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Feature Photo: Think Ten Media filming on day 4 of ‘The wHole“
The following was written By William Brown, Lead Actor for The wHOLE:
No one wants to go to jail, but you definitely don’t want to be in the hole while you’re in jail — locked up for 23 out of 24 hours a day with no human contact. That’s where you imagine the “uncontrollable” individuals go — that’s what you think, but the next thing you know, you’re the one who is there. You’re the one in “the hole.” The first time, I went to the hole, it was for supposedly having a “weapon” (the ladle from the serving line for food was the weapon I was accused of having).
Before the hole, I wanted to laugh a lot, but now I just want to breath easy. It’s that simple. I just want to breath easy. Inside the hole, everybody’s frustrated, everybody is trying to cope — and it is not an easy reality to cope with.
It’s something that can never become comfortable — the walls are always cold; the light stays on, and there is so much pain in that place. It’s not just your own pain that makes it unbearable, but the pain of all the other individuals in there. You hear it. It surrounds you, engulfs you.
You have no way to track the time, except through tracking the weather, the changing of the seasons — yes people are in there for entire seasons (months and months). You listen and track the time by what the guards are saying — the weather is getting hotter, the rainy season has come. That’s about it. Other than that, there’s no way to have even a clue about how long
you’ve been there or what day it is.
While you’re “away,” you are completely out of touch. Your engagement with the outside world becomes extremely limited — making the transition back to either general population or the “outside” (outside of prison) is a true challenge.
How do you reconnect to any society after being completely cut off from it for months with no normal social interactions? You come out and friends that you’ve made in prison (some who were even childhood friends), they are gone now — poof, just gone. You don’t know where they went or why they went away.
Before I went to the hole, I was nearing my parole date. I ended up spending the last bit of my sentence in isolation and being released straight from solitary confinement to the outside. Not long before I went into the hole, I spoke with one of my dearest friends — a very dear friend, nearly a brother to me.
On the day that I came home, I listened as my aunt and grandmother told me that my friend had been killed while I was in the hole — this is what I find out my first day home. He died on the 9th of June. My parole was June 24th.
This is something I still struggle with today. It still haunts me. On the inside, I would get 15 minute phone calls, but when I was in the hole I lost that. I never got to say goodbye. I never got that last phone call, and it hurts.
There was no communication with the outside for me when I was in the hole, and I certainly didn’t expect to come home and find out that someone I love has been dead almost two weeks.
I found myself walking down the street as if I was a zombie. I really didn’t know how to cope. I still don’t know how to cope.
My time in solitary confinement affects me each and everyday in some type of way, and that means it also affects YOU. The truth is we all touch each other’s lives.
People want to believe that incarceration and solitary doesn’t affect them physically, it doesn’t hurt them. But, it does. It hurts the world spiritually and emotionally. It damages communities.
This is why I am honored and proud to be part of “The wHOLE,” a dramatic series about mass incarceration and solitary confinement. I’m the lead actor and did something I never imagined I would do — voluntarily step back inside the walls of prison and into a solitary confinement cell. I did this because I wanted to help those on the outside understand this experience.
I want people to sit down and watch thewholeseries.com with an open heart and an open mind and picture their son, their daughter, their loved one, their neighbor going through that experience. What would they do then? How would they feel? We’re giving you a bird’s eye view of what goes on inside a solitary confinement unit, something that you never get to see.
This is not a reality show — it’s more real than that. If you want to know what is really happening to tens of thousands of men, women and children right now behind bars, watch the show. I know that once you do, there’s no way you won’t be able to act. Once you know, I wonder how you will possibly be able to ignore this truth.
I’m making this show because I want to take away the excuses for inaction. I want to shut down the denial. I want to expose the truth and the show is true, it’s raw.
And that truth is not just my story, it’s our story. It’s not the hole. It’s the whole. Join with me to stop solitary and end mass incarceration, so that we can all breathe easy.