#3 The Worst – Part II
The things which have the greatest impact in prison, which are the most difficult to endure, are usually psychological in nature, rather than physical. For myself, and for most others who retain any semblance of normality, noise is by far one of the worst things about prison. Noise, and lack of sleep which is its accompanying factor.
The noise of prison is something visceral, that strikes you on a primitive level, making you react in ways that you would not expect. It is constant, pervasive, and completely inescapable. Every prison is an unceasing cacophony of clanging, banging, screaming, cursing, crying, singing, arguing, ranting, raving, metal on metal, nails on a chalkboard, auditory chaos - a literal symphony of the damned.
I've read that in the prison at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. government used noise, in the form of music played at all hours, as a weapon against the detainees. It was meant to break their will, and crush their spirit, making them less resistant and more susceptible to interrogation. No such artificial means are required in regular prisons. Those who are angry, those who are sad, those who are bored, and those who are mentally disturbed all work in concert, until the noise becomes something that seems to be generated naturally, by the environment itself, independent of all else, with a life of its own. It is as indescribable as it is unbearable. It can quite literally drive a person to the edge of sanity, and beyond.
If a person can manage to become acclimated enough to the noise to sleep in spite of it, the function of basic prison policy still prohibits anyone from getting unbroken sleep. Every prisoner in the Special Confinement Unit, short SCU, must be visually accounted for on the half hour. The written requirements for these checks are that the guard conducting them must either see the prisoner’s eyes, or see that person physically move. The stated reasons for such a requirement are "prisoner safety", to ensure that each person is alive and well, and "prison security", to ensure against a prisoner leaving behind a dummy, to fool the guards while they attempt an escape.
In practical terms, this means that all night long, every 30 minutes, a guard is shining a flashlight into each person’s eyes, and/or banging on the door, until the prisoner moves, or opens their eyes. Some guards use this as an opportunity for harassment, and relish waking everyone, and the problems it causes. Others just do their job and make it as little of a disturbance as possible. Regardless of the intent, the net effect remains the same: each prisoner being awakened multiple times during the course of the night. Because this policy is related to " the safety and security of the institution", no amount of persuasion or complaint will ever cause this to change in any substantial way.
Links to the other articles of the "The Worst" series:
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