Pen Pals

Down in the Hole

By Bert Burykill

I’ve been watching some prison shows recently, and I can’t help but constantly call bullshit on them. I don’t know for sure that what I’m seeing is unreal, ’cause even though I’ve been jammed up in the slammer for long periods of time, I’ve never rested my head with the meanest of the mean. Lots of these documentary shows make California clink-clinks look like hell. I don’t wanna go there ’cause they do this “stick with your own kind” shit, and I hate white people. I’ve been studying Oz, convincing myself that the show is worthwhile, and they have a fucked-up “box”—aka solitary confinement.

In Oz, the unruly inmate will beat someone senseless and shit in his mouth, but only receive a month of box time. First off, you do that in New York, you’re getting a new charge of at least two years on top of what you already have. You’ll get denied at every parole-board hearing and spend a minimum of eight months in the box. In New York, the box is officially called a Special Housing Unit (SHU), and it is a serious tool to keep the inmates in check. I did very limited time in there, and it scared the shit out of me. I’m not into complete sensory deprivation. It wasn’t something I wanted to get used to, even though, eventually, you can get books, paper, and even a radio in there. This shit on Oz has them butt naked in a hole, pissin’ and shittin’ in a bucket. I don’t think that’s legal anymore, but if anyone out there has had to put up with that, I feel for you.

In New York, if you fuck someone up bad, you’ll be in the box for a long, long time, and that’s partly because New York is a very litigious state. I’ll give you an example: Let’s say IcePick Slim gutted BugOut till he died, only got a few months in the box, and was then let back out into the general population. Then Sprinkles tried to suck Icepick’s dick, so IcePick gutted him till he died, too. Now, Sprinkle’s mom is suing the state for allowing her super delicate gay son to be in the presence of this known killing-machine maniac. The people who run the prisons are sensitive to this kind of situation, so they lock people up for a long time on the regular. They don’t want their moneys foxed with.

If I had to make an educated guess, I’d say the main reason the box is implemented so frequently in New York is to control the inmates. I’d guess that about half the guys in the box are in there for pissing dirty. That was my charge. I remember being heated that they were treating me like Dahmer just ’cause I got high. The cops in the box basically do everything to ensure they don’t get gutted and nutted—they’ll put a mask on you, dress you in a paper gown (we called it the “Gucci Gown”), and strap you to a chair till you’re quiet. The porkchops cuff you through a hole in the cell gate, and make you walk out backwards, without making eye contact, even to just use the shower. Why are weed smokers being put through this shit?

Two months back, a convicted low-down rapist joined up with the New York Civil Liberties Union to sue a prison for “torturing” solitary confinement inmates. According to the Huffington Post, only 16 percent of those in the box are being punished for violent infractions. Me being cynical, I’m not sure I believe that number. There are an ass-dick-cum load of skirmishes, squables, and fights in prisons, and most of those offenders end up in the box. I find it really hard to believe they only make up 16 percent—then again, there are a lot of drug users in the clink-clink, so who knows?

As far as I’m concerned, this lowlife, Leroy Peoples (who violently raped and robbed two women in Queens at gunpoint), should be in the box for the rest of his life, so he’s not really a good poster child for the NYCLU in my opinion. I guess they are getting to the point where they’ll start fighting for rape-o’s rights. I’m sure many readers feel the same way I do: If you rape my mother, daughter, sister, or wife, I really hope the COs upstate air you out and stick you in the box for the rest of your sentence. I don’t care if you go crazy and bathe in your own shit. I think the whole world would be better off if you just died. I care more about the poor dudes doing 12 months in the box for a cup of dirty pee.

The cops definitely use the box as a tool, and it’s been seriously overused. There is no doubt about that. In the early 2000s, New York started building all of these fancy SHU facilities that were specially designed to lock down violent criminals, ’cause supposedly there was a lot of cutting, gutting, and fucking way back when. I think the box worked once ’victs realized how shitty it is to be stuck in a cell without any of your personal stuff, eating cold state food for a year or more. Eventually, inmates started snitching ’cause they were scared of box time, and I feel in general the violent crimes went way down. Unfortunately, all these boxes were already built, so heads had to be found to fill beds, and that’s how we find ourselves in the current situation. I hope the box bullshit ceases, especially for piddling shit like dirty piss, ’cause it’s completely crazy to think isolation might help a drug addict—but at the same time, I hope this scum-dicked rapist, Leroy Peoples, doesn’t see a dime and eventually gets a big banger ripped through his anus.

Bert Burykill is the pseudonym of our prison correspondent, who has spent time in a number of prisons in New York State. He tweets here

Previously: Prisons Punish Families Too

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