Lewisburg Federal Prison Camp – How to Prepare for the SHU: A Primer to Thrive in Solitary Confinement

What is the SHU? The SHU stands for “Special Housing Unit”. This is essentially solitary confinement. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, the SHU is being used to quarantine inmates, regardless of security classification. This means that if you are self surrendering to a camp, you should be prepared to spend at least 14 days in the SHU.

I spent 21 days in the SHU, due to a quarantine and a lockdown, which occurred at the same time. To complicate things, I had no idea that I was going to the SHU and didn’t know when I would be released into general population. Not knowing what to expect can be one of the most stressful parts of being in federal prison. Thankfully, I worked with RDAP Dan and through watching his YouTube videos and engaging his services, I gained so much insight that prepared me for what to expect.

I want to share my experience with others so they can learn, and hopefully thrive during their SHU experience. So let’s start with defining the SHU…

What is the SHU

The SHU is normally a place to house inmates with disciplinary issues. It’s a single cell with a toilet, sink and shower, within a 8 x 10 foot space. There is a small window, and a steel door with a slot towards the bottom. The slot is also locked shut and is only opened to serve meals.

There is no phone, TV, radio, books or any human contact outside brief communication with the officers through the steel door. If you want to communicate with the officers, you need to speak very loudly. Your voice has to be heard through a steel door, so be prepared to yell if you want to be heard.

The facility does not allow you to use a phone or borrow books, due the to COVID-19 risk. Although this may seem harsh, it is the safest procedure to follow for both the inmates and staff. The bottom line is that you will be by yourself for at least 14 days, and you must prepare for this ordeal.

Prepare your family and friends

Let your family and network know that you will not be able to contact them for at least two weeks while you are quarantined in the SHU. In my circumstance, I was unable to contact my family for 3 weeks. Not surprisingly, my family was very concerned and experienced a lot of unnecessary stress. So before self surrendering, let your family know that not to worry if they do not hear from you for at least two weeks. Inform them that you will contact them once you are released from quarantine.

Plan a routine

The next piece of advice I have for people self surrendering is to come up with a SHU routine before you turn yourself in. The following was my SHU routine (keep in mind that I did not have any access to books, so writing with a pen and paper took the place of reading):

  • 4 am – Wake up to breakfast being served. After eating breakfast, I would go back to sleep.

  • 10 am – Wake up to lunch being served. I would eat my lunch and then start working on my book (yes, only with pen and paper).

  • 12 pm – Meditate for at least an hour.

  • 1 pm – Cell workout, which consisted of 1000 pushups, 100 burpees and 400 body squats.

  • 3 pm – Eat dinner.

  • 4 pm – Shower and shave in cell.

  • 5 pm – Lay down and meditate for an hour

  • 6 pm – Make an instant coffee. I would drink coffee and stare outside my window. I concentrated on the blue sky, and tried to maintain a peaceful mind.

  • 7pm – Write letters to my family. I did not have stamps or envelopes. I wrote these letters with the intent of mailing them out whenever I got out of the SHU.

  • 10 pm -Try to sleep. It took me at least 2 to 3 hours to sleep.

I repeated the above routine for 21 days straight.

Mail yourself books from Amazon

The BOP will not allow you to borrow books (due to cross contamination), but you can mail yourself books from Amazon. Prior to surrendering, order 5 soft cover books from Amazon. The limit in most facilities is 5 books at a time, and they must be soft cover. I recommend that you plan to send 10 books, in 2 shipments.

The good thing about Amazon is that you can confirm your delivery date ahead of time. So I would plan for the first batch of books to arrive, the day after you surrender. Have the second batch to arrive a week later.

Make the most of your situation in the SHU

Your SHU time can be used as a wonderful reading retreat. I am not stating this to be facetious, but rather with delight. There is no better way to pass time than by reading. I passed time with nothing but pen and paper, and I produced tons of content, which I will share with all… and lost 5 pounds of body fat. I made the best of my situation and I thrived in the circumstances that I could control. I never dwelled on things I could not control, such as when I would be released from the SHU, the cell temp, the food etc.

Accept that you are in federal prison

Yes, it does get hot in the SHU (there is no AC).

Yes, you are by yourself.

Yes, it gets lonely.

Yes, it does get redundant and boring.

There are a million things one can complain about. But keep in mind that your time in the SNU will come to an end. You will become stronger from your SHU experience, and you can utilize this new strength in your future endeavors. I can tell you after my SHU experience, I gained something surprising. I gained gratitude for my life, and an even greater love for my family that I can not explain in words. I hope I have alleviated some fears of my fellow RDAP Dan friends and whoever comes across this blog.

Until next time,

Shan Sultan



Shan Sultan worked as a medical doctor for 10 years before receiving a 48-month sentence for conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud. Shan was designated to Lewisburg Camp.          



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