You can think “Inside the Box” with solitary confinement exhibit

(Image: Big Stock Photo)

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) – Starting Monday, the public gets a chance to experience what solitary confinement is like. A traveling exhibition of a replica cell is in New Haven for the next three weeks.

The first stop is the New Haven Free Public Library, and if you come to the library to be alone, now you can really be alone. You can step inside a solitary confinement prison cell.

For the next three weeks, visitors are encouraged to think inside the box. The box being a solitary confinement cell, just like what you would find in a prison.

“It is an exact replica of a solitary confinement cell and it actually also includes the sounds of a true prison that’s taken from a Maine penitentiary,” explained Yale Law Student Sameer Jaywant.

This weekend, a crew installed the cell inside the library, so anyone can step inside and see, hear, and feel what it’s like.

“We think folks will have a chance to experience isolation themselves in the replica cell, to learn about the harms of solitary confinement, and to develop the tools to advocate against it going forward,” said Aleks Sverdlik, another Yale law student.

While visitors can leave anytime they want, prisoners assigned to solitary are usually in that box 23 hours a day. This traveling cell belongs to the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, a group that says solitary confinement is a kind of torture. During the cell’s three week stay in New Haven, it will bring films, panels, dancers, even the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections to the Elm City.

“We really hope that these three weeks of events will be a chance to bring the community together for an intensive dialogue about the harms of solitary,” said Sverdlik.

A coalition of local groups, churches, and Yale Law students hope to change some laws by showing people what it’s like inside that cell.

“And these stories are hard to share, by its nature it’s something that people experience alone, hidden away and it’s hard to talk about,” said Yale law student Steve Lance.

This exhibit will be moving around. This week, it will be here at the New Haven library. Starting February 5th, it will be at Yale’s Sterling Memorial Library, then the week after that it will be at the Yale law library, which is open to the Yale community only.

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