As an inmate at Bastrop Federal Satellite Camp, one of the places I hope to never see is the Special Housing Unit or SHU. It's a unit consisting of 12 cells which are roughly 7'x10' and contain a bunk bed, a small steel desk with an attached stool and a combination stainless commode and sink. Inmates from the camp are sent there for disciplinary reasons. However they could also be sent there because they have an infectious illness or for their own protection. One unfortunate inmate spend his first 28 days in the SHU because the Bureau of Prisons was confused about whether he should be at the camp or at adjacent low security prison.

Upon arrival at the SHU, the inmate is issued an orange jumpsuit, a pair of boxers and socks, a t-shirt, mattress, blanket and 2 sheets. He is allowed to bring a few items with him, if he has them. These include a paperback book, a deck off cards, a Bible, Koran or religious book, 10 sheets of stationery, 30 stamps, an address book, a 4" toothbrush, a radio, ear buds and a watch. He can also bring shower shoes, eyeglasses and 1" thick stack of active legal work.

Once there, the lucky occupant can leave for one hour, 3 times a week, for recreation which takes place in 20'x20' outdoor cage with a concrete floor. He can also leave for 10 minutes, 3 times a week, to take a shower and once a month for a haircut. For his 10 minute shower, he is given a bar of soap, small packages of shampoo and shaving cream, and a short handle shaving razor not suitable for human use. Meals are served in the cell through a slot in the door; and if he stays long enough, he'll be required to change cells every 14 days. He'll be handcuffed during these transfers and anytime he leaves his cell.

The SHU accommodations do include some contact with the outside world. Mail is allowed, but there is no access to Trulincs, the antiquated BOP inmate computer system reminiscent of 1980's Soviet technology. One phone call is permitted every 30 days. There is limited visitation every Thursday, but visitors must arrive by 9:30am, so they can be processed by 10:00am. Visitation concludes by noon.

The SHU is an excellent place to avoid. When I think too much about camp, it's the easiest mental photo to retrieve from the 'it could be worse' file folder.