Supermax Solitude

Activist and filmmaker Laurie Jo Reynolds has made a film called Space Ghost that compares the disconnection felt by astronauts as they separate themselves from the earth, with the disconnection of prisoners who become isolated from culture and human connections:

Space Ghost compares the experiences of astronauts and prisoners, using popular depictions of space travel to illustrate the physical and existential aspects of incarceration: sensory deprivation, the perception of time as chaotic and indistinguishable, the displacement of losing face-to-face contact, and the sense of existing in a different but parallel universe with family and loved-ones.

Laurie Jo is also an organizer of the Tamms Year 10 coalition, a group that is advocating for the reformation of the Tamms super max prison located in Southern Illinois.

From their website:

In 1998, the first prisoners were transferred from prisons across the state to Tamms CMAX, in Southern Illinois. This new “supermax” prison, designed to keep men in permanent solitary confinement, was intended for short-term incarceration. The IDOC called it a one-year “shock treatment.” Now, ten years later, over one-third of the original prisoners have been there for more than a decade. They have lived in long-term isolation—no phone calls, no communal activity, no contact visits. They only leave the cell to exercise alone in a concrete box 2 to 5 times per week. They are fed through a slot in the door.

These activist contend that the disconnect these prisoners experience is tantamount to torture. Charles, who has been confined in Tamms since 1998 points out, “I will ask you, lock yourself in your bathroom for the next 10 years and tell me how it will affect your mind.”

These disruptions are a kind of gap, breaking relationships that aren’t merely superficial, but are critical connections at every level of our being.