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
“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
5. South King and 63rd on the South Side of Chicago
6. A photograph within a photo of me and wild lions
8. Lovesick clown
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
12. Downtown Christmas tree
14. Genesee Street in Downtown Waukegan, Ill.
15. The boat scene from the “Jenny from the Block” video, with Ben Affleck and J. Lo’s butt
16. The members of Tamms Year Ten fighting for the men at Tamms
17. A vigil at Bald Knob Cross held for the inmates
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.
20. A boy and girl, in their Sunday best, sitting side by side on a piano bench, with a single rose on the keys
The prisoner asked for the photo as a present for his wife.