The Disturbing Sounds of Solitary Confinement

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April 21, 2014
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by Sarah Childress Senior Digital Reporter, FRONTLINE Enterprise Journalism Group

Dan Edge

One of the first things you notice is the racket. An inmate pounding on his metal cell door. Another is beating on the reinforced square window. Somebody somewhere is howling.

“People think the solitude is what drives prisoners crazy, but it’s actually the noise,” says FRONTLINE filmmaker Dan Edge. “It’s so loud and awful, and it never stops.”

Edge gained unprecedented access inside the segregation unit of the Maine state prison for his film Solitary Nation, a visceral portrait what it’s like for inmates living in prolonged isolation.

In the above excerpt from the film, Edge captured a typical Friday night in solitary, as the inmates begin to act out against the officers who watch over them.

In lockdown, prisoners are denied access to anything they might use to harm themselves. So they shove bodily fluids under the door.  They cut themselves with smuggled in razor blades, and smear blood on the walls. They flood their cells, stopping up their toilets until the water overflows into the hallway.

Each time, they can be punished with more time in solitary confinement.

Solitary Nation premieres on-air and online tomorrow night, starting at 10 p.m. EST (check local listings).

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