The hole: A true story of solitary confinement

Swain, Tyreise D., Sr.

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Tyreise D. Swain [address] First Rights Est. Words: 4,867 THE HOLE A True Story of Solitary Confinement BY: TYREISE D. SWAIN Thursday — April 18th, 3 AM. I'm awoken by a nightmare which turns into a reality, in a sense. The chimera begins in a room or some sort of worship area, where a group of black tribeswomen — who possibly could be Haitian or African — are all chanting some strange mantra in a native language I don't understand, while beating on large tom-toms; similar to something Hawaiians would use at one of those fire festivals. The women drummers and other tribespeople whom I now notice, all seem to be looking at one of the walls in this room. The worship area we are in is enclosed by four walls of what books to be white limestone, which is covered with engraved ancient writings and symbols. So I glance in the direction everyone faces, and notice a large, carved image of a person, or deity wearing a grotesque mask — maybe the mask is his or her face, I'm not sure. This image is on its hands and knees — as if prostrating. The chanting voices reverberate louder, riding the sounds of the tom-toms. The image of the deity/person begins to contort and move on the wall like a projected film on a screen; turning its head and torso upside down while remaining on its hands and knees — reminding me of some excorsist sh#?. I hear a whispered voice in my ear... Azazel. And I awake! *** Somewhere in a Federal Penitentiary in the United States... I guess the many years of being locked up in a chaotic prison environment, coupled with the dew of old age, eventually dulls the senses to the warning signs that tend to sprout up around us. No matter how hard you try to dodge adversity and haters, and escape the pitfalls that "they" consistently and relentlessly set out, in the end it seems the haters always win. We say, and convince ourselves: "I'll never let 'em [the haters] win."; finding ourselves being snatched from our jobs, our homes; our property scattered, rummaged through, and seized. Some of it may disappear — who knows. On April 18th, 2019, I am taken to a holding cell, stripped of my prison uniform and given an orange pair of pants (what prisoners call “bus-pants"), pinkish boxers and t-shirts, mismatched holey socks, and a pair of crocs shower shoes; one of which has a missing strap. I'm tossed a flat-as-a-pancake matress, tattered pink and orange sheets and a blanket — no pillow. On this day, my somewhat comfortable arrangement I've made for myself in prison, is snatched away for reasons unknown. But no matter what, the days of "you're a cool staff member, and I'm a cool inmate" are over! I'm thrown into a 15' x 8' box with an 11-foot high ceiling. The blue metal door shakily slides shut on its track. The guard opens the rusted, filthy food trap, and tells me to walk backwards and stick my cuffed hands through the opening so he can remove them. I do so. After the cuffs are removed, I step forward, rubbing my wrists to soothe the pressure they 've endured. I look around the cell I've been placed in, and immediately notice the packed-on grime and filth on the floor. The once white walls are discolored with stains, dirt, and bright paint patches where some maintenance person quickly covered something up. I look back at the rusted blue door, still dazed and wondering why, or how, I got here; taking in the many works of graffiti — some carved into the paint, others in some form of ink or soot. I stare at one of the carved drawings: a frowning man's face with a lopsided, overly-large goatee, disproportioned teeth, wearing sunglasses, and what appears to be teardrops coming down his cheek. A carved heart is in the center of his forehead and he wears a ballcap that depicts an arrow through it and his head. This face seems to smirk at me like some ominous effigy found in a haunted tomb. I scan the door and wonder what is the significance of the large 408 numbers — maybe an area code or last three of an inmate's register number? Below the rusted food trap reads: "Barrio del Chuco," with the initials "C.J.," possibly the artist's pen name? Nah, these are just the signs of others who found themselves trapped in the void. Looking to my left, I see a small pile of trash; discarded minis of Maximum Security toothpaste, deodorants, plastic wrappers, blanket strings that resemble pinkish dustbunnies, and a torn portion of David Baldacci's novel, Split Second. Yeah, I know what you mean Mr. Baldacci... sh#? can get real messed up in a split second. I toss — what they call a matress — onto the metal-framed bunk. A floor-to-ceiling, rectangular steel shower box takes up most of the rear part of the cell. A fetid, stagnant puddle of water lingers outside the shower's opening on the floor, reminding me of a small watering hole in the Serengeti; the shower box is without a curtain. The walls and floor are covered in soap-scum, water spots, and smells as if someone used it as an outhouse, instead of the even filthier toilet and sink combo behind me. I step towards the barred window and see dusk is approaching — I'm depressed. I think to myself, "Maybe this is a way that God is showing me if I act out on my aggressions, this is the hell that awaits me. And maybe, just maybe, I was becoming too complacent."" My forehead barely