The Psychology of Segregation

I don’t know how long they’re going to keep me here in segregation, but the prison is saying they can’t move me back to the wing until everything has been investigated and conclusions have been reached regarding who was involved and who wasn’t, and despite me having told them exactly where to find the evidence that I wasn’t part of the incident, no-one seems too keen to actually do that. So I wait.

In the meantime, I’m going to be examining some of the things I have experienced during this whole process and asking why things have to run this way.

I’ll start with hygiene. Like most people, I’m used to showering every day. In segregation, that isn’t possible. Here we are allowed to shower once every three days. That would be a shock to the system on its own but, in my particular case, it was exacerbated by the fact that I arrived in segregation directly from witnessing an incident as we left the prison gym, so I was covered in my own sweat and someone else’s blood. My clothes were taken and I was issued a replacement set which I was forced to put on immediately, before having a chance to clean myself up and resulting in the clean clothes becoming bloody and sweaty. I had a sink in my cell, but no soap or other toiletries to wash with. So I made do with just water. I did the best I could.

In segregation, prisoners are allowed two changes of clothes. But, despite my requests, I had only one. Laundry is done on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. On Sunday, six days after arriving, I was given a second change of clothes. However, when I looked at them, they too were covered in…something. To be honest, I’m not sure if it was blood or faeces. I suspect it was both but, either way, I wasn’t about to put them on.

It was Wednesday (day ten) before I got a full second set of clean clothes. The jumper was two sizes too small, but it was clean, so I wore it. The only problem was, Wednesday was also the first day I was issued with a blanket and, with no heating on in the cell, I had had to sleep in my clothes for the previous ten days too. They stank. I stank. The clothes desperately needed washing. But not until the next laundry day. Not before Friday (day twelve). And of course, we can only wash one set per week whilst we wear the second set. So even at the best of times, each set has to last for at least seven days.

So why? Would it have been out of the question to let me shower (or at least wash) before putting on the first set of clothes? Would it have been too much to ask for them to issue a blanket and turn on my cell heating a few days earlier? Couldn’t they have given me a second set of clothes before day ten? And what do they get out of all that?

I’ll never deny that I can be stubborn and argumentative but, for the most part, I’m compliant. Not everyone is the same. Some people respond to these things more violently. Isn’t that just a headache for them? And if so, why do it? Well there’s only one reason. Because it’s worth it. If they can break down your spirits early on, you might kick off and resist a bit, but they keep total control. It comes back to infantilisation. Everything you need comes from them. And if you don’t want to sit stinking in a cold and empty cell, you’ll do more than just comply with you subjugation, you’ll embrace it.

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