I just published a book http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00F0YN9OK but before that, I spent 8 years in solitary confinement at the Colorado State Penitentiary (http://amadmanspathtoreason.com/2013/07/11/lonely-prisoners/) was friends with Evan Ebel (http://amadmanspathtoreason.com/2013/07/15/my-interview-with-news/) and was on the Huffington Post Live for a segment on the psychological effects of solitary confinement on the mentally ill (http://live.huffingtonpost.com/r/segment/mental-illness-and-solitary-confinement-/5212624b78c90a63740006a9.

During that time I was forced to figure out internal happiness or self-destruct and now I bring those lessons to others through my blog http://amadmanspathtoreason.com/blog/ and life coaching.

I also breed a rare dog and just had our first litter. I'm making up for the past and helping others, life is great.

Don't be shy, feel free to ask me anything.

Proof: I'll now put on Twitter about my AMA https://twitter.com/RyanPettigrew3

Comments: 346 • Responses: 99  • Date: 

omgiTzGeneric26 karma

A weird question, but how awkward was masturbating, knowing you we're being watched?

RyanPettigrew23 karma

The cameras weren't in the rooms so I wasn't being watched at that moment. The cameras were in the pods on the outside of the cell doors.

rhetoricjams5 karma

What was it like knowing you were being heard?

RyanPettigrew7 karma

It just made me paranoid so I did a lot of sign language to other the guys to avoid being heard.

rhetoricjams9 karma

I'm sorry, you mis-understood my question. May I rephrase: What was it like knowing you were being heard while masturbating?

RyanPettigrew17 karma

Don't care if they listened.

SARD0NICUS15 karma

So I read what you did, but why is it worth 8 years in solitary confinement? I understand intimidating witnesses is illegal, but I don't see how the punishment fits the crime.

RyanPettigrew30 karma

I received a 10 year sentence for the intimidation but it wasn't even really that. I was a drug dealer that got robbed. The guy who robbed me had a girlfriend who set him up for us to confront him. During the confrontation, my brother stabbed him. I made the victim's girlfriend, who set him up, give a false story so her and my brother wouldn't get into trouble.

I got 8 years in solitary confinement for beating up a rapist while in prison.

I agree, my punishment was very excessive but I got through it and am a better man because I chose to better myself despite the system's attempt to prevent that.

sackfullofsorrys8 karma

How bad did you "beat him up"? I have to be honest, I think there may be a bit more to the story than you're sharing.
How long were you sentenced to jail for? It was for robbing and stabbing someone, right? I hope you've learnt your lesson, and will stay on the right side of the tracks from now on. Stabbing ain't nice.

RyanPettigrew8 karma

It wasn't that bad of a beating. He pissed blood but we didn't get caught for a week and his injuries had healed. The fact that it was gang related was the main reason they put me in solitary so long. Then they kept me there for refusing to snitch.

My sentence was for 10 years because some dude tried to rob me and my brother stabbed him. I told the witnesses and victim to give a false story so my brother and others wouldn't get into trouble.

I've been out for a year, if I was going back to all that then I would've already done it.

rhetoricjams1 karma

Did you really get 8 years for simply beating up one rapist? Is there someone to corroborate your story ?

RyanPettigrew7 karma

I got 10 years in prison for intimidating witnesses but beat up a rapist while in prison, which got me sent to solitary confinement for 8 years. My story is very well known and I'm in the courts suing over this so it's not like there's any question to it.

Ilostmystripes12 karma

Any advice for someone who has been released from prison for drug charges? My younger brother has been and out of jail and programs for drugs and other things drugs have made him do since the day he turned 18, he is now 24. He has run our family into the ground financially, stolen from us, broken our trust, and is so dependent on my father to help out that we can't go on vacation. What's the best way to encourage someone like him to better himself and get back on the right track?

RyanPettigrew32 karma

I'm real blunt so I apologize in advance. The ONLY way to help him is to let him hit rock bottom, otherwise you're enabling him. Once he hits rock bottom, he can choose better paths or choose to crumble.

Catastrophic_Orgasm7 karma

I am in a similar situation as Ilostmystripes, and I know what you are saying is 100% is correct, but fuck it's painful!

RyanPettigrew12 karma

The right answers aren't easy and that's why they're rarely done.

schlem3 karma

This is painful, but true. You must let him get to a point where he wants to be helped, otherwise all you are doing is supporting his habit.

RyanPettigrew2 karma

Exactly. That was what happened to happen to me.

TongueDartTheFartBox2 karma

the truth hurts sometimes

RyanPettigrew3 karma

Unfortunately that's true

TenPoundNope12 karma

Do you feel you've been rehabilitated?

RyanPettigrew14 karma

I feel that I rehabilitated myself despite their every effort to prevent that. I'll never be perfect or one of society's blind followers but I'm legit in my growth.

LifeGoesOnbro8 karma

Advice you would give to someone going to prison for the first time?

RyanPettigrew35 karma

Mind your own business. Be respectful but defend yourself when disrespected. Study so you are better than when you went in.

TheSecondToLastDon7 karma

Do you smoke marijuana?

RyanPettigrew5 karma

I will when I get off of parole since its legal here.

