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The SHU (Security Housing Unit), also known as solitary confinement, is an isolation ward that is located separately from the main cell blocks at Litchfield Penitentiary
In the SHU, inmates are locked in their cells 24 hours a day, with only a few showers a week. Meals are delivered through a slot in the door to increase security.
The lights in the SHU are kept on constantly, which has caused many inmates to lose their sense of time. Having no contact with others has caused many inmates in SHU to go completely insane. Constant screaming is heard 24/7 as inmates try to let out their anger and sadness.
Piper Chapman was sent to SHU three times, once for angering Healy in the episode "Fucksgiving", again for nearly beating Pennsatucky to death, and once more for breaking into Fig's office to retrieve financial statements.
When Piper is in SHU for the first time, she communicates with her neighbour through ductwork in the wall. Her neighbor tells her that she has been in SHU for 9-12 months, causing Piper to realize that she could be in there for that amount of time as well. It is never revealed whether or not this "neighbour" was a real person or just a hallucination due to stress.
Taslitz, an older woman, and part of the Golden Girls, was sent to SHU for attempted murder of a fellow immate. She was targeting Vee, but accidentally stabbed the wrong person. She is briefly seen in Season Four, when all Max inmates are let outside their cells, indicating that she was transferred to Max after a spell in the SHU.
Janae Watson is sent to the SHU regularly for her temper, even being added to the list of changes for the hunger strike.
Angie Rice was sent to the SHU for a short period after using an adminstrative error in her favor to be released from Litchfield briefly.
Sophia Burset was sent to SHU after being jumped in her salon. The head of the MCC said that it was for "her own safety". Despite sending her there, Gloria Mendoza eventually feels overcome by guilt and battles to get her released. She and Sophia's closest friend Sister Ingalls pretend to fight so Ingalls will be put in the SHU. It works and while Sister Ingalls struggles to communicate, she eventually passes notes on a string to Sophia and attempts to internally smuggle a phone to her. Caputo eventually uses the phone to take a picture of Sophia in her cell, which he gives to Danny Pearson who campaigns alongside Sophia's wife, Crystal Burset, to get Sophia released by MCC. Sophia is released back into minimum in "The Animals".
Maritza Ramos was sent to SHU for a couple of days because she attempted to blackmail Bennett.
Nicky Nichols was sent to SHU prior to the first episode.
Sister Ingalls deliberately "attacks" Gloria Mendoza in order to get thrown in the SHU to communicate with Sophia. She is successful until she is found to be smuggling a cell phone internally. Caputo sees an opportunity to use the phone and get Sophia out of the SHU, but Sister Ingalls is left there indefinitely.