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Stories from Inside. 

Stories from survivors of those impacted by solitary confinement. 

The Hole
by: Joshua J. Hairston

In this place
the conditions are just perfect, I must say
to see a man in disarray - soul and body being displaced
a mind attempting to break
a spirit in search of escape...

the hole.

Nearly blinded, the assignment of two sleep depraving florescent lights
extend the fight - the days where the struggle for sanity seems to spike
the portion of night
out of spite
Delirious, I fall from consciousness;
curious, I awake 
wondering in what ways would death ease this fate...

the hole.

No rest for the weary,
what rights deserve the wrong?
officers, dulled to the edges of insensitivity,
do their best to stifle segregation's song:
the CRIES, the WAILS, the anguish one must expel
the anger with which one yells
The tale of a mind at war within itself...

the hole.

Often heard and often ignored are the screams
unnerving - scratching at the surface
a HUMAN BEING hurting to be seen
wounds spanning lifetimes
emotional scar tissue fatigued
Who has heart enough to respond to such a deep seeded need to be treated?
Who employed here is even qualified to take on this sort of task?
without a degree, without a calling leading - a passion
for anyone this is too much to ask...

the hole.

A mental infection
spreading cell to cell
every inpatient afflicted
entered underneath its spell
held under, beneath the swell
discarded were parts of me 
I thought surely retrievable
tossed - off at sea
imagining the inconceivable
every second this battle wages
it becomes more probable, losing myself...

the hole.

These two eyes,
have seen men die,
hanging from vents like clothing left to dry
knowing it Did Not have to Be.
Failing without God's permission to leave
I witnessed half a dozen more try...

the hole.

Never have I felt closer to death 
than the time I spent going through hell
too long a length of time I spent isolated from help
canned in a holding cell
banned from open air
unable to breathe
the scene seems uninspiring to those who supposedly care...

the hole.

In this place
the conditions are just perfect, I must say
to see a man in disarray - soul and body being displaced
a mind attempting to break
a spirit in search of escape...

The Hole.

Joshua J. Hairston

“Virginia recently changed its name on their segregation units from restrictive housing to restorative housing which is governed by Operating Procedure 841.4. When you read the new Operating Procedure 841.4 it’s clear Virginia is not serious about getting rid of [solitary confinement]. The new policy only changes the word restrictive to restorative. All restrictions are still in place and the same. The policy does say a 4-hour minimum out of cell daily, here’s the catch. I’m in a 22-man unit, with only 5 outside recreation cages so if you don’t make the officers’ top 5 list you don’t get recreation. I have been offered to be strapped to a table in the pod which allows no movement while strapped to it.” Change the text and add your own."

Incarcerated Individual at Red Onion State Prison (December 12, 2021)

Joshua Hairston, Incarcerated Individual at Green Rock Correctional Center

I and, perhaps, most of those I’ve come into knowing, throughout my incarceration, have spent time suspended in that virtual reality the less informed refer to as [the] restorative housing unit. 


Going to “seg”, “isolation”, “the hole”, became so normal an occurrence, the older prisoners thought it important to teach me to “pack light” - that is reduce the amount of personal belongings down to what was absolutely necessary. 


One of the more highlighted incidents of my imprisonment happened while I was in the “hole” - R.H.U. I was around 18 years old of age. The manufactured cold (characteristic to such places) exacerbated by the lack of sufficient covering disallowed my mind to consider the possibility of sleeping my way out of this nightmare: I was too cold to even conjure the mental strength to convince myself I would make it through. 


An officer doing a walk-through - welfare check - was to be the target for the hostile expression of my displeasure. Incited by the sight of the officer my normal disposition found itself hijacked by a rage only made in moments where the choice is fight or flight. 


Overtaken by the instance to fight for my life I drifted outside the plane of reality. I warred with whatever presented themselves, whether real or imagined; no actual human beings ever entered the cell while I experienced this deterioration. I exhausted myself. Forcefully defending my life against the torrent of this reality, I was blindsided by insanity. 


I went to a place (in my mind), as is often spoken of, where some people fail to return from. I believe that isolation of this manner inspires the inclination to detach, remove one’s self, from reality. One is driven into the necessitous compulsion to rely heavily on the imaginative powers of the mind. This alone is not harmful but when grouped with various other psychological ailments the response can be debilitating, and often it is. The effects of that mental break, that instant in which I lost all sense of reality, I still perceive to this day. 

No, (I am not sure). I do remember a good friend of mine hung himself but the officer came in before he has successfully taken his own life. The “hole” caused him a great deal of mental anguish as he has never been isolated before. 


After seeing him, immediately after the suicide attempt, I remember writing this poem. 


Hopeless by Joshua Hairston
Have you ever witnessed a ghost - 
Look into the eyes of a man living without hope - 
A body without spirit, a corpse that floats. 

“In RHU it goes like this, The COs come by in the morning, right as the Day Shift bracket assumes control, and they go door to door as if they are conducting a security check. Some officers ask, some officers don't. According to them, it’s our responsibility to be at the door waiting for them to come around which is hard because 75% of the time they don’t announce that they are coming around with the rec/shower sheet. Moreover, it definitely is NOT 4 hours, not even close. I’d say the absolute most would be two hours and that’s if you go outside AND take a shower. Somedays (Sundays for sure) there isn’t rec or showers being run AT ALL.”             

Reyce Collins at Pocahontas State Correctional Center (9.21.2021)

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