Pewpbawlz7 karma

How did you deal with being in solitary confinement emotionally? Was there any point where you became hopeless or were you more content with what you had?

RyanPettigrew12 karma

After 6 months in there, I completely adapted to it and that's why I had all kinds of issues when I got back out. It became normal but I never became hopeless, just consumed with hatred for a period of time that I had to deal with

tishstar7 karma

Why were you put in sol. confinement?

RyanPettigrew22 karma

I was young and impressionable when I went to prison, getting involved in all the wrong things: prison gangs and hustling. I ended up beating up a rapist that was trying to hang out with us.

corderbollie2 karma


RyanPettigrew20 karma

I feel that I definitely deserved punishment but 8 years in solitary confinement was way excessive, especially when they put me through 24 hours of torture.

stay_black6 karma

The rapist had friends high up I see.

RyanPettigrew5 karma

No, they just protect them all.

Moose413 karma

What do you mean 24 hours of torture?

RyanPettigrew23 karma

At one point I was placed in a cold cell that had piss and puke on the floor without clothing, bedding, hygiene or cleaning supplies. They shackled my bare ankles despite me having no access to anyone and I had to work out to stay warm so they dug deep into my ankles. Eventually I had to take a bowel movement where they refused to give me toilet paper or soap, then made me eat two meals with my hands with feces on me.

They employed sleeping deprivation techniques on me that were labeled torture by the Geneva Convention and kept the cell so cold that I had to exercise for the entire 24 hours just to keep warm.

Sulungskwa7 karma

All immature jokes aside, was prison rape seriously a visible issue outside of solitary confinement? How often were inmates able to get away with something like rape or assault without getting caught by the prison guards?

RyanPettigrew30 karma

It wasn't really an issue in Colorado because there were enough gay dudes giving it up willingly.

Slothsandbishops6 karma

What is a day in sol. Confinement like exactly? Sorry if already asked

RyanPettigrew19 karma

Everyday is monotonous. All morning I would study and write. During the afternoon I would work out and meditate. At night, I would read and watch t.v. We also talked to each other a lot behind the doors, through vents and through toilets.

Jisamaniac4 karma

Through toilets?!?! Interesting. Can you explain this further?

RyanPettigrew11 karma

If we take the water out of a toilet bowl and roll up a manila envelope, we can talk through the plumbing. We also would send messages via fishing lines down the toilet. I'd have a message tied to a string and would flush. The guy below me would flush his string with a weight on it and they'd wrap around each other. Then we could pass back and forth.

Sir-Dingle-Berry5 karma

Not being funny but that is fairly amazing, do you think you would have coped without any communication?

RyanPettigrew5 karma

I think I would have lost it completely if I was so isolated that I couldn't even talk to anyone.

greensky2656 karma


RyanPettigrew12 karma

We could get mail and receiving it was one of the few things we had to look forward to on a daily basis.

notathrowaway62 karma

Who wrote to you? Any random people? Or does that kind of thing only happen for those on death row?

RyanPettigrew11 karma

Friends and family wrote me. Also I kept in contact with prison reform advocates like Susan Greene.

bencordoza5 karma

Thing that most amazed you when you got out?

RyanPettigrew15 karma

I was expecting a lot more people to look down on me, which they did more at first, but less often after I did so well.

jjeezy5 karma

How often did you jerk off in solitary?

RyanPettigrew13 karma

Every few days. When you know that you can't get sex, it doesn't cross your mind as much.

Frajer4 karma

How closely watched are you in solitary confinement?

RyanPettigrew8 karma

There's cameras in the pods so they can watch us and speakers in the cells that they give them a chance to listen in on us.

Timmyj014 karma

What type of interaction, if any, did you have with prison guards or was solitary absolutely solitary?

RyanPettigrew6 karma

They would hand me food trays through the tray slot and cuff me up to take me to the showers but that's it.

Timmyj012 karma

That's rough. You sound like you made the very best of a bad situation though.

RyanPettigrew15 karma

I put myself there and learned from the situation. It caused many issues that are permanent but I chose not to let them break me.

whoamiamwho3 karma

I know it's a bit of a cliché question, but I might as well ask.

Was there anything that surprised you when you got out of prison? Any major differences you had to get used to?

RyanPettigrew6 karma

Technology was very overwhelming.

randomspamname3 karma

What was there/did you do in solitary confinement?

RyanPettigrew13 karma

I would spend my mornings studying business, philosophy, psychology and real estate investing. Then I would write my letters, book and essay. I would meditate and exercise in the afternoon and watch tv or read at night.

Pewpbawlz3 karma

Well, that's more than I do on an average day. I'd imagine it got pretty repetitive after awhile though. Was there anything you had to look forward to during that time or was it the same routine every day?

RyanPettigrew6 karma

Same routine everyday besides we got mail during the week.

li_za3 karma

do you think prison can really help change a person? You said you got better by self teaching and time but did the system help you out at all?

RyanPettigrew18 karma

The system didn't even try to help me because the more of us that get out to do well, the less funding they get and less jobs available.

