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Edgar Roussel, in his letter to Mark MacGuigan, gave this account of the reality of the prisoners’ world in the CDC:

Television acts as an aspirin to calm suffering, while at the same time it is a prism through which the outside world reaches us. But after months of this diet one is nauseated, repulsed and turns off the set, only to be introduced to a new phenomenon; noise! searches, guards’ rounds; all is subordinate to noise, more pervasive to those in cells than elsewhere, because there is never a lull. When, late in the evening, one succeeds in falling asleep ...the night rounds begin. And every hour, endlessly, the sound of the guard’s steps as he makes his rounds, resounds against the cell ceiling ...it would be difficult to discuss ventilation, as it does not exist; no windows, solid doors, and that heavy air clings like an opaque veil. In summer it’s a crematorium oven that even total inactivity renders unbearable: we sweat from doing nothing ...I’ve slept on the floor of my cell for nearly two years, my head leaning on the bottom of the door so that I may benefit from the smallest breeze - incomparable wealth.

A common room is at our disposition every evening from 18:30 to 22:30, the time spent outside the cell... A few social games, another television and surveillance, lots of surveillance, make this common room virtually a cell, just a little larger than the one in which we are confined most of the time.

For outside activities, we are put in a courtyard 75 feet by 75 feet ...In the summer, the breeze is cut off by the high walls, while the asphalt of the floor makes the overpowering heat rise. There is no greenery, there are no benches, only the asphalt, the cement, and the wire ...

Our greatest comfort and our only contact with the outside world is through visits ...There is to be no physical contact with our parents, wives and children. This is how the administration extolls the blossoming of the individual. 127

Since my first visit to the CDC there has been an attempt to implement the phase program. As I have already mentioned, in 1981 a second wing of the CDC, block 7, became part of the SHU. In 1982 a separate exercise yard was built for block 7. On my second visit to the CDC in May 1982 I asked staff and prisoners how the regimes in phase two and phase three had changed since my first visit. I was told that phase-two prisoners in block 5 live under the same conditions and with the same absence of any real programs. Phase-three prisoners in block 7 are now permitted to have their midday and evening meals in one of the common rooms; phase-two prisoners eat in their cells. The men in phase three are given a choice in the evening between two common-room programs. According to the Inmate Handbook, common room 7 A is for ‘TV ,inside games, reading, study, and hobbies.’ Common room 7B is for ‘educational and social-cultural purposes.’128 In phase three, fifteen prisoners at a time are allowed to associate in the common rooms, compared to the limit of ten in phase two. As a result of the newly constructed exercise yard for block 7, phase-three prisoners (along with phase-one prisoners who are also housed in block 7) have a greater expanse of concrete to run and walk around than those in phase two.

While there is now the appearance of greater privileges for phase-three prisoners, my most recent interviews and correspondence with prisoners in the CDC deny the reality of any improvement in the nature of their confinement. Eating in the same room with the same thirteen ‘particularly dangerous’ men day in and day out, always under the surveillance of an armed guard, is not seen by prisoners as any real release from the regime of total control over their lives. The prisoners ridicule the statement in the handbook that in phase three there are common-room opportunities for ‘social-cultural’ programs. The only difference they see between the common-room programs in phase two and those in phase three is that in the phase two common rooms the table and chairs are of a single-unit construction and are bolted to the floor, whereas in phase three, presumably because the prisoners have been sufficiently resocialized, the tables and chairs are free-standing!

The hyperbole involved in describing what goes on in the phase three common room as ‘social-cultural programs’ characterizes the description of the new improved phase one. Prisoners in phase one are now confined in one of the ranges of block 7. The Inmate Handbook described this phase as ‘one of decompression, of quiet.’ The regime remains the same -solitary confinement for twenty-three hours a day. While the language of the handbook accurately reflects the original theory of solitary confinemeht as expressed by John Howard, its relationship to the reality of a prisoner’s first month in the CDC is as artificial as the opaque light that enters the cells in block 7.

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