Supermax Prisoners In Solitary Were Given One Photo Request — This Is What They Asked For

If you were held in the hole for years, what one image would you want to look at?

Prisoners held in solitary confinement are confined to small, often windowless, cells for 22 to 24 hours a day. They suffer extreme isolation and sensory deprivation, in conditions that even the United Nations has denounced as torture.

Prison-rights group Tamms Year Ten asked inmates locked in a supermax (super-maximum security) prison outside of Chicago what photos they’d like to have to hang on their walls. They could be of anything — real or imaginary — and they would find artists on the outside to fulfill the request.

Though Illinois prison policy prohibits the prisoners from hanging the photos on their walls, the images offer motivation, escapism, a view to the outside, and just a way to combat loneliness for the inmates. The photographs capture the sensory details they miss. For outsiders, it’s a view into what they are thinking about all day.

Here are some of the requested images:

2. My Auntie’s house on the block at 2 p.m., facing east

Chris Murphy / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

“Let the people outside know that the picture is for ‘D-man,’” Darrius, the prisoner, told Tamms Year Ten.

3. A specific stained-glass window

Greg Ruffing / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

4. The Chicago skyline

Scott Fortino / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

5. South King and 63rd on the South Side of Chicago

Jason Reblando / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

6. A photograph within a photo of me and wild lions

Jesse Avina / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

7. The Michael Jordan statue

Greg Ruffing / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

8. Lovesick clown

Lisa Barcy, Harry Bos and Stephanie Barber. / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

Specific request: “A lovesick clown: holding a old fashioned feathered pen: as if writing a letter: from the waist up: in black and white. As close up as possible: as much detail as possible: & the face about 4 inches big.”

9. My mother, who died last year, with a pile of money, a hummer, and a big castle

Jeanine Oleson / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

10. The Puerto Rican flag

Thais Llorca / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

11. The Masonic Temple

Allan Callander / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

12. Downtown Christmas tree

Claire Pentecost / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

13. The Navy Pier

Charlie Simms / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

14. Genesee Street in Downtown Waukegan, Ill.

Colleen Plumb / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

15. The boat scene from the “Jenny from the Block” video, with Ben Affleck and J. Lo’s butt

Danny Orendorff / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

16. The members of Tamms Year Ten fighting for the men at Tamms

Tom Bluett / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

17. A vigil at Bald Knob Cross held for the inmates

Rachel Herman / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

18. Several men asked for photos of themselves, taken from their online Department of Corrections photos, placed on a different background, to send to their families.

Angela Jimenez / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com
Laurie Jo Reynolds / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

20. A boy and girl, in their Sunday best, sitting side by side on a piano bench, with a single rose on the keys

Karen Rodriguez / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

The prisoner asked for the photo as a present for his wife.

21. Several requested images of what the area where Chicago public housing project Robert Taylor Homes used to be, and what it looks like now

Greg Ruffing / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

22. Where Robert Taylor Homes used to be

Greg Ruffing / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

23. Where Robert Taylor Homes used to be

Greg Ruffing / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

24. Where Robert Taylor Homes used to be

Greg Ruffing / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

25. A friend who will write me

Jennifer Henry / Via yearten.org and solitarywatch.com

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