I can't make someone better but can teach him/her what they need to know if they're willing to do the work.

msm24853 karma

It's a shame they tried to sell the prision system as "rehabilitation" but what rehabiliation really goes on in the system? Like you, most I see come out are worse for the wear. Congrats to you to making good choices for yourself, no questions, just wish you well in life!

RyanPettigrew3 karma


ggelly033 karma

1)Were you allowed to speak to a psychologist or counselor while in confinement?

If so, did you find them to be empathic with you or were they judgmental in any way?

If not, do you wish you had been allowed/given access to one?

2) What was the hardest part about the experience psychologically?

You sound like an extremely insightful individual and I find your ability to carry on very inspiring! I hope that you are able to connect with people who won't make harsh judgments about you based on your past.

RyanPettigrew15 karma

Once a month the psychologists would come to our cell doors to see if we were alright but most of us wouldn't talk to them in front of the others.

Once every few months, I was called down to do visits with mental health staff. Some were very good but they never lasted long since they were ridiculed for caring about us by the guards and other mental health workers. Most guards, medical staff and mental health staff looked at us as sub-human so they didn't care to help us.

Getting out from there was the worst part. I couldn't sleep for a week, I had major panic attacks and freaked out around people. I didn't even know when eye contact or touch was appropriate. I'm still very anti-social but doing better. I don't think I'll ever be as social as I once was.

Thanks a lot

MidgardDragon9 karma

they were ridiculed for caring about us by the guards and other mental health workers

Wow, fuck them. No wonder so many people who get out go back in. That's bullshit (of them)

RyanPettigrew2 karma

Prison is all about us versus them on both sides. Most prisoners despise all staff and most staff despise all inmates. Few can rise above that but get ridiculed on both sides for "selling out"

Fennexx3 karma

It is sad to hear about the mental health staff being ridiculed just because they cared for you. I know that if I would be working with people who have been sentenced, that I would still care about them. But how did you feel when you noticed they cared? How did it feel at first and did this feeling changed througout the 8 years? And what kind of effect did that feeling have on yourself, on your personal evolution you went trhough during that time?

Ow and what dogs do you breed? I just love animals.

RyanPettigrew3 karma

The few who cared changed my entire perception of the system. I went from despising them all to understanding that there's good, bad and those who follow whoever they're around. I treat each accordingly. It's similar to people who think everyone who has committed a crime is a piece of crap until they see stories like mine.

We breed Presa Canarios. http://www.canarianbullkennel.com/

ggelly032 karma

I am really sad to hear that. You should always be given a private room to meet confidentially with the psychologist and I would hope that those that go into mental health would be strong enough to ignore ridicule for the sake of the client. I know that's an idealistic view, but why even bother becoming a counselor if you don't want to help. I've been looked at as sub-human by some psychologists, and it's really disheartening to see that not all of them are capable of empathizing with others. After all, it's their job!

If I were your psychologist (in training), I would have tried to really understand and be helpful. I know this wont change anything, but not all mental health workers are like that. I hope you can give us another chance and find one that will be on your side and help you overcome the beyond difficult experiences you've had.

RyanPettigrew1 karma

I know there are many good mental health workers, just the prison system itself prevents them from doing their job.

ArtichokeOwl1 karma

This is crazy!! Shouldn't this violate HIPA? It's absurd that you didn't get to speak to a mental health professional in private.

RyanPettigrew2 karma

I could talk to them sometimes in private but that wasn't as frequent as any treatment plan would dictate. They have few staff compared to the mental health need and they're overwhelmed. Prison systems don't care about what they violate because most inmates are too ignorant to hold them accountable and most citizens want them to suffer.

magaramos3 karma

Hello. Do you think that there should be more laws to control the prisoners inside prisons? if so, what would they be? and wich laws do you consider most important? I really appreciate you taking the time to answer these questions! is really a good thing, you are helping :)

RyanPettigrew14 karma

Rules don't control, they allow more punishments that don't help the problem. Prison is violent and until we implement a system like I outlined in this blog post http://amadmanspathtoreason.com/2013/07/30/prison-recidivism-solution/ then it'll always be violent. Prison would get less violent with hope not more punishment.

I only agree with laws that punish those who violate the rights of others via force like assault, murder, sex crimes, thefts, etc

truelie3 karma

Was there anyone to talk to you daily.

Initially how difficult was it being in solitary confinement.

Who did you wish to meet as soon as you had serve your time

RyanPettigrew6 karma

We could talk to others through the toilet, vents and doors so I had people to talk to but not face to face.

The first six months was REALLY tough. The walls would close in on me and I had severe panic attacks. Then you get used to it and the real problems start.

I was around all the worst of the worst, the legends and death row so there wasn't anyone I still wanted to meet.

exitheone3 karma

Why did you beat up that rapist and did you ever think about whether it hindered his rehabilitation (if that is possible)?

RyanPettigrew3 karma

There's rules in prison that the convicts live by, one of which being that we don't associate with sex offenders. He was trying to join our prison gang despite knowing that we do background checks and don't associate with sex offenders. When his sex case came out, we beat him up. He could've chosen to fly under the radar but he put himself in that situation.

If anything, it helps his rehab because the worse off they live in there, the more they'll control their urges when they get out.

CuddlePhysh2 karma

How do you do background checks in prison?

