March 18, 2014

Prior to my surrender I had conversations with my good friend, Justin Paperny, about the hole. I was curious to know what it looked like and why exactly people may find themselves in the hole. His thoughts align with what I’ve heard: spending time in the hole, a.k.a. the segregated housing unit, can be a total nightmare.

The hole, I learned from speaking to other prisoners, is a small cell with three people in it; you are always locked in. The hole is contained in it own building within the fences of the low security prison adjacent at FCI Petersburg. Many of my fellow prisoners have told me the living conditions are akin to a county jail. When prisoners are cast away to the SHU they forfeit many privileges that are available to the general population. One example, as I noted above, is being locked in a tiny room; you may be there for as much as 23-hours a day.

There are a number of reasons one may be sent to the hole. Those reasons may include using a cell phone, drinking alcohol, or having cigarettes. Sometimes getting to SHU is as easy as reporting late to work or voicing your dissatisfaction with your job to a guard. Besides the uncomfortable living conditions, prisoners in SHU will have restricted access to commissary, phone, exercise, and more.

I estimate I have seen 12 people go to the hole since I surrendered to FCI Petersburg. As a result I am sure their families are worried about them, as it may be several days before they hear from them. Moreover, getting sent to the hole may be a one-way ticket to a transfer to another prison. Wow, that would really make it harder on a family, who I know is already misses me. At this prison many of the men get shipped to Texas. Worse they must take the prisoner transport to get there.

I have no intentions of going to SHU. One way I can accomplish that goal is by keeping my behavior in tact with the expectations the institution has for me. I follow the rules, do my job, and am respectful of both staff and my fellow prisoners. I am committed to making this experience as easy as I can for my family, and a visit to the hole would significantly disrupt the progress I have made both in prison and at home.

As I close let me note today is day 18. During parts of the day, I must admit, it feels like day 700. But things are getting easier, and I am working my way into a routine that is healthy and productive. Better understanding this world of prison, like SHU, helps me stay on track with the plans I have laid out.

Andy Rothenberg

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