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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?

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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:


Lovesick clown

Lisa Barcy, Harry Bos and Stephanie Barber. / Via and

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."


Contact Justine Sharrock at

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