by Allie Perry, Shalom UCC, NH and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture
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 replica confinement cell has traveled around the country and is now coming to New Haven.
For three weeks, the cell will be on display at the New Haven Free Public Library, 133 Elm Street, for the first week, Monday, Jan. 30-Saturday, Feb. 4; at Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library, 120 High Street for the second week, Sunday, Feb. 5-Saturday, Feb. 11; and for the third week, Feb. 11-18, at the Yale Law School library, 127 Wall St.
Initiated by three New Haven United Church of Christ congregations (United, Redeemer, and Shalom), this project had 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 (Ives Memorial) Library, the Yale Undergraduate Prison Project, the Orville Schell Human Rights Center 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 CT ACLU, Malta Justice Initiative, and Reclaiming the Prophetic Voice.
The project’s goals are to provide opportunities to experience a simulation of isolation; to educate the use of solitary confinement, including practices in Connecticut; and to equip people to advocate for limiting and stopping the use of solitary confinement, precisely because such prolonged isolation is cruel, unusual, and degrading treatment. For the schedule of the extensive program of speakers, panels, book talks, performances, and films during the three weeks that the cell will be in New Haven, go to: www.insidetheboxnhv.org/events.