The Barrett Brown Review of Arts and Letters and Jail: A Visit to the Hole


I’m afraid I’m now being kept in the Seagoville federal prison Special Housing Unit, or SHU, known more informally as “segregation” and even more informally as “the hole.” Several of my fellow jail unit inmates and I were brought here in the wake of a June 17 incident that the Department of Justice is billing as a “semi-disturbance” for which we are to be investigated and perhaps punished — though not necessarily in that order. One awaits one’s disciplinary hearing in the hole, and if one if found guilty, one is sentenced to … the hole. More than a week after being confined, I’ve yet to even be charged with an infraction.

I’ll go into further detail about the circumstances at some later date, when I’m free, so to speak, to talk about it, as it’s really a remarkable story. For now I shall, in my benevolence, let you in on what it’s like to live in a tiny cell for 23 hours a day. That way, you’ll be prepared in case you, too, ever find yourself implicated in a “semi-disturbance” or a “quasi-disruption” or even a “pseudo-riot.”

There are holes, and then there are holes. I spent a few days in the SHU back in 2012, during my stay at the federal prison compound in Fort Worth — not for any perceived misconduct but because there were no beds available in the jail unit. (My friend Gregg Housh, Hacker to the Stars, spent 30 days in the SHU some years back for the same reason.) It pains me to have to report that this particular hole is far inferior. Like much of the Seagoville prison compound, this building dates back to the days when the site served as a World War II internment camp for people found guilty of being German-Americans. The mid-20th century was less than a Golden Age in the annals of humane detainment of civilians; the people of Texas, meanwhile, have only rarely been denounced for the excessively cushy treatment administered to those who fall into their clutches. And the building was clearly intended to house punishment cells, presumably for the bad Germans who got caught writing incomprehensible oracular philosophy about things-in-themselves and the Weltgeist and all that (in which case I hope they were punished very severely indeed). Thus it was that I was not terribly astounded to learn, for instance, that these cells have no air-conditioning, which certainly promises to make things interesting come July, or that one does not receive one’s prescribed medication for several days after arriving, which makes things interesting from the get-go.

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