RyanPettigrew3 karma

Prisoners all have their paperwork concerning their cases so we look at that and write everyone they claim to know in the system as references.

exitheone2 karma

I of course have no information about the situation and no experience in that regard, but to me, sex offenders are like any other impulse control/psychological disorder. Sure, what they did was horrible, but alienating them even more and showing them that they really are outcasts of society just drives them more into the corner. In my opinion sex offenders, like other offenders with mental issues deserve at least a chance of therapy and resocialization. Beating them up without any reasoning except "you did something bad in the past", without the chance to even prove his willingness to change, seems just wrong to me.

RyanPettigrew2 karma

Sex offenders get treatment and this would be more effective if they were kept in their own prisons where they could focus on the treatment they needed all the time. When we mix everyone, convict rules take over.

No matter how much treatment you give them, they still are attracted to rape or children. That doesn't change. Some may learn to control it but sexual repression is always released in bad ways.

ETpownhome3 karma

I honestly thought that solitary confinement was you just sit in a room all day every day, with nothing to do. Just complete emptiness and boredom. I'm glad you got to at least read letters and books. Thanks for doing this, I hope your life is well.

RyanPettigrew2 karma

I would've preferred to be locked in there with updated books rather than tv but glad it wasn't the old school solitary where I sat in the dark for 8 years. That would've been a nightmare.

ETpownhome1 karma

Seriously. That would truly drive a person to the end.

RyanPettigrew3 karma

I couldn't have done it

Barrett_3 karma

Are there any books you read that you can recommend? And was there anything on TV that you liked watching?

RyanPettigrew13 karma

Books: 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene 50th Law by Robert Greene Anything by Robert Kiyosaki and Ayn Rand How to win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie Think and Grow Rich by Napolean Hill Graphology by Michael Watts

I watched shows at night like: Suits Big Brother Parenthood.

As sad as it is, that was how I would try to learn how people dealt with each other in the free world.

McTash2 karma

What is your opinion on privatized prisons? Do you think that the motive for profit further dehumanizes inmates (more so than a state/federal-run prison)?

RyanPettigrew2 karma

Private prisons are so corrupt its crazy but more humane than state prisons. They don't want all the problems since riots would cause unnecessary expenses and they sell more luxurious products to us for more profits.

In a perfect world, the only crimes that would remain would be the application of force (sex crimes, assault, murder, theft, etc) and they would go to private prisons that would have to compete against each other in rehabilitation strategies.

McTash2 karma

Such an interesting perspective, thank you! I didn't even think about the cost of liability. I wrote my thesis in college about how prison privatization contributes to the prison industrial complex. Much of it was about the implications of making a profit off of people. I really appreciate your AMA and highly value your perspective. It's absolutely incredible that you survived 8 years of solitary. Major major props to defeating the system and dedicating your life to helping others. Keep sharing your story - it makes a difference!

RyanPettigrew2 karma

Thank you for the intellectual conversation

gingershells2 karma


RyanPettigrew1 karma

I'm sorry to hear about how you have gone through the system yourself, it's insane how they violate rights at every level.

I have a huge support system with my family and friends, who basically supported me while I regained my sanity.

I used to be very social but now I'm kind of a hermit, anti-social and preferring to stay at home. They say that's one of the side effects from solitary confinement and I think it's permanent.

I don't receive any mental health treatment, I deal with my issues without medication and my own way: meditation and exercise.

My first week I couldn't eat or sleep, I was having panic attacks, I cried for every petty positive thing since I wasn't prepared to deal with positive emotions and I panicked around people.

For the next few months, the panic attacks persisted and I struggled around people. It wasn't for about six months that I felt comfortable out here.

DamienAustin2 karma

What food did you crave the most inside and what was your first meal as a released man?

RyanPettigrew12 karma

Mexican food and steak. My first meal was breakfast at VIllage Inn with my mom and brother when they came to pick me up

lupinlover3102 karma

What was your reunion with your mom and your brother like?

RyanPettigrew9 karma

Overwhelming. I wrote a blog post about it and that's the best way to feel what I felt. http://amadmanspathtoreason.com/2013/07/11/freedom/

lupinlover3102 karma

That was beautiful...:-). Thank you for sharing it!

RyanPettigrew5 karma

Thank you

drinking4life1 karma

How the hell did they justify eight years in solitary, and what in the world did you do all day?

RyanPettigrew5 karma

The Colorado system could keep us in solitary confinement just for being gang members who refused to snitch. I would study, meditate, write, watch tv, exercise and read.

chefboyrdeuce1 karma

About the meditation...

How did you learn to meditate, and what method of meditation did you practice while incarcerated? What benefits did it provide you while incarcerated?

RyanPettigrew2 karma

I read a book about it and started doing it. I do mindfulness meditation and still do it every day.

The benefits it provides is clear thinking since I'm not stressed out; where stress releases chemicals that hinder effective cognitive functioning. With less stress, I feel better physically and am more at peace. It stopped my panic attacks and keeps me balanced.

chefboyrdeuce1 karma


I also noticed that on your twitter you mentioned recently flipping a house. Is that something you think you can teach me how to do?

