Chapter 3: “The Compound”

By Tony Casson

When it was finally time to leave the “S.H.U.”, I was ready. My old bones were sore and I wanted to face whatever was “out there” and get started on what was to be my life for the next 4 years.

They took us and walked us—there were about 6 people being released into the compound—out of the SHU, uncuffed us, handed each of us a bedroll (2 sheets, a pillowcase, and a thin, porous blanket), and told us what unit to go to.

The best way to describe the facility is this:

Imagine a large circle; draw a line through the center of the circle; in the middle of the line (center of the circle) is a small building called “The Key”–the line is actually a 12 ft fence and the key is the only way through the fence. On one side of the line, along the outer edge, are the housing units; 4 sets of 2 buildings each unit. Each set has 2 “wings”–one wing is made of 46 2-man cells with solid doors and little window slits. They have the same bunk and desk setup as The SHU, except there is no attached stool, and each person has a maroon plastic chair.

The cell also has a porcelain toilet and a separate porcelain sink, and 2 lockers (2′ x 3′) stacked on top of each other.

The mattresses are a little thicker than The SHU and you do get a pillow, which helps dramatically.

There are 23 upper and 23 lower cells with a 4 1/2-ft-wide “catwalk” around the upper cells. The catwalk, or balcony, overlooks a 30-ft-wide “common area” that has 2 ironing boards, 2 pool tables, 4 large “game” tables for cards, checkers, or chess. There are showers and TV rooms at one end—there are actually 4 TV rooms—sports and Spanish on the first level, casual viewing on the top.

The entire unit is pretty clean and kept that way by inmates.

I live in a cell on the second floor of one of these. The other “wing” in each unit is “dorm” style, which I am thankful I didn’t get—6-man cells (3 upper, 3 lower bunks), no doors, no toilets in the cells, considerably less privacy.

On the other side of the “key” are the rec yard, commissary, chapel, dining room, laundry, library, hospital, dental, offices, psychology, the SHU, R&D—all lining the perimeter.

This pretty much describes the physical characteristics…pretty boring stuff, I know. Watch for the juicy info soon, though.

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