My project is about prolonged solitary confinement in U.S Prisons. A flyer from the NRCAT (National Religious Campaign Against Torture) says, “Individuals held in solitary confinement are often locked down 23 or 24 hours a day in a small cell. There is often no natural light. They have no contact with other prisoners. They can spend one hour every other day alone in an exercise pen. Calls to and visits with family are very infrequent, when permitted at all. Many live in these isolated conditions for years.” Prisons use solitary confinement to teach lessons to these people in hopes that they will never commit a felony again, however, this thought process has proved to be detrimental. The prisoners come out with an even worse mental state and they don’t get the help that they need in order to function again. This issue is very important to me, not because I personally know someone in jail, but because when these prisoners come back into society, they never had the proper procedures or therapy to re adapt. Prison life, no doubt, is extremely difficult, which is a major understatement. Sometimes, the prisoners go in for petty crimes and come out completely damaged and hurt. Just having them pushed back into society isn’t good for anyone and they need to start having therapy and doctors readily available to them so they can cope.
I am obsessed with watching documentaries about everything, but a majority of the ones I watch have all been about prison life. However, as we all know, the media alters these images/videos for their own benefit and to rake in more income. I wanted to actually learn the truth about what goes on behind prisons, what type of harassment happens, and all the other nasty realities. What sparked this specific interest now was learning more about Guantanamo Bay and how the prisoners are treated there. The thing about “Gitmo” is that most of the prisoners there weren’t even charged with a crime. They are just in there because, basically they are Muslim and that’s enough for the government to send them to prison. I recently read a story about how a female doctor, she had her full life ahead of her, but then she was sent to gitmo just because she was Muslim. It wasn’t right and I wanted to learn how I could help to change some of the tactics used in these prisons.
The actual idea for the project all started out when a speaker who was part of the NRCAT came and spoke to the class about actual prison life. She taught us more about the solitary confinement and how U.S. Prisons use this abundantly even though there is proven evidence that shows that it doesn’t help the prisoners but only further mentally damages them. She talked about some of the facts, how she and her group tried to address congress to change this, showed us a video that the NRCAT made, and gave us more information about how to join a campaign.
At first in my proposal, I wrote that the main problem I wanted to address is why prolonged solitary confinement in U.S. prisons are detrimental to the well-being of the inmates. I also wrote that this is a huge issue because the people who are in constant solidarity have an incredibly difficult time re-adjusting back into society which could lead to some dangerous situations. However, not many people seem to care about this issue since it is a bit far-fetched and although people may hear stories on social medias, it happens so often that they just pass over it. Therefore, in order to combat this, I created a tumblr and tried to reblog extremely riveting stories and pictures. There were a few people who were very passionate just like me and we would go back and forth talking about whats wrong with prisons and just small things we could do to make a change, but that turned out to mostly just being talk. Another way that my project changed from what I initially wanted was mainly the scale of which I wanted to do it. In the beginning, I thought it would be possible to have at the very least a bill or campaign created in Maryland to address this fact. In my proposal I wrote that on a broader scale, I wanted for the state corrections departments to reduce the use of solitary confinement. This has been proved more challenging than I thought. Towards the middle of my project, I changed my goal to I wish to educate more people so that they would would be more aware of how harmful it actually is for society to have prolonged solitary confinement. Having a tumblr did work out but not as well as I liked.
With doing a tumblr blog, a major difficulty that I had in the beginning was trying to make this project funny in any sort of way that I could. But it was just not working out the way I planned so I decided to stick with trying to get people interested by reblogging interesting stories and photos. When I do another activist project, I think I might use another platform to voice my opinions like having a small gathering of people and bouncing back ideas. Another type of activism I could have done is to try and reach out more towards the NRCAT and join forces with them. Also, for the tumblr, I had a really hard time gaining followers and getting people to reblog my posts but I found a super effective way to combat this. I started to hashtag everything and follow anyone’s blog with a slight bit of activism in it. This actually worked surprisingly well because I ended up with forty-five followers! I was only five more followers away from my initial goal so that was very exciting.
The major downside was that my blog became lost in the process. I started reblogging prison related posts once in a while instead of having that being the main focus of the blog. I created a tumblr for the first time and it was really simple to use so there was no problem there. The problem came when I had to find more varied posts about solitary confinement and jail time because the same bunch kept popping up. I personally feel like tracking the follower amount and reblogs/liked amount is an accurate indication of success since my new goal is to be able to just spread the word about why solidarity prison confinement is wrong and immoral. Also, since my blog did end up having forty-five followers, I feel like I did raise awareness through my posts and know they know a little bit more than before about prison life and how prisoners are treated.
This was my first time taking actually doing and creating an activism project and I learned what worked and what didn’t work and I feel like that will help me a lot in the future. Working with other people may be hard, but it is super effective to come together with different perspectives and points of view to create fresh new riveting ideas. Picking a platform that is well received toward your target audience is another aspect to keep in mind because government officials and prison workers don’t -most of them don’t spend their times on tumblr. However, on tumblr you can find so many people who share the same passion as you about an issue and you can brainstorm together with them to think about how to create change. I will definitely be continuing this project not only on tumblr but i’m going to really try to work with the NRCAT over the summer now that I have much more time and try to make a bigger difference. A good piece of advice that I learned was that having multiple platforms is important to reach a wide variety of people that can surprisingly help you out. And don’t be afraid! Just don’t be! If you are worried that something isn’t going to work out and you’re not sure just go for it anyways! Because it will end up being a learning experience and you can apply that to other situations in your life. Just go for it!
Sign the statement: http://www.nrcat.org/solitary