‘Inhumane and depressing’: Skoop describes the worst prison lockdown she’s ever experienced
‘They will fuck your whole cell up’
Skoop is babe.net’s prison correspondent. She’s currently incarcerated in SCI-Muncy, a maximum security women’s prison in Pennsylvania. She loves flirting, cooking and trap music. She’s also a writer and she sends her columns to us by letter. Her nickname, as she likes to say, is Skoop because she scoops up all the girls. She’s here to talk about what her life on the inside is like — and if you’re smart, you’ll listen.
This week she writes about the worst lockdown she’s ever experienced.
On August 29, 2018, all state prisons in Pennsylvania were placed on lockdown when an Ohio prison discovered corrections officers and staff were becoming ill due to synthetic drugs entering the prison.
Being placed on lockdown is the worst thing we go through, because every single thing is taken from us — or as corrections officers (COs) and staff would describe them, “privileges.” We cannot use the phone, shower, or go to work, and it is miserable. The first day during lockdown, nobody is informed why, but this time we all knew it wasn’t a normal shakedown.
On the first day, at 4:30 pm, a CO informed us all visits were suspended until further notice and we’d remain on lockdown “for the rest of the night.” We knew something wasn’t right, but in their eyes, we didn’t need to know shit.
Finally, another CO told us to watch the news. That’s when we understood, but it was still so fucked up — we were not even allowed to use the phone to tell our families not to drive up, because there wouldn’t be any visits. A friend of mine was devastated. Her family came all the way from Indiana, and her family was denied the visit. We didn’t know how long it would last, but we were confused and frustrated, not being able to call home or clean off. Normally, it would only last a day, and not even a full 24 hours at that.
We’re used to this though. Every month or two, the prison has a shakedown. They’ll strip you and search a unit or two. The COs will search your cell, looking for weapons, drugs or contraband, and everyone has “contraband,” because contraband is anything from extra soap to salt and pepper. Some COs I call “petty,” because they just want to tear shit up, and most go to the extreme. They’ll tear down decorations, cards, pictures. The rule is you can’t have anything hanging, taped up or on clothes lines. Most of us have rusty cabinets and want to make our room feel cozy — something to make us feel like we aren’t in prison. Is that too much to ask? During a normal search, they’ll fuck your whole cell up, but this wasn’t a normal search, this was the worst one, and it lasted 12 whole days.
The second day, they failed to inform us no mail would be going out or entering the prison. We couldn’t even write a letter to tell our worried families about what was going on, and there were still no showers. It was bullshit and inhumane if you ask me. Three days later, the deputies and superintendent finally showed up to give us updates about what’s going on. Took them long enough. The next day, we were able to take a shower and use the phone (once). Of course, everyone still wanted to know what was happening. Was this because of another state issue? And how long would this last? When would visits start back up? Some questions were answered, and most weren’t.
Because of this, false information began spreading. It little stuff to the COs but serious to us. For example, one staff member would inform us we’d be given commissary one day, and the next said something entirely different. It was clear they were feeding us bullshit to shut us up but one thing nobody plays about here (or in any prison for that matter) is commissary. It’s our food, coffee, cigarettes, comforts. It’s important to us.
During this lockdown, all we had time to do was think and people got really depressed. I was going a little crazy myself not being able to move or communicate with others. We wanted food that wasn’t the garbage they served us. Half the meals were cold by the time they delivered them. Some units never did receive commissary, and staff would say “Oh well, don’t come to prison.” But what if you are here for one mistake? I want people to know mistakes happen. People make mistakes.
Now with all the changes that occurred due to this lockdown, all of our mail will be scanned. We’ll no longer receive the original mail, including letters, greeting cards, pictures, or legal mail. We cannot receive books or magazines either. I don’t want my family wasting money on cards if we will not even be receiving them. It’s sad; knowing our friends and family touched these things brighten our days. It’s the little things.