touches the side wall of the window, jolting me out of my reverie and away from the wall, as my eyes catch sight of the sill; covered in dust, pubic hair and the carcass of a dead fly. I'm so disgusted with myself, this situation — everything! I've never wanted to just end it all as I do right now. I flop down on the mat after I've carelessly thrown the blanket and sheet haphazardly on it, and I think. My heart pounds from anxiety. My mind chases many thoughts that feel like car crashes as each one collides at the same time. But, the only thought that seems to stand out the clearest, is suicide, and I don't know why. I glance to my left at the metal wall of the shower box and read, "Huey in A-1 is a homo." Each sound of keys that jingle on the range draws me up. I rush to the door, peering out of the rectangular window, asking if I could speak to someone about why I am here, but the guards just shake their heads "No," and walk away. Each one eyes a sign on the wall outside my cell and immediately, I feel like I'm some kind of pariah. (I later found out that the sign read: "House/Rec Alone.") With this sign, and what was probably whispered amongst the guards, was the reason I was being shunned. I continually ask for the phone so that I can call my family and tell them what happened to me, but that proves to be futile. My mind feels fogged. I'm not able to concentrate with all of the yelling and pounding on the door from the idiot in the cell next to me, who calls himself "Heart Attack"; with his non-stop psycho-babble, and the extremely long bubblegum-raps that he tells us all (who don't really care) will make him rich. I can't shake the surreal feeling of my situation. I cannot sleep and every time I close my eyes and partly drift, my eyes snap open, hoping that I am back in my original bed, and this was all a bad dream — but it's not. I'm still in denial... my stomach begins to growl but I'm not really hungry. Finally, they shove a food tray through the rusted port. I lift the lid and nibble on the contents, but I can't really consume anything. My mind continuously touches on the thought when I got abducted like an insurgent, and somehow I cannot shake the feeling, as if my soul made it to this hellhole before my physical. My mind's eye kept telling me that there was an immenent force of negativity coming my way. As I recollect, maybe I was too engrossed with the mass amount of problems, and unfinished work, to actually see clearly ...still... I'm not listening. Friday — April 19th. The next morning is no better. Plagued by troubled sleep, my back injury hurts to high hell, and on top of that, I have no coffee. The bright warehouse-like light snaps on, and the sound of officers wheeling the breakfast trays down the range on a pushcart — with a busted, wobbling wheel — stops in front of my cell. The officer unlocks the food trap, shoving two brown trays with lids into it. I grab them and they slam the food trap shut. (I can't understand the need for the guards to slam the food trap shut so hard, and loud. It's like they're mad that they have to deliver "us dregs" food.) I sit the two trays on the metal table and stool combo, which is mounted to the concrete floor. I look inside the trays, and notice I am talking to myself outloud. But it feels normal. Come to think of it, I've been talking to myself for some time, and still, I've never paid any attention to my behaviors. I scoop a few mouthfuls of the tasteless oatmeal, and take a few bites of the dry-ass cake that resembles a sponge; I can't take any more, so I move to the two-halves of an already browning apple. My stomach seems to be able to accept the fruit. There's a small package of coffee by Corim Industries. Then it dawns on me... where is the cup? How am I supposed to drink this? Within minutes, the officers are back at the door to collect the trays — damn! I guess there is a 2 minute scarf-down policy in effect. I'm annoyed. My head pounds from the stress and lack of caffeine. I want to slam these trays against the door and scream; I feel like an animal. Around noon, I look out my barred window and see the guards outside the concertina- wired fence, in the parking lot enjoying the Arizona sun. They are taking shots with golf clubs from the comfort of shade, provided by a tent. I wonder, how is it right for these people to just grab an inmate and disrupt his/her program by throwing them in the hole for no reason. And yet they sit out there, enjoying the sun, having a good'ol time. The evening looms. After many attempts to get someone's attention, I feel disgusting. I glance at the filthy shower and desire for warmth of hot water, because the cell is freezing cold. After the officer does his round, I try to fix my mat so that it is somewhat bearable; strip off my clothes and step over the stagnant pool of water, and enter the metal rain box. Surprisingly the water is HOT! I enjoy the few moments of warmth and the smell of the cheap "Freshscent" soap. I realize I have to end it quick because I have no shower curtain and the room will end up becoming a cesspool of filthy water and floating debris. I finally lie back after drying and changing into the extra pants I'm afforded — the same boxers though, because you only get one pair — and close my eyes. After long hours of stress, bright lights that remain on alllll day, the officers conduct their count, turning off the light, and