Groups work to bring awareness to solitary confinement issues with replica cell

Published: Mar. 12, 2017 at 11:59 AM CDT
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The First Universalist Unitarian Church, in conjunction with Ex-Prisoners Organized, and Northcentral Area Congregations Organized, is raising awareness about the issues surrounding solitary confinement of prisoners in a unique way.

Church visitors were given the opportunity to visit a replica solitary confinement cell, designed by ex-prisoner Talib Akbar, to see first hand what it's like to live in solitary confinement.

Visitors could sit in the cramped cell and hear recorded sounds of actual inmates banging on their cells through headphones provided, in order to fully experience just how loud solitary confinement can be.

Akbar was sent to solitary confinement 10 times, and spent time talking to church members about his experience.

"It's a shock. Myself being there 10 times. It's not so much of a shock to me now, but it was when I first got in. For other people coming in, it's a shock because they don't know what to expect," Akbar said.

NAOMI Community Organizer Kate Gaines said hearing from an ex-prisoner like Akbar can make the experience more powerful.

"I think it always helps people change their hearts easier if you hear a personal story from somebody who's had the negative effects in their life due to solitary," Gaines said.

Both Akbar and Gaines believe solitary confinement serves no purpose, and hope upcoming legislation can help put a stop to solitary confinement.