RyanPettigrew1 karma

I'm part of the Investment Community of the Rockies and right now I flip contracts until I can secure hard money loans to flip homes or buy and hold. Different states have different rules and markets. All I do is find the deals, get them under contract and assign the contract.

Jaysethemedic1 karma

Hi, and thanks for the AMA.

What degrees if any did you earn while incarcerated?

If you did get a lot of education, was it worth the time cost? I have an MLS, and am up to my ears in debt.

I really hate to play the devil's advocate, but should convicts really be able to receive free education while the rest of us struggle with debt for the majority of our lives?

RyanPettigrew14 karma

That's the thing, I was denied an education. I only have a GED. They refused to let me get correspondence courses even when my family wanted to pay for them.

My opinion on the issue is this: unless prisoners learn another way to make money lawfully, they'll continue to commit crime and threaten citizens. I'm dead against the free ride but it's not free when increasing public safety. Here's my idea http://amadmanspathtoreason.com/2013/07/30/prison-recidivism-solution/

ReflexAB1 karma

Have you ever watched the first season of prison break? I know it's probably not remotely similar, but any similarities at all? Major differences?

RyanPettigrew3 karma

I saw the first season and it was more for entertainment, we thought it was a joke. Maybe that's how it is in other systems but if you want realistic stories then read Edward Bunker books, a few became movies or my friend Glenn Langohr. http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00571NY5A

One thing that happens a lot is female staff falling in love with prisoners.

ReflexAB2 karma

Really? Wow... Thats interesting, definitely not a similarity I would have thought. And were you in prison with you brother?

RyanPettigrew3 karma

My brother did time in other prisons that were lower security.

XxFucK_YoUxX1 karma

He did the crime but he got put in lower security prisons? All you did was intimitate someone, he stapped someone... Was it because you beat up the rapist that you were in a higher security prison?

RyanPettigrew3 karma

I was already in high security when I beat that rapist up but got kicked out of a medium security prison prior to that for misbehaving. I pretty much gave up on life and went all out.

Swebaron1 karma

My friend is heavily involved with the NY campaign for alternatives to isolated confinement. http://nycaic.org/ This might be of interest to you. Going to tell him about this AMA (not sure he's on reddit yet). I found /r/prisonreform today, any other good subreddits that I could suggest to him?

RyanPettigrew2 karma

I only found that one subreddit and it's not very popular. Quora has a few that you may like. https://www.quora.com/Solitary-Confinement and https://www.quora.com/search?q=prisons

I'll check out that link. Thanks

TheAnimalHD1 karma

We're you allowed to watch anything on tv or were their special stations only you could get

RyanPettigrew3 karma

We had a few stations that we could watch.

jamesleeee1 karma

What went through your mind right after you knew you were sentenced to ten years?

RyanPettigrew2 karma

I just gave up on freedom and caring about anything

tattoohunting1 karma

You mentioned 24 hours of torture -- are you allowed to disclose what happened?

RyanPettigrew11 karma

I'm actually suing over this but I can talk about it. I was taken to a cold cell without clothing, bedding, hygiene or anything. They put shackles on my bare ankles for the first four hours even though I had no access to anyone and they dug into my ankles bad enough to make me bleed. There was puke and piss on the floor.

It was so cold that I had to exercise for the entire 24 hours to keep warm then when I took a bowel movement, they refused to give me toilet paper or soap, then forced me to eat two meals with my hands. Then they employed sleep deprivation techniques that has been labeled torture by the Geneva Convention.

tattoohunting2 karma

It might be naive of me to ask but are things like this common in prison?

RyanPettigrew10 karma

Very common. I saw them shock someone in a diabetic coma, beat up many inmates, turn off our water for days, etc. It's all about provoking us to act up so they can justify our being in there for so long.

phil82480 karma

I was a prison medical provider for 9 years. This is the first post that sounds like bullshit to me. I'm sorry but Colorado has a better reputation than most states in how they treat prisoners. I'm not saying it impossible, but if this did happen you did something to piss off someone high up in the chain of command. But you'd leave that part of the story out to garner sympathy. This type of treatment, even in bad state prison systems, does not happen in a vacuum. Generally if you do as your told you'll be treated in a civil manner. Yes, you are sub human to staff but they won't go out of their way to hurt you, unless you've disrespected them in some way. So, what did you do to piss them off?

RyanPettigrew4 karma

I'm actually friends with an ex prison guard, mental health worker and prison nurse from the prison I was at who all quit because of the way they were supposed to treat us. In fact, one just bought a dog from us and brought her whole family up here, telling them how low key I was in there and how twisted the culture was in there on the staff side.

My question is this: if we're sub-human to you in there, isn't it a violation of your ethical oath as a medical professional to view a patient as sub-human? That just proves my point.

