12 years in the SHU

May 1, 2015

Pelican Bay Prison, Calif.—Twelve years have passed since I entered the Security Housing Unit (SHU) on gang validation. This year I turned 53 years old. My cognitive skills over this past decade have taken an odd turn. The deterioration is discernible. When I first arrived I was attentive and, if you’ll excuse the expression, bright-eyed. I thought I could beat this thing, whatever this thing was. I confess—I was ignorant.

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What solitary means

January 30, 2015

Nothing can prepare you for entering the Security Housing Unit (SHU). It’s a world unto itself where cold, quiet and emptiness come together, seeping into your bones, then eventually the mind.

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Being in the SHU

November 24, 2014

Crescent City, Calif.—The physical and emotional toll of being in the SHU (prisons’ “Secure Housing Unit”): • Manic guards off their meds. • That last good photograph stamped with a boot. • Classification hearings postponed for potlucks. • The daughter whose eyes fill when you ask innocently, who are you?…

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