finally... I drift. Saturday — April 20th, 3 AM. I'm awakened by the feeling of something crawling on my face — I jolt up! Whatever it is flies away under the beam of street lamps outside. I think it's a moth... hell, I hope it is a moth! This is nerve-racking! It's not like I can just turn on the light, because, even that tiny priviledge has been taken. Then it flies past me fluttering around the window trying to get to the light, and lands on the floor by the bed. (Earlier, I used the top of one of the mini deodorants to drink coffee out of — no it didn't work well — but it was worth a try.) So I get out of bed, grabbing a deodorant top out of the the corner pile of trash and trap the moth; at least it's better than killing it, right? I lay back down because I know Saturday is going to be a long day. Before I close my eyes, I ask the Grand Architect to send me a sign that the All is All-Powerful. Saturday — April 20th. The numbing tedium begins: Dry-ass breakfast; The loudmouth beating on the door and talking at the highest register; and sadistic guards. Somewhere in the distance is an awful din, which reminds me of a description from Dante's Inferno. Within all of this chaos, comes a chaplain. The confusion seems to slowly subside as he checks up on all of us, blessing those who ask for personal prayers. He then stops by my door: a 6-foot-1, bald, clean-shaven chaplain, wearing a black shirt with a clerical collar. He seems happy, as he asks if I am ok. But at this point, I'm not up for a conversation and simply nod "yes," and he nods back as if understanding and moves on. I feel bad afterwards. Something inside me wanted to ask for a blessing, but I didn't. Before the chaplain exits our range, he says a loud prayer for us all, and when he finishes, I whisper, “Amen."' Suddenly, the din begins. Sunday — April 21st. The rerun of hell begins, but the good news is: the trustee enters our range with a bookcart. Thinking that I'm not going to be here long, I choose one book, a novel titled: "Superstition,"’ by David Ambrose. The bad news is, after selecting this book which is laid by my door, it would be several hours more, and several guards will have passed before I can actually get the book in my hands. Once I begin reading, I try to break through the noise and barrage of thoughts. It's hard at some points during this book (not that it is boring), but because I'm still tired, and my mind wanders from the story, to my story. I keep telling myself that all will be good, especially because tomorrow is Monday, and during regular workdays, I should see someone... hopefully. I decide to check on the moth that lies trapped by the deodorant top/coffee cup, and I see it is on its back — Damn! I didn't mean to suffocate it. I just didn't want it dancing on my face. I leave the moth where it is, and chuck the top back into the corner pile of trash and return to my book. I guess it's never too late to learn things in life, but as the rest of the night ends, I return to the spot to check on the “'dead" moth, and whadda ya know... the little bastard was gone. Either its dusty-ass carcass was dragged away by another insect or animal, or moths have learned how to play possum. Monday — April 22nd. Thank God it's Monday. I'm up at the crack of dawn; I can see the first rays of light breaking the horizon of the Arizona mountains. I'm anxious. I feel like I am going to get somewhere today. NOON. Lunch arrives, but no one important shows up. I'm starting to get worried, because I know if one o'clock rolls around, then that means I'm not getting out of here. 2:30 PM. One of the guards I know tells me that my counselor is on his way. After a few moments I can hear his voice down the range talking to another inmate. He finally makes it my way and asks me how I'm doing. After a brief talk, the only thing I feel better about, is knowing that my recent letter to the court was handled by him, and mailed. , But I'm not going anywhere. By four o'clock, I'm so angry that I'm stuck in here like some animal, when I know I've done nothing wrong; my mind snaps. For a moment I enter into an insane mode-of-mind. I strip off my clothes until I am ass-naked. I spit and piss all over the toilet. I then rage-masturbate all over the wall and floor — straight motha-effing animal! That's how they are treating me, that's how I'm going to act. When I finally regain my sanity, I can't fathom how I didn't get written-up, or thrown in restraints. I need a phone call. I'm chomping at the bit. I've been asking for days now — nothing! This goes on for three more days, and finally... Thursday — April 25th. It's after 4 PM. An officer rolls a mobile pay phone in front of my door. He opens the food trap and walks away. I can't believe it! I'm actually going to be able to make a phone call. I reach my hand through the trap and grab the receiver. I dial my pack number and transfer funds to my phone account — I'm stoked! I dial my family's number, yes...! Wait, what? WHAT?! NO!!! It can't be! Are you effing kidding me right now?! The operator on the phone says: "I'm sorry, you have zero minutes remaining." How is this possible?! I don't believe it, there has to be some kind of mistake, so I try again, maybe there's a glitch in the system... son of a —. Friday — April 26th. After acquiring a shower curtain, I finally manage to finish David Ambrose's book, and jot down notes and