Campus Demonstration Simulates Solitary Confinement

i-b82addad9ebc9913d95ecd135b0337f4-SPEAR_blog.jpg

By Nellie Peyton ’14; Photo by Frank Wojciechowski

Bustling groups of students walking past Frist Campus Center Nov. 21 were sobered by the sight of a solitary figure within a space, outlined by tape, that measured seven feet by nine feet – the size of a typical solitary-confinement cell in a U.S. prison. During a 24-hour period, 23 students (including Eleanor Roberts ’15, above) each spent one silent hour within the space. It was empty for the final hour, a reflection that prisoners in solitary confinement are given one hour a day to go outside or shower. 

Grace Li ’14, president of Students for Prison Education and Reform (SPEAR), organized the demonstration to raise awareness of the harsh conditions and prevalence of solitary confinement. “Four percent of all inmates are in solitary, but this is where 50 percent of prison suicides occur,” Li said. She said the event had achieved its purpose: “I feel like people are talking about it, and that’s the most important thing.”