Prisoners are persons whom most of us would rather not think about. Banished from everyday sight, they exist in a shadow world that only dimly enters our awareness. They are members of a "total institution" that controls their daily existence in a way that few of us can imagine. "[P]rison is a complex of physical arrangements and of measures, all wholly governmental, all wholly performed by agents of government, which determine the total existence of certain human beings (except perhaps in the realm of the spirit, and inevitably there as well) from sundown to sundown, sleeping, walking, speaking, silent, working, playing, viewing, eating, voiding, reading, alone, with others. . . ." It is thus easy to think of prisoners as members of a separate netherworld, driven by its own demands, ordered by its own customs, ruled by those whose claim to power rests on raw necessity. -- Justice William Brennan, dissenting in O’Lone v. Estate of Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 354-55 (1987).

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


The original title for this blog was Bill Bailey Unplugged (in fact, one way to reach it is at My wife, and several others, liked the idea because it accurately reflected the technology withdrawal I am about to endure. I eventually chose "The Rabbit Hole" because I thought it more accurately captured the surreal aspect of my experience. Nonetheless, the original title has merit.

So much of modern life is defined or regulated by "connecting" technologies -- specifically, cell phones and the internet. Of course, the internet includes the web, email, and instant messaging. In fact, when I lived in Israel for several months in 2002, I often felt more connected to my teenage daughters back in the States than when I lived 20 minutes from them, all because of the availability of email and instant messaging and inexpensive international phone cards. For their generation, a world without cell phones and the internet is almost impossible to imagine and has in fact defined the very nature of what "community" is. Sharing details of one's personal life on MySpace and Facebook and connecting with "virtual" friends all over the world are not only considered normal, it is almost inconceivable that the world could be any different.

This "unplugging" from technology that I will experience for three months is actually something that intrigues me a great deal. The great blessing of these technologies is that you always CAN BE connected.... literally, from anywhere in the world. However, the great curse is that you ARE always connected... it seems impossible to escape. Unless, of course, you are going to prison, although the irony has not escaped me that I am blogging on the internet about being unplugged from technology when I go to prison (and intending to continue blogging while I am in prison, albeit through pen and paper mailed to an intermediary poster).

When all of these technologies are withdrawn, what inside of me will rise to the surface? What neuroses are being masked by the incessant technological stimuli? Depression? Obsessive/compulsive tendencies? Phobias? Whereas it is common to believe that fundamental personal change starts with what is inside (that is, you must change the way you think before you can change the way you act), I have come to believe that it is more complicated than that. Sometimes, you have to change your behavior in order to discover what inside you needs to be changed. While certainly attitude and belief must change before behavior can change, sometimes it is difficult to identify the underlying dysfunctional thinking unless you first stop behaving dysfunctionally because the dysfunctional behavior is masking the dysfunctional thinking. If you can't stop what it is you're doing long enough, you may not be able to put your finger on what it is that is actually driving the behavior.

Unfortunately, in the real world, it is too costly to simply stop what you are doing. For example, few people will disconnect their TV, phones, and internet in order to discover what a technology-free life would be like... to discover what pathologies have crept in to their lives without them even knowing it because these technologies keep them too busy to notice.

Of course, I do not have to choose to give up these technologies; prison has been forced on me. (That is not to say that I don't accept responsibility for my actions, only that the punishment was not my idea.) As a result, I am about to be unplugged and God only knows what I am going to learn about myself.

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