thoughts; which, some you're reading now. I finally get my meds: Cymbalta, Lipitor and Ibuprofen. EVENING. The guards make their way down the range with a cart and a box filled with Panasonic electric-razors. "You want a razor?" the guard asks. I am looking real scruffy and maybe this will make me feel better. "Yeah,"' I say. So I'm given a razor. I take off my shirt, head to the sink, eyeing the razor with disgust, and commence to rinsing the excess hair from other prisoners, who used it before me. I apply the electric-razor to my face, and what do you know. Not one blade of hair is cut. I've utterly and completely had it! Besides smashing this cheap piece of sh#? into smithereens, I feel like taking my pink sheet, and tie a sturdy noose around my neck, and jump off the top bunk. Instead, I pop a Cymbalta and await the affects. Saturday — April 27th. The days are long and drawn out, but the nights are equally so. I've turned rec down a few times — I don't want to rec inside another caged-box — I. Want. Out! Between the movements of the sun and tray arrivals, is the only way you can guess the time. Occasionally, someone on the range will yell out to another for the time, and you'll know exactly. I can't help but wonder how "that prisoner" knows, when all of our property is taken and stored at intake. Due to the meds, I manage to nap most of the day. When I can't lie on the nonexistant mat, I jot down more notes with my golf pencil. I've got four of the most tiniest pencils I have ever seen, with no way to sharpen them, except, on the edges of the metal on the window or bunk. Evening arrives. I hear the guards begin to move inmates around to other cells; I'm moved too. Surprisingly, the new cell is clean, so maybe the musical cells paid off. The trustee goes into the open cells, and cleans. When he enters the one I left, I hear: "Damn! This cell is a wreck." I can't help but chuckle. But, it wasn't all me, I I mean, I may have contributed to the cause, but what's wrong with a little donation, huh...? Oh, before I forget. The moth who pulled the okey-doke on me, well, it came back, and this time when I trapped its ass, it was done — bon voyage biiatch. When I left that cell, I left its mothy-ass too. Ok, back to the clean cell. I finally get my small belongings, and notice that the guards took two of my pencils, leaving me with two non-sharpened ones. (The same guard who took my pencils is the one who wears a twisted grimace of annoyance constantly, and seems to hate passing out toiletries and supplies; throwing the stuff at us through the food trap. Sometimes he'll give you everything except one item, i.e., a toothpaste, or pencils, etc. I guess he wants you to beg for it, when I am entitled to these things.) Another oddity of this place is: the Hole staff require you to write out requests on a form called: a copout. Yet, they do not hand out or have "copout forms." They [the C.O.s] issue you 5 sheets of yellow writing paper and 3 envelopes to write your family, or law work, but expect you to use the same paper as copout forms. Once your paper is used up, you will not get extra, period! I tell you, I am really enjoying this vacation (not!). I grit my teeth, but, hey, it's their world, and I'm just a resident. The brighter side of this is, tomorrow is Sunday. Boy, I'm ready for that. The bookcart'll come around, and I'll grab two books just in case; not like I did last time when I was deep in depression — grabbing one book. I'm closer to Monday, and maybe this will be my week. Wednesday — April 28th, 4. AM.” Just when I thought having a clean cell was the beginning of many blessings to come, my eyes snap open. I'm jolted brom my sleep by loud banging and yelling — one of the lost souls of purgatory that exist in the bowels, yelling and causing chaos, has been moved in a cell just below me. All I can hear are the many keys clanging as they move quickly, overlapping the mentally-ill inmate's "Fuck you boy!!" Back to kicking on the door, which reverberates in surround sound. I am waiting for the cameraman to reveal themselves, and tell me that I've been thrown in a crossover show of: The Twilight Zone and Punk'd. Just as I think it couldn't get worse, in joins an antagonizer. Now this dumb-ass tries to drown out the other with a loud mantra-like tone of: 'AAAAAAHHHHHH,"' which goes on and on; infuriating the mentally-ill guy. Factor this behavior in with the sudden, loud bangs throughout the night, and day, which, I feel, gives you PTSD; similar, to resting on a battlefield. The guards walk by and bang their fist on the doors; taking this sh#? as a joke, when there are real lives at stake here, but they don't care. They'll mock and taunt the inmates; acting like children; screaming and yelling; racing each other down the ranges, but these guards are professionals. No one hands out rules to how this place operates, e.g., when is laundry due, or commissary pick-up, etc., you are just supposed to automatically "know." God forbid you expose their antics to their superiors, then you're labeled "a rat." Piss them off, and you may not get a food tray, or a haircut. As the days go by, and the barrage of noise continues from the rage-filled, the lost and the mentally ill; coupled with the careless guards, whose sole purpose is to find enjoyment by tormenting the peace of mind (i.e., replaying a:"staff's presence" announcement on the P.A. over and