out". He then points at my nurse who is sitting next to me with her left leg over her right. “Do you remember her?”. I look at her as she looks back at me. “Do you remember me at all?” she asks with curiosity. Though I didn't recognize her from anywhere. “She would be your only friend". Completely confused now as to what was really going on, I look at her and she says with her eyebrows raised, along with what sounded like a tone of warning in her voice. “I don’t want to be your friend!... I already have enough friends". If you can't already tell, this was all a threat.

The Doctor finally said that they were going to give me a last chance not to talk about what had happened in my life years earlier. “Honey, please don’t tell.”, my nurse said with slight desperation in her voice. I looked at the doctor who then said, “This conversation never happened... So I’m going to hypnotize you to forget that it took place". Amazingly I do remember the conversation even though it took a couple of months to resurface. I don't remember walking back down the hallway that I walked into but I still remember following my nurse into it.

Later on my nurse comes into my room. Before she enters I hear a male voice behind her say “Tiphani, need any help?” she replies, “No I got it.” She comes in, “Johnathan just so you know, I’m a MSgt in the Marine Corps and I KNOW what you did! You’re my prisoner now! You’d be lucky if I ever let you go home! And if you fuck with me? I'm going to give you a shot! I like giving shots!… lots of them! It'll make you very sick and you’ll puke EVERYWHERE! And I don't care how sick you are! I’ll MAKE you clean it up! Your small to! I don’t have to have a bunch of people hold you down! I’ll hold you down myself!". She steps up to the side of the bed and shouts, "LAY DOWN!!!". Even though I was already laying down with my arms across my forehead watching her rant at me. "Do I have to give you that shot? Because I really want to!”. “You don’t have to give me a shot. I’ll be good. I’m just gonna go to sleep.” I say. She then tells me to not leave my room until she allows me to. She walks out and shuts the door behind her. The hopelessness that I felt was well beyond what I've felt before. My first thought was that I couldn't believe that this was happening to me. That I was probably never going to see my loved ones again. That, that was it.

That about did it for me, so I walked up to the window with it's blinds closed to see if I could make a run for it somehow. I look and notice that there was an additional pane built in, preventing access to the blinds. For a couple of moments I look at the pull cord that has a cone shaped tassel on the end. I give a brief glance at the door to my room, then try peering through the little cracks and openings of the blinds to see which part of the facility I was in. I obviously had no luck of escaping so I sat back down on the bed and continued to think and decided to suck it all up and wait it out. Eventually my parents did come to pick me up which felt like the best thing that ever happened in my life. I sign some papers and me and my parents head over to the facilities pharmacy to pick up my medication. As I'm being handed my medication there was a loud blood gurgling scream down a hallway nearby. My stepmom has this very concerned look and she says, "What's that all about?!", "Lets just go!" I reply anxiously as we exit the building.


Among all the trauma's that I've experienced... I think this is the one that bothers me the most. I still have nightmares regarding my stay at ETS and still think about it often and still worry about "the place that I would never get out of" that the doctor told me about. An interesting fact about my nurse though is while I was living with a friend of mine who was a nurse herself, I told her about my stay and I asked her how to look up a specific person on the nursing database. I entered my nurses first and last name along with the type of license and the result of the search for my nurses came up with nothing. She was nowhere to be found on the National Council of State Boards of Nursing database. She wasn't even certified to be working at the facility at all.


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