A Question Of Freedom

R. Dwayne Betts guest-blogged here last month. His bracing new memoir which chronicles his time in prison, and how he came to writing is now out. I have a rather natural connection with his story. I did no time, but like me, Dwayne comes to writing very organically. It's not something we fell in love with in class. Anyway, here's a clip of the excerpt we have up on the site:

People went crazy in the hole. There was no air-conditioning in the summer, so I would strip down to my boxer shorts and pour water on the bare mattress and then lie in it and wake up dry but covered with mosquito bites. There really was nothing else to do about the heat, just endure it or lie in water. The library cart didn't come around but there were plenty of people down there you could get a book from. Just like in population, inmates we called housemen cleaned up and helped pass out the food. I didn't notice them much when I was in population, but they were almost our lifelines in the hole. If not for them and fishing we wouldn't have been able to pass food, books, notes. All the stuff you needed. The housemen were in population, so they could bring word back and forth to keep that communication flowing.

I was back there on my first real charge, and honestly, I felt better in the hole; it was calm. There wasn't the pressure you feel when in population, the constant tension in the air. You disgraced yourself by "checking in"-- asking to be placed in the hole for protective custody. So I'd never thought of going to the hole as a way of being able to relax. The crazy thing is, you're supposed to be safe in prison; instead, prisoners who are unwilling or unable to fight require special arrangements: checking in. I wasn't in the hole for protection, but I wasn't complaining about having a few months where all I had to worry about was what book I'd read next. In population, there were too many young dudes running around shackled to too much time and for sanity's sake my time in the hole did me good.

In the hole, once I realized I could just call out on the door for books, I was reading a book a night. Reading more and getting some time to write my thoughts out, to process what people I walked the yard with said to me ...