What is it like to be isolated and segregated in a small prison cell 23/7 for days, weeks, years, and in some cases even decades?
The National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) is clear. It is not just like torture; it is torture. According to Juan Mendez, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, holding a person in solitary confinement for a period of time longer than 15 days is torture. On any given day, however, around 80,000 people in the United States are being held in solitary confinement.
To help people understand that prolonged isolation is a form of torture, NRCAT has created a replica solitary confinement cell. The NRCAT’s replica solitary confinement cell is now coming to New Haven, Connecticut where, for three weeks, it will be on display, giving people an opportunity to experience for themselves the inside of a solitary cell.
Initiated by three New Haven United Church of Christ congregations (United, Redeemer, and Shalom), this project has engaged a powerful coalition of community, religious, and university organizations. In addition to the churches, organizers of this project include: the New Haven Free Public Library, the Yale Undergraduate Prison Project, the Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights at Yale Law School, Dwight Hall at Yale, My Brother’s Keeper, The Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, Wilton Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the ACLU of Connecticut, Malta Justice Initiative, and Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice.
The projects goals? To provide opportunities to experience a simulation of isolation; to educate people about the use of solitary confinement, including practices in Connecticut; and to equip people to advocate for stopping or limiting the use of solitary confinement, precisely because such prolonged isolation is cruel, unusual, and degrading treatment.