The acclaimed photographer Richard Ross, whose Juvenile-in-Justice project (and photo book) chronicles the lives of children in prison, recently decided to put himself in the shoes of his young subjects by spending 24 hours in isolation. With permission from the head of an unnamed youth facility in the Midwest, he set up a camera to take a photo every seven seconds. The result is this time-lapse video:
Here’s more from Wired‘s Jakob Schiller:
Ross chose 24 hours because that’s the typical amount of time a juvenile offender spends in isolation at the facility when they’re first admitted. It’s not punishment for some aggressive or egregious behavior, just a matter of procedure while the bureaucracy “evaluates” them. Sometimes children are put in isolation because they are low-level offenders and should not be housed with the more serious offenders in the general population. Isolation can also be used for disciplinary action, however, and Ross has interviewed many kids who have spent weeks alone.
“It was unbelievably dehumanizing [in the cell], and I’m an adult and I knew that I had 24 hours,” he says. “Then you have these kids who are used to sleeping in their beds, some of whom have never been away from home.”
For a good longread on the subject, check out “The Lost Boys” by David Chura, who spent a decade teaching English to kids in an adult lockup. He chronicles what happens when they are transferred into the prison’s new security housing unit. (It isn’t pretty.) Also see our recent special report on solitary confinement, which includes an award-winning feature story by former Iran hostage Shane Bauer and a piece I wrote about early experiments in what extreme isolation does to your mind.