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FRONTLINE: LAST DAYS OF SOLITARY

What to know: Offers an inside look at solitary confinement in the US and one prision's efforts to reduce its use.
KIDS FIRST QUALIFIED ENDORSEMENT
Recommended age 15-18
60 minutes
DVD
PBS DISTRIBUTION
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This documentary offers an inside look at solitary confinement in the U.S. and one prison's efforts to reduce its use. The U.S. is the world leader in solitary confinement, with more than 80,000 American prisoners being held in isolation. In recent years, 30 states have begun to experiment with reforms aimed at reducing the use of solitary. This title was filmed over three years at the Maine State Prison. It follows the story of inmate Adam Brullotte, a 23-year-old serving two years for a non-violent crime and has been in solitary confinement for disciplinary reasons. Scientific studies, even dating back to the 1800s, clearly prove that solitary confinement causes mental deterioration, anxiety, psychosis, violent behaviors and physically and permanently changes the way the brain works. We also know that statistically 80% of inmates who experience time in solitary get released from prison. These inmates ultimately re-offend and return to the revolving door of incarceration. Throughout the film, Brullotte starts his time in "seg" optimistically. He even says "I like Seg. I can handle being locked down 23 hours a day because I can read, write and do push ups. It sucks, but I think I'm doing good." Within 25 days of solitary, Brullotte demonstrates heightened anxiety, floods his cell and shortly after he starts self harming to the point of attempted suicide. After his release, he stays sober and gets a job, but is arrested for unpaid court fines and re-enters the revolving door of incarceration. With intensity, depth and clarity, this film shines a light on a world that is largely hidden from public view. This documentary has graphic footage and hence, I recommend it for ages 16 to 18. I would not say that it meets the KIDS FIRST! criteria for children's viewing. The menu offers English sub-titles and a link to pbs.org/frontline. I give it 3 out of 5 stars due to the sensitivity of the topic. Reviewed by Elizabeth B., KIDS FIRST! Adult Reviewer
The U.S. is the world leader in solitary confinement, with more than 80,000 American prisoners being held in isolation. But in recent years, more than 30 states have begun to experiment with reforms aimed at reducing the use of solitary. Filmed over three years by producers Dan Edge and Lauren Mucciolo, with immersive, unprecedented access to the solitary unit at Maine State Prison, the program portrays -- almost in real-time -- the psychological disintegration of human beings, and the challenge of how to deal with men considered the most dangerous and difficult in the state. It's a haunting portrait of life in solitary, and a unique document of a risky reform experiment. It is a searing program that offers American television's most comprehensive exploration of this controversial practice, and goes inside one state's ambitious attempt to decrease its use.
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