over, for hours). Or, the seperated lovers who yell through the cracks of the cell doors to one another on different ranges, which sounds like two hearing-impaired people trying to verbally communicate without the use of sign language; but they love each other one week, and the next, they are divorced. During the lovers' conversation of: "I love you. I love you more, pineapple." I'm struck with axioms and knowledge I've self-acquired over the years: Mind over Matter; Light at the end of the tunnel; Improvise, Adapt, Overcome. I figured out, on days when the milk that came in these plastic bags, were spoiled, I'd rinse one out and use it to drink water, and that small, cheap coffee — which was treasured nonetheless — out of. I also found a way to do concentrated pull-ups using the top bunk, and a towel for a cushion; some push-ups the all became clear. I drafted a succint letter to the Associate Warden, expressing my concerns. I then drafted a plan-B letter to the court, so I wouldn't lose my legal avenue to freedom. (I did manage to gain some assistance from staff who handle my case; along with inmates who were not in the Hole and cared.) I began demolishing two 400-page novels in 2 days, and hungered for more. But, well, you all can guess how that turned out. I managed to write a letter to my family. I prayed for a stamp, and lo' and behold, the same trustee who cleans the cells and brings the bookcart around, was the one I asked. Hours before I asked him, I was talking to myself (and God) saying: "If I get one mailing stamp, then I am truly blessed."' And this man, whom I do not know, gave me one. I'll never forget this act of kindness. As my depression and worry begins to subside, things that seemed to throw my positive energy into a fritz, appeared to be trying to correct itself — slowly. Although I have encountered hindrances due to this segregation experience, like: losing my laundry, when I only have one pair of boxers; the phone and noise, one thing is for sure, I'm not going to let this place beat me down. And yes, the guards will yell: "Hang yourself. End your misery." and taunt the mentally ill to the point where they do hang themselves, or cover themselves with their own feces, or walk around naked with hard-ons. I'm not going to give them that satisfaction. I watch the interaction of some of the guards I thought were "okay," when I saw them on the yard, compared to the guards I thought depised me; these were the ones who actually treated me with respect. Life's funny... never know who would be the people to lend a helping hand. Today is Thursday — May 1st. I'm still here. I can't tell whether I've gotten anything accomplished, and still need some things finalized before I can relax — well, relax as far as not worrying. Once I get confirmation from the court, the Hole will just be an obstacle I will need to gain victory over. I managed to talk to the muckety-mucks in the suits (Department Heads and such.) and I laugh at how the guards perform their dog and pony show — so professional; no one calling the mentally ill "Hey psycho" or "Faggot, piece of sh#?."' but once the suits are gone, the masquerade ball is over, and off with their masks! The inmates go back to using their "fishing-lines" to pass stuff from cell to cell, carving derogatory messages into the lids of their food trays, or "going to the movies," (translates: reading their books.) I will be here, still trying to figure out why I'm here, unless, my breathing ceases, which won't be by my hand. *** Epilogue Tuesday — May 21st. The outcome of this thirty-three day fiasco was due to a hater amongst the people, who decided that they would send a letter to the F.B.I., stating I, and four others, were planning an escape, and that I received contraband from staff. So, I went through this hell because "someone" did not like that I remained on a positive wave, and strived to change my life. But what befuddled me was that, our tax dollars were squandered by the government, to send two agents to a USP, investigating fabrications written by a criminal, when, we have missing children, cold cases, drug and human traffickers on the loose. I eventually spent sixty-two days in the Hole because nothing was found. The prison staff of the Investigations Department were angered by this, and I received the backlash. On Wednesday — June 19th, I am finally released, but the fight is long from over. I leave with one axiom on my mind: "With each victory comes greater battles." I leave that bug-infested place with a story, a story that the mentally ill cannot tell, but I can tell for them. I leave the Hole with a bit more humbleness than I had before, and the lack of need for insignificant materialistic things. I also leave with a profound knowledge that, when you are winning and ascending for goodness, there are envious eyes lurking, and watching. No matter how hard you try to avoid those who despise and conspire, if they are hell-bent, and will kill themselves in order to take you out, then you are doomed. Our best bet in today's world of haters and suicide terrorists (haters/terrorist = one in the same.), wear a bullet-proof vest, and pray, that you don't get shot in the face; P.E.A.C.E. Positive Energy Always Creates Elevation

Author: Swain, Tyreise D., Sr.

Author Location: Arizona

Date: 2021

Genre: Essay

Extent: 11 pages

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