“IT’S BEEN SEVEN MONTHS since I’ve been inside a prison cell. Now I’m back, sort of. The experience is eerily like my dreams, where I am a prisoner in another man’s cell. Like the cell I go back to in my sleep, this one is built for solitary confinement. I’m taking intermittent, heaving breaths, like I can’t get enough air. This still happens to me from time to time, especially in tight spaces. At a little over 11 by 7 feet, this cell is smaller than any I’ve ever inhabited. You can’t pace in it.”

Shane Bauer was arrested on the Iran-Iraq border and held for 13 months in solitary confinement. He did not go to trial for two years. He was charged with spying. The evidence against him was ruled “confidential” and so it did not have to be produced publically. Seven months later he is touring a US prison and is asked by a guard which is worse.

What I want to tell Acosta is that no part of my experience—not the   uncertainty of when I would be free again, not the tortured screams of   other prisoners—was worse than the four months I spent in solitary   confinement. What would he say if I told him I needed human contact so   badly that I woke every morning hoping to be interrogated? Would he   believe that I once yearned to be sat down in a padded, soundproof room,   blindfolded, and questioned, just so I could talk to somebody?

 Bauer realizes he cannot explain to a free person that the differences are in the little details:
   ….Do I point out that I had a mattress, and they have thin pieces of foam;  that the concrete open-air cell I exercised in was twice the size of  the “dog run” at Pelican Bay, which is about 16 by 25 feet; that I got  15 minutes of phone calls in 26 months, and they get none; that I  couldn’t write letters, but they can; that we could only talk to nearby  prisoners in secret, but they can shout to each other without being  punished; that unlike where I was imprisoned, whoever lives here has to  shit at the front of his cell, in view of the guards?

“There was a window,” I say. I don’t quite know how to tell him  what I mean by that answer. “Just having that light come in, seeing the  light move across the cell, seeing what time of day it was—” Without  those windows, I wouldn’t have had the sound of ravens, the rare  breezes, or the drops of rain that I let wash over my face some nights.  My world would have been utterly restricted to my concrete box, to  watching the miniature ocean waves I made by sloshing water back and  forth in a bottle; to marveling at ants; to calculating the mean,  median, and mode of the tick marks on the wall; to talking to myself  without realizing it. For hours, days, I fixated on the patch of  sunlight cast against my wall through those barred and grated windows.

He says that solitary confinement in Iran broke him completely and reduced him to “sobbing and rocking to the beat of my heart, it was the   patch of sunlight that brought me back.” Then he points out that here, in this US prision, there are no windows.
Bauer realizes he has only been allowed to speak to prisoners who have informed on other prisoners. He askes to speak to someone from the general population and is refused.
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