'Inside The Box' Exhibit Shows Life In Solitary Confinement

Feb 1, 2017

An exhibit in New Haven, Connecticut, lets people spend a few minutes inside of a solitary confinement cell. "Inside the Box" is a replica solitary cell created by a religious human rights group that says it wants to show people solitary confinement is essentially torture.

The exhibit is a 10 X 12 foot gray box. It sits in the middle of a room in the New Haven Free Public Library. When you step inside, the sound of a busy reception goes away, and is replaced with rattling, pounding and almost inhuman screams.

Ally Perry, with the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, says it’s a recording from a supermax prison in Maine.

“So those are actual sounds that somebody in solitary was experiencing. There’s no relief from the sounds and no control over them for people that are in solitary.”

The inside of the cell is bare – cinderblock walls, a metal platform for a bed, and a small sink and toilet. A fluorescent light hums from the ceiling.

“It’s pretty grim, I have to say, and to spend even a few minutes in here? Try and think about what that would be like for even an hour, but certainly not a day or more.”

The U.N. considers anything more than 15 days in solitary to be torture. It can cause a host of mental health issues, including lifelong anxiety and depression.

Tens of thousands of people are put in solitary every year in the U.S. Last year President Obama scaled back solitary confinement in federal prisons. Perry says she worries it’ll see a resurgence under Trump.

“In every way, I’m terrified of the thought of how human rights are going to be violated, and that people will be rounded up and deprived of their rights. So it’s a very dangerous and alarming time.”

The exhibit is at the New Haven Free Public Library until February 5, when it moves to the campus of Yale University. It’ll be on display until February 18.