October 1, 2018, marked five years since I was imprisoned. My physical surroundings today are ironically similar to what they were after my arrest back in 2013. I’m in the SHU again (Special Housing Unit, aka “the hole”). It means permanent lockdown, separated from the general prison population, in a small cell. There is a slot in the heavy metal door for food trays, a small steel toilet, a concrete bunk with thick rings at four points (I guess that’s how I’ll get strapped down if I go crazy), chipped paint on the walls and floor with gang names and desperate Bible quotes etched in, and everywhere thick marks counting the days spent here by former inhabitants (some collections are terrifyingly large).
The initial shock of entering the cell — and all it meant for my immediate future — gave way after a few days to a helpless, restless dread and a burning need to get out. This feeling had to be stuffed down to avoid madness, and eventually a numb acceptance took over, but it was a precarious arrangement. Desperate frustration simmered constantly beneath the surface.