Try to visualize what a prisoner who has spent years in solitary confinement imagines outside his or her 6-by-9-foot cement and steel prison within a prison.
The Photo Requests from Solitary Project invites prisoners to request a photograph of anything—real or imagined—and then finds an artist to make the image. The astonishing range of requests, most from prisoners in New York State, has been made into an art exhibit.
Exhibit viewers not only witness the hopes, memories, and longings of those in extreme isolation, but are inevitably connected to the growing debate over widespread use of solitary confinement and human rights abuses in the U.S. In New York, about 4,000 people are held in isolation in prisons.
In their effort to promote legislation to reform in New York this year (draft bill known as HALT Act nycaic.org/legislation), UUCSR will hold two events this month:
On Jan. 14, it will launch PRSF exhibit to include some 30 large, mounted photographs with captions describing the requests, which mainly come from prisoners in our state. Speakers will include family members of those currently in solitary, as well as Jack Davis, a survivor of solitary confinement.
Also at the Jan. 14 event will be parents of Benjamin Van Zandt who committed suicide in the upstate Fishkill Correctional Facility; Jean Casella, of Solitary Watch; Claire Deroche, UUCSR member who will speak on the HALT Act.
The second event is Jan. 23 and will also feature the photo exhibit and speakers/family members..
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock (UUCSR) is located at 48 Shelter Rock Rd., Manhasset, NY 11030.