I don't care if you believe it, you weren't there and it sounds like you may be part of the problem. If Colorado's reputation is so good like you claim, then why are they under so much fire for their unconstitutional treatment?



phil82481 karma

I tried hard to remain objective but inmates constantly lie and try to manipulate staff. Occasionally they attack staff. And our facility was relatively fair in its treatment. Better than most I've heard of. As ofr being part of the problem, there is a definite problem with locking up people for marijuana possession and private prisons have been a problem in influencing decisions regarding incarceration but I can say with confidence that the vast majority of inmates are right where they belong. I worked in a prison for 9 years and criminals are for the most part not interested in being rehabilitated. We offered a wide variety of programs for this, all of which were voluntary and all of which were underutilized. We had a few people who were clearly locked up when it did not really fit their crime but most inmates are predators who make their living hurting others. Since the prison was a medical center we had every custody level from low to maximum. We had contract killers, rapists, armed robbers, safe crackers, gun runners, scam artists and computer fraudsters. They were all in the business of hurting law abiding citizens financially and sometimes violently. The worst of all these maladjusted people were the pedophiles and child pornographers. It took every ounce of my self control to provide medical care to these scum. One guy was a former priest caught with thousands of images of children in sexual poses. He admitted at his pornography trial he's abused hundreds of children and could not stop no matter what he did. One guy was sent to prison for chaining his 14 year old step daughter to a tree and filming her being raped by his friends so he could sell the video online. The list goes on and on. Please stop trying to make me feel sorry for criminals.

RyanPettigrew3 karma

I'm not asking you to feel sorry for anyone and not saying there shouldn't be consequences for actions. I deserved prison but I was punished for trying to better myself and denied educational opportunities that my family offered to pay for. The federal system consists of about 50% of the population being in prison for drug charges http://www.sentencingproject.org/template/page.cfm?id=128 that you admit to being against and I know Colorado was similar to that.

My whole point of all this is that when we torture prisoners in solitary confinement and view them as sub-human, they're more likely to return to crime and harm citizens. The rational solution is to teach these "predators" how to earn lawfully so that it's completely their choice to return to crime.

As is, Colorado tortures inmates and keeps them ignorant then releases them to a homeless shelter with $100 and expects them to make it. That's stupid and puts society in harm's way.

I don't want sympathy in any way, I just want to share the truth, give better options and inspire others with my rise. Take it how you want.

videki_man1 karma

How could you "process" the changes happened in the world when you came out? 8 years is a long time, a lot of things have changed.

RyanPettigrew5 karma

I was actually locked up for just under 10 years but only 8 in solitary confinement. Even my parole officer would make fun of me because I was so far behind. When I went to prison, few people text messaged each other, now everyone texts. I've caught up a year later but it was overwhelming.

cornFedBrains1 karma

Obviously solitary would have taken a big toll on your mental health, but what kind of effect did it have on your physical health?

RyanPettigrew5 karma

We need 15 minutes of sunlight per day but I went 8 years without. The last six months in there, I was in constant cold sweats. I also have scars on my Achilles tendons from the shackles.

pdraper09141 karma

Eight years in solitary, pretty horrendous. I've been involved with Kairos in prisons for quite a long time. I've seen a lot of guys who are very serious about internal change. But I've also seen guys whose biggest fear is getting out, because it's so different to have so many daily choices on the outside and starting from dead scratch. Any thoughts on how hard it is to adjust to being in the free world as a new man?

RyanPettigrew3 karma

My first week was horrible. I couldn't sleep or eat because I was used to a rubber mat in a light cell with screaming people. Now I had a Tempurpedic in a dark and quiet room. Food was to rich for me to digest since I got used to prison food. I had panic attacks when I sensed certain vibes or heard certain sounds. I panicked around people and didn't know when it was right to touch someone or give eye contact.

We are creatures of habit and since I got used to prison, it was as difficult for me to be released as it would be for a citizen to come to prison.

pdraper09141 karma

I can't imagine. In the Kairos program, which runs over four days, lots of real food is brought in, prisoners and volunteers spend long stretches talking with eye contact, joking without fear of it being taken wrong, nonsexual touching, some emotional breakdowns. Guys who have been through it say it felt like they weren't in prison for those few days. It also is unsettling physically (food), mentally, and emotionally. The volunteers either don't grasp it fully, or they do and they do it on purpose. I know it's taken some gladiator units and given them new reps as (relatively) civil places to do time.

I've heard stories from the released that they went off to a field somewhere on their second day, just so they could have quiet. Another told me about standing in the doorway of his new room, just flipping the light switch on and off for about fifteen minutes.

RyanPettigrew1 karma

Just being treated humanly is something that almost shocks us in there and we don't know how to handle it. I do a lot of mindfulness meditation and weight lifting to get away, find my peace. I also write poetry to release emotion in a healthy manner. That's the book I published, a book of poetry.

vulcain71 karma

Was the torture episodes of the solitary confinement a frequent thing or did it happend rarely?

Also a very provocative question and I m sorry if it offend you : knowing the social interactions between prisonners, isn't solitary confinment a better situation for someone who would want to get out of prison as "not a criminal" anymore / better person (if the torture events were not a part of it) ?

RyanPettigrew3 karma

That form of torture happened only once to me but there's also an argument to be made that since they diagnosed me as Bipolar Disorder and decided to keep me in solitary confinement for eight years when it's proven to worsen the conditions of mental illness, that they tortured me. I'm actually in court with them over that right now.

Torture happens in there but its not an every day thing.

