It’s been some time since I last updated here, mainly because I had to double down on my final university assignment before the summer holidays — and that work was further strained because I had gotten into a good flow on Prisoner’s Cinema that I didn’t like to put on hold. Now the paper is handed in, summer is officially here, and I’m trying to shake the lingering sense of impending deadlines — and the post-stress cold that knocked me out once the assignment was done.
The current tally on my progress is 56 pieces (or pages) of monotyped collage artwork are at the stage that I consider “done-ish” — that is, I’m fairly satisfied with them but I might still add some elements if it fits the larger work, the book as a whole. That means I’m slinking my way toward the halfway mark, but I’m not bragging just yet… Until I’m back up to speed with the project, I thought I’d share some of my lighter research in this production journal entry.
With some projects I can get to work and process what is on my mind right on the paper, but whenever I move outside subject matters or concepts of my own direct experience, I’ll find myself digging into a lot of background reading. Discovering podcasts recently, about a decade later than the rest of the internet, has made it somewhat easier for me to at least orient myself on a subject before submerging myself entirely. Here are a list of recommended podcast episodes that have directed me in one way or another in my work with Prisoner’s Cinema so far:
from KCRW’s Here be Monsters —
This was the first time I heard about the term “Prisoner’s Cinema”, and it left enough of an impression that I copied the title onto my own (rather different) project… Here be Monsters was one of the first podcasts I really got into, particularly because of host and producer Jeff Entman’s very personal radio character and terrific soundscapes.
That first one is reasonably light and quirky and has to do purely with the visual phenomenon; the following are about solitary confinement and imprisonment. They are highly recommended, but definitely less easy on the nerves:
Free Thinking Festival: Doing Time/Confinement
from BBC Radio 3’s Arts & Ideas —
In our fast moving, busy world it is hard – if not impossible – to imagine what it would be like to be incarcerated on our own. Captured in Beirut while working as an envoy for the Archbishop of Canterbury, Terry Waite spent five years as a hostage mostly held in solitary confinement. The writer Erwin James served 20 years of a life sentence in prison before his release in 2004. They discuss the experience of isolation with Dr Cleo Van Velsen, a Consultant Psychiatrist in Forensic Psychotherapy. Chaired by Free Thinking presenter Anne McElvoy.
Inside The Hole: What Happens To The Mind In Isolation?
from NPR’s Hidden Brain —
Imagine a concrete room, not much bigger than a parking space. No window. You’re in there 23 hours a day, 7 days a week; you don’t know when you’ll get out of this room. A month? A year? A decade?
Our minds don’t do well with that kind of solitude and uncertainty.
Keramet Reiter, a criminology professor at UC Irvine, has spent more than a decade researching solitary confinement. In her new book, “23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-Term Solitary Confinement,” she writes about the lives of people who end up in solitary units, some for years.
The man inside: Four months as a prison guard
from the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal podcast —
Welcome to the hellhole
Mother Jones reporter Shane Bauer gets a job as a guard at Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield, Louisiana. The prison is run by the private company Corrections Corporation of America, and over four months, he investigates how the prison is run. Shane buys a pen that doubles as an audio recorder and a watch that takes video. Shane makes it through training and ends up guarding suicide watch on day one of the job, documenting everything he can.
Albert Woodfox on surviving 44 years in solitary
from Amnesty International’s In Their Own Words podcast —
Albert Woodfox has endured more years in solitary confinement than anyone else in the US.
Albert was first imprisoned in Louisiana in the 1970s. Racism was rife. Albert decided to take a stand – and it cost him.
Albert’s story is one of surviving when the odds are stacked against you, of fighting for rights in the most desperate of situations, and of friendship, comradery and solidarity when subjected to unthinkable injustice and cruelty.
from BBC Radio 4’s Seriously… —
John Toal meets former death-row inmates Sunny Jacobs and Peter Pringle at the retreat they have set up in rural Ireland to offer restorative treatment to other victims of wrongful conviction in order to help them back to a normal life.
Peter Pringle was sentenced to be hanged in Ireland in 1980. Sonia ‘Sunny’ Jacobs was sentenced to the electric chair in the United States in 1976. Sunny was accused of killing two police officers at a highway service area in Florida. Peter was accused of killing two police officers in rural Ireland during a botched bank robbery. Both had their sentences commuted to life and were later exonerated of their crimes. Peter and Sunny spent over 15 years each in prison for crimes they didn’t commit.
January 2018 addition: from Radiotopia/PRX, an entire podcast dedicated to inmates’ own experiences in an American prison.
Ear Hustle brings you stories of life inside prison, shared and produced by those living it. The podcast is a partnership between Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams, currently incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison, and Nigel Poor, a Bay Area artist.
The team works in San Quentin’s media lab to produce stories that are sometimes difficult, often funny, and always honest, offering a nuanced view of people living within the American prison system.
While Ear Hustle is a terrific listen overall, the episode most relevant to this list is The SHU which relates experiences of inmates who have spent between eight and 28 years in San Quentin’s “Security Housing Unit”.
As a bonus, yet not a podcast at all, you should also check out The Guardian‘s VR app 6×9 which is a good — if brief — attempt at representing the experience of being in solitary confinement.
Continue reading Prisoner’s Cinema production journal, pt. 3