Watching Herman's House: Six reflections on Herman's House and the issues it raised about solitary confinement in the United States.
Published Web Locationhttp://www.pbs.org/pov/hermanshouse/watching-hermans-house-reiter.php
Solitary confinement has existed since the first U.S. prison was built in Pennsylvania, in the late 18th century. But the scale and duration of solitary confinement in the United States in the 21st century is unprecedented. On any given day, roughly 80,000 adult U.S. prisoners are held in solitary confinement. They spend 23 or more hours per day in cells that usually measure six feet by nine feet—smaller than a wheelchair-accessible bathroom stall. They have extremely limited contact with other human beings—phone calls are limited; family visits take place (if at all) behind thick, bulletproof glass; and doctors' appointments happen through cell doors, or with prisoners locked into telephone-booth sized cages. Prisoners spend not days or weeks, but months and years in these conditions. In California, for instance, the average length of stay in solitary confinement is between two and three years. In states like California and Louisiana, however, some prisoners have spent not years, but decades in solitary confinement. Herman Wallace, who has spent more than 40 years in solitary confinement in Louisiana, is one such prisoner. Director Angad Singh Bhalla's feature film, Herman's House, humanizes this world of solitary confinement, attaches a story and a face to the thousands of U.S. prisoners serving long sentences in solitary confinement and raises questions about the justice of the individual and collateral experiences of this world.