'The SHU' ... 'The Hole' ... 'The Box' ... 'Flat Time' ... 'The Monster Factory.'
Solitary confinement, or 'Administrative Segregation,' is the nationwide prison practice of relocating inmates -- deemed a security risk for any number of reasons (some solid, some suspect, many unknown) -- from general population facilities to high-security 'Special Housing Units,' isolating them in sparse single-person cells -- many without windows, clocks, or books inside. Just you and the coarse walls and the cold floor and the stale air and the shadows.
Consensus figures claim that up to 100,000 inmates are currently held in ‘restrictive housing’ in prisons across the United States. In these well- hidden facilities, men, women, even juveniles spend 23+ hrs/day without any human contact – serving sentences ranging from days to decades to lifespans -- somehow expected to maintain a sense of peace while kept in captivity like beasts; asked to reach reform and rehabilitation in a savagely designed system that begets only the erosion of the mind and spirit. It is undeniably torture.
In prisons both public and private, we keep our poor, desperate, and/or mentally ill -- most of whom are people of color -- in the subterranean shadows, without proper medical and/or mental care, without any supportive system aimed toward rehabilitation, in an archaic, caustic environment. We imprison the angry and make them angrier -- we make the lost only more lost. Depriving our own of the respect, dignity, and humanity promised to all by god and country.
In our happy little world up here where the sun shines and the birds sing, we think nothing of this growing problem in our society's bowels. Because up here, we can't see their fading eyes -- we can't hear their broken screams - - we can't smell the shit splayed on the cell walls. But in time, we will have to face this issue as a community and society. When these inmates are released -- as the majority of those in solitary are serving non-life sentences -- we'll have to confront the truth.
together, we all ought to wake up.
I set out to make this film with the hopes of shining a light into the shadows; to provide a voice for the voiceless. I've had family members (most notably, my cousin) go through the hell of solitary, only to be chewed up and spat out by the American prison system. And after our lead actor, Kofi Bamfo, revealed his own personal connection with the story, we knew we had our man. our goal was to immerse the audience in a world both artistic and authentic. raw and real.
Throughout the process, we've also worked closely with various organizations -- including the ACLU and SolitaryWatch -- who connected us to many ex-cons with stories to tell from 'the hole.' If anything, I hope this film can take a stand for them -- people who've never had anyone take a stand on their behalf. As a young artist who'd been gifted a relatively cushy upbringing, I saw the chance to utilize my voice and vision to tell a story that could both challenge and inspire -- polarize and unite -- paralyze and provoke an audience. For me, there's nothing greater than creating something that sparks an important conversation.
I end with some words from Dostoyevsky:
'The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.’
... derek j pastuszek