The problem is that we are social creatures so when you take that away, we develop psychological issues. Social interaction is required for life but we're stunted in our social growth, and far behind.

The best way to rehabilitate people is to do the following http://amadmanspathtoreason.com/2013/07/30/prison-recidivism-solution/

tarwewrat1 karma

Reminds of a story written by William Blake who got sentenced to life in solitary confinement and has been there for 25 years already. Here's the read if someone is interested. There are some differences between his story and yours. One of them is that he didn't have a tv, but he did get escorted outside to a small courtyard every now and then. This strikes me as an oddity. I understand that owning a tv or being allowed to go outside for a stroll is a luxury, but why is this different from prison to prison? One thing I would be terrified of is the extreme boredom in solitary. Owning a tv can make a large difference as you can easily fight off the boredom for half a day if you have to. Not exactly quality time, but better than walking outside in circles for half an hour once a week. So how much variety is there in the privileges inmates get in solitary? Does it depend in which state the prison is located, or does every prison have their own policy? Another thing I read from William, is how many people just lose it in solitary. Some cry every night, some even attempt suicide. How healthy your sanity is depends a lot on your neighbors I guess. You mentioned you were able to communicate with others in solitary and without it you would've probably lost your sanity. While you were locked in did you hear other people go insane, or were you all able to support each other mentally?

RyanPettigrew1 karma

Each prison in each state has it's own rules and definition of solitary confinement. In Colorado, we weren't even allowed lotion for the first five years I was in there and I have eczema but they started to loosen up on that. I would've preferred better books over tv but sunlight would've been amazing.

I kept my sanity because I meditated, studied and exercised rather than whine and watch tv all day. It helped my social skills somewhat to talk to others and did help keep me sane but the quality of conversation was poor.

Very few supported growth, it was all about beating chests and other primitive stuff. Many of the people in there with me were schizophrenics so I saw them completely lose it. Some friends killed themselves or just went mentally down hill; just part of it.

WifflesGiraffy1 karma

After overcoming this experience, what regrets do you have? Are there things you are ashamed with? How does it feel when you see other people who go through "stress," compared to what you have probably dealt with? What are some things that still haunt your life today, that you wish would change? (So many questions... Just curious..)

RyanPettigrew2 karma

I regret that I had to go down this path just to figure it out and that I made my family suffer. I'm ashamed that I was a loser dope addict. On the other hand, it took going through this to become who I am now so I wouldn't choose a different path.

That was one of the things that I really had a hard time with: empathy. I see people flipping out over such trivial things that I couldn't understand. Then i realized that these people could use my help.

The only issue that really effects me still that I'd like to change is how anti-social I've become. Solitary confinement turned me into a hermit and I almost need people to force me outside and around people.

typesh051 karma

Do you mind sharing what your dope habit was like before you got to prison? How did it change when you got sent to prison.

Also have u kicked since being released or are you still using? What was the biggest factor in you coming clean?

RyanPettigrew1 karma

I started using meth in '95 until it become an all day habit in '98 until I finally quit in 2003 when I went to prison. I also did a few small stints in the joint from 2000 to 2003, in and out. That's where I developed a heroin habit. When I caught my big case, I was shooting heroin all day long. Prison is the prison drug but I quit in 2003 when I got my 10 year sentence, always offered it but never wanted it.

I've been sober 10 years but have only been out one year and have been completely sober. People try to discount the other nine years but they count because prison is plagued with drugs.

I almost died a few times on heroin but coming off of it was so bad that I started to hate it. I'm far from my best on drugs so I'll never do them again. I will smoke week when I'm off parole and drink the occasional beer but I don't want to get drunk or become a lazy pothead either. I can handle those in balance because they weren't ever a problem for me. I just can't do anything more serious.

I replaced my drug addiction with fitness and success addictions.

Derpinacat1 karma

What was the worst part of being in prison?

RyanPettigrew2 karma

Being away from family and treated sub-human

Derpinacat1 karma

Sounds terrible! Did you ever get visits from your family?

RyanPettigrew2 karma

About once a year they would drive down to see me behind glass

Derpinacat1 karma

Ohhhh.. I'm glad you can see them again though. :)

RyanPettigrew3 karma

we're really close now.

manocanada1 karma

Have you played GTA V yet?

RyanPettigrew7 karma

No, I really don't play video games or watch tv. All I really do is write, build my businesses, lift weights and enjoy time with family and friends.

neverknow1 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA and spreading awareness about solitary confinement. I have a few questions. Were you permitted to meet with people on the outside while you were in solitary confinement? Did you? If so, did they help you? Do you have any advice for someone meeting with someone who is currently in prolonged solitary confinement?

RyanPettigrew2 karma

I could get people on my visiting list but visits were held behind glass or on a video screen, depending what prison I was in. The only people who visited were close family and friends about once a year. They wrote me and knowing they cared kept me hopeful. I realized how my actions affected them and now I refuse to bring them down again. I just brought my parents into my real estate investment company to give them a great retirement as my way to make up for putting them through hell.

If you haven't met the person before, I'd write them to really get to know them and their goals. Many people in prison want to manipulate for money and have no intentions to better themselves. Others talk about it but don't do it since that takes hard work.

