This Intense App Lets You Experience The Reality Of Solitary Confinement

Photo: Bebeto Matthews/AP Images.
The debate around solitary confinement has literally been brought to your home screen. British newspaper The Guardian has created 6x9, a virtual reality smartphone app that allows the non-incarcerated to experience the surreal and frightening reality that is solitary confinement. The 360-degree video app simulates the sights, sounds, and hallucinations that come from spending 22 to 23 hours a day locked in a 6-by-9-foot room. The sounds are recorded from an actual prison; the recollections of fear, boredom, and despair are those of real prisoners. The intense, disturbing video gives us a taste of what life can be like for many. Amnesty International estimates that, on any given day, there are about 80,000 to 105,000 prisoners in solitary confinement in the United States. Many of them are imprisoned alone for years, or even decades. According to various studies, the long-term effects of being deprived of normal human interaction can be psychologically disastrous. One 2003 study published in the social science journal, Crime & Delinquency, found that “the mental health risks posed by this new form of imprisonment are clear and direct,” including anxiety, panic, insomnia, paranoia, aggression, and depression. The practice has been linked to suicides and other tragedies. Governments and correctional authorities have been debating the appropriateness and effectiveness of solitary confinement. While some call it torture, others say that it’s a necessary tool for the safety of both correctional officers and other prisoners. In January, President Obama banned the practice of holding juvenile offenders in solitary confinement, citing the “devastating, lasting psychological consequences” in an op-ed in The Washington Post. The United Nations has also called on countries to end the practice of solitary confinement, saying that any solitary confinement sentence longer than 15 days should be completely prohibited. The 6x9 video app can be downloaded on iTunes or Google Play, for free.

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