Life In The Hole By Paul Rinn

shu_pictureYou fucked up. You let your cellie know you were selling caps of weed. and the next thing you know, S.I.S. was pulling you up in front of the chow hall and escorting you over to the lieutenant’s office for a strip search. They knew exactly what to look for, and right where to look. But when the correctional officer laid out the evidence, you noticed that two of the caps were missing. Not only did your cellie rat you out over a hundred bucks worth of marijuana, but he actually stole some of it before he put the man on you. Muthafucka’s are dirty in the feds.

So S.I.S. wanted you to tell on the guys you got it from, but you’re not that stupid. You’ve got a ten year bid to do, and there ain’t no fucking way you want the whole compound thinking you’re a snitch. Besides, what’s the worst they can do to you? Take away some good time? So you get to spend an extra forty-one days in Federal prison, so what? Do your time like a man and keep your mouth shut. S.I.S. threatened to take away your Unicor job, but you told them to go fuck themselves. You turned around with your hands behind your back, ready to be cuffed, and said, “Take me to S.H.U.”

Special Housing Unit: The hole. Prison within the prison. The bucket.

Once you got there, the C/O’s made you strip off your clothes and lift your nut sack up, spread your cheeks and cough. I never got the coughing part. They gave you an orange jumpsuit to wear, along with a change of socks with holes in the toes, and underwear that’s been worn by a thousand inmates before you. They gave you a wool blanket and some sheets and threw your ass in a cell by yourself, for the next 90 days or so. There’s nothing better than having your own cell in the hole. Lay around all day, jacking off and farting as you please, not having to worry about having another dude in the room with you, staring at your ass while you take a dump. With a cellie, you have to respect each other’s space and come to an understanding with each other, rather than doing as you please all the time.

They threw you over on the A.D. side (Administrative Detention) while you wait from anywhere between one to three weeks before you see the D.H.O. (Designated Housing Officer). But at least they let you keep your radio and allowed you to buy a little food off the commissary. Once you’re in the hole, you realize there’s nothing like being out on the compound. You can’t go to the yard or to the library, you can’t even go to the gym and shoot hoops or lift weights, you can’t really do shit other than lay there on your bunk, thinking about how you got yourself in this bullshit in the first place. After the D.H.O. sentenced you to D.S. time (Disciplinary Segregation), they threw you over on the D.S. side and stripped you of all your property. No radio, no commissary, nothing but a concrete cell and the voices inside your head. Solitary confinement. A man and his thoughts.

They came around with breakfast every morning at 6 a.m., wheeling a cart with all the trays stacked up on top, for the orderlies to pass out to the cells along the tier. They served lunch around noon, dinner at about 5:30, and mail call was after that. Muthafuckas spent all day waiting for that mail, it was the highlight of the day. And that’s it; those were the events that broke up the monotony of lying there on your bunk, doing absolutely nothing. How you dealt with the time in between those events determined how well you dealt with life in the hole.

There were showers built into the cells, along with a bunk bed, desk and stool which were bolted down, and a stainless steel sink/toilet combo. For privacy, inmates would tie a bed sheet from one side of the cell to the other, creating a makeshift room divider so they could get in and out of the shower, without another man staring at their naked ass. The shower itself was about the size of a tight phone booth, and you had to repeatedly press a button for the water to spray, while trying to soap up with one hand.

Once a week the guards will take you out to rec, usually around the crack of dawn, so as to discourage anyone from wanting to go out. Not that there’s much to do out there, but stand around freezing your ass off. Rec consisted of a fenced-in cage, with one concrete wall for inmates to play handball. But the shoes they gave you were these slip-ons that looked like something Cindy Brady would wear, and they didn’t even fit you half the time, so it’s like you’re out there playing in your bare feet.

You got bored, so you made a “car”, which you used to pass kites, and shit like that, from one cell to another. You ripped off strands of fabric from the bed sheets and tied them together to form a long rope (the line) that was then attached to a tube of toothpaste that’s been cut in half and stuffed with batteries or a bar of soap, anything to give the car weight, so you can fling it under the inch or two of space at the bottom of the cell door, sending your line down the hall, so that another inmate can fish it in with their own line by attaching a paperclip or staple to the end of the car and reeling it in. Sometimes you got so bored that you’d shoot your car out into the hallway for no reason, just to see how far you could make it.

It’s hard to avoid going crazy in the hole, at least to some extent. You’ve been in this cell by yourself now for sixty-two days, and you have resorted to talking to yourself out loud. You catch yourself singing, rapping, playing out these conversations in your head in front of the mirror and sometimes just out right losing it. Sometimes you just start banging on your cell door in the middle of the night and screaming at the top of your lungs for no apparent reason.

They threw a cellie in with you, and as soon as the C/O’s are out of sight he unbuttons his jumpsuit and plops down on the toilet right in front of you. You try to cover your ears to block out the sound of his grunting, and when you finally hear him flush you look over and see him washing his hands in the sink, and you notice that he’s rinsing off several little balloons that you realize were just up his ass. “Tobacco,” he explains. “You can sell this stuff in the hole for ten times what it’s worth on the compound.” And this is how some guys make a living, by cramming their ass full of tobacco and checking in.

The two of you pass the time by smoking shitty cigarettes and saving up all your fruit and sugar packets from breakfast, adding some orange juice or pineapple juice, and tossing it into a garbage bag, letting it sit for about a week or so, at which point the sugar will have burned off and the fermenting process will have reached its peak. Then you and your cellie enjoyed the dull buzz of prison hooch. You got drunk and talked about either what you did to get in here, or what you plan on doing once you get out.

When they finally let you out, after however many days you’ve spent confined to that same 9 x 7 cell, you hit the pound and it’s like you’re an instant celebrity. Guys are yelling out your name as you come walking up the sidewalk with your property in duffel bags, your clothes all wrinkled up from being balled up for months. You’re about a shade paler than everyone else, and you get tired easily from walking around so much. It’s hard to sleep that first night out. You find yourself wide awake, thinking about all the things you planned on doing in the morning, all the people you had to get a hold of, the stuff you had to get sorted out, maybe a debt or two to settle. It was almost like getting out of prison, for real. But not really.

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