Understanding what they go through is important and how much letters and visits mean to them.

flurrygirl1 karma

Is jail as scary as they make it seem?

RyanPettigrew6 karma

Colorado isn't the most violent system in the Nation by any means but for a civilian, it would still be a nightmare. For those who lived that lifestyle, it's just part of it.

cat_lady_in_training1 karma

What is the biggest change you would make within the prison system?

RyanPettigrew1 karma

I actually wrote a plan that would cost less than current strategies and lower recidivism drastically. http://amadmanspathtoreason.com/2013/07/30/prison-recidivism-solution/

[deleted]1 karma


RyanPettigrew1 karma

It's really rare and I try to help others get it together but they get out and steal from me. But I am associating with a few good guys from the joint who are on a more positive path now.

INeedANewAccountMan1 karma

What is in the solitary confinement room? How often did you see other people? Were you allowed out much during your time? When you got out, had all your own prison friends changed or left? How excited were you when you were told you could leave? How long did you know you were going to be released for before you were? What did you go to jail for originally? How long was your original sentence?

Soz for the question spam just really interested.

RyanPettigrew10 karma

I had a desk, bed, shelves, sink and toilet. I had my own tv and some books. I could see people through their windows in their doors or when they were escorted past my cell on the way to the shower. I didn't see the sun or have human contact at all during that 8 years.

I actually had mixed emotions when told I would be released but also stressed about the issues I may have mentally from solitary confinement. I knew 3 months before I got out that I was getting out but I was also only let out 3 months early on a 10 year sentence so it was coming soon anyway.

I got a 10 year sentence for Intimidating a witness in my brothers case. I made witnesses change their story. Love the questions, keep them coming.

thunder91111 karma

no human contact for 8 years? As in you never saw your family for 8 years?? Could you explain that frustration? Was mail the only way of communication? Did you miss your family really bad and how did you deal with it during the worst of times

RyanPettigrew2 karma

I got visits behind glass from my family once a year. Its not really a conscious frustration because you get used to it but as social creatures, it causes deeper problems. I could call them on the phone and write them also but couldn't touch anyone. Human touch is one of our needs.

I eventually became numb to it all and embraced what I did have. Although, when I was released I didn't know how to handle positive things. I'd break down crying, overwhelmed in happiness over the littlest things.

ReflexAB1 karma

Hold on a sec.... On another comment you said you got sentenced for beating up a rapist....

RyanPettigrew11 karma

No, I went to solitary confinement for beating up a rapist while in prison. I went to prison for making witnesses change their story in my brother's case.

ReflexAB7 karma

Oh makes sense. Sorry man, didn't mean to be a dick.

RyanPettigrew5 karma

Didn't take it as you were being one. I don't get easily offended.

sackfullofsorrys1 karma

How does one "make someone change their story"?

RyanPettigrew1 karma

All I really did was call the guy's girlfriend and tell her to say that they got robbed and stabbed at a gas station because they had to take him to the hospital while they also had a house full of drugs. That's all I did.

joeyoly1 karma

How often were you able to talk to someone? Or was there absolutely no contact with anyone?

RyanPettigrew3 karma

I could talk to people through the toilet, vents and doors all day long but never face to face. There was no physical contact at all.

spartancavie4 karma

Through the toilet? Thanks for answering questions!

RyanPettigrew1 karma

Yes, we would take out the water and roll up a manila envelope to speak into. It would echo through the plumbing.

spartancavie2 karma

Oh wow, that's genius.

RyanPettigrew1 karma

We would also put a message in plastic then tie it to a string that I'd flush down the toilet at the same time that the guy below me would flush his line and weight. The lines would cross and we could send messages back and forth.

Astaris1 karma

Secret to eternal happiness. Something I can obtain without shutting myself away from the world for an extended period of time.

RyanPettigrew13 karma

Accept yourself for who you are. Most of the inner chaos is caused by trying to be what others say we should be when we can't be anything other than who we are.

Also. meditation and fitness because they release anxiety and stress.


How do you start meditation? What do you think about?

RyanPettigrew4 karma

Meditation is the absence of thinking. I sit down in a kitchen chair or with my legs folded and pay attention to my breathing, feeling it go in and out. Every thought that comes in, I calmly push it out

PounderMcNasty1 karma

How was the prison hooch? Ever have anyone keister contraband for you?

RyanPettigrew7 karma

Prison hooch is good when it's made right, real fruity. I keistered ear plugs during searches so they wouldn't get taken. Ear plugs kept me sane since it's so loud in there.

sativan3 karma

Wait, you put ear plugs in your ass to hide them?

RyanPettigrew5 karma

Hell yeah I did. It's so loud in there that it's hard to sleep

sativan3 karma

Whats all the racket?

RyanPettigrew6 karma

Most of the people in solitary confinement are mentally ill so they scream all night. Then you also have people telling war stories all the time behind their doors.

MrNibbles11 karma

You said you sent essays and read books about real estate. Did you ever get any credentials for doing that study?

RyanPettigrew8 karma

The studying I did was with outdated books from their library. They wouldn't let me get new books sent in once I had my two and I wasn't allowed to do correspondence courses. They don't want us to get educated because funding and jobs require us coming back.