On October 12th, Students for Prison Education And Reform (SPEAR) is excited to be taking part in its fifth annual 7x9 performance, which aims to raise awareness and facilitate conversations about the inhumane use of solitary confinement in incarceration facilities throughout the United States. In solitary confinement, incarcerated people are isolated into cells that are 6’ x 9’ or 7’ x 10’, allowed only one hour outside the cell each day to shower or go outside. While people in solitary confinement make up only 4% of incarcerated people, they make up 50% of suicides that happen in incarceration facilities. You can read more about the problems with solitary on our website.
“In many ways solitary confinement is an issue that at once encompasses and surpasses all other issues within the criminal justice system, it is used as a tool against every vulnerable group within the system: minorities, children, immigrants, mentally ill, people going through withdrawals,” said Daniel Teehan, the leader of SPEAR’s advocacy committee. “It doesn’t even make sense from conservative standpoints: it costs up to three times as much per individual per year, it leads to higher rates of prison violence and recidivism. All of these things make the argument against solitary confinement one of the easiest to make, and the range of potential audiences vast, but because of the people that it affects, some of the least sympathetic to the American public, there are not enough people making it. That’s why we need to.”
In this performance, for a total of 23 hours, performers will sit alone in a 7 by 9 foot rectangle for an hour each. In the 24th hour, the space will be left empty for the only hour incarcerated people are permitted in a 24 hour period. “In no way does this performance represent the experience of people who have been confined in solitary cells. 7x9 is only an abstraction, an entry point or reminder for people to catalyze learning about solitary confinement,” explained Grace Li, the former president and co-founder of SPEAR.
The 7x9 performance art protest will begin at 5:00PM on Thursday, October 12th and conclude on Friday, October 13th at 4:00PM. On Friday, October 13th at 4:30PM in McCosh 28, following the performance art protest, Tyrell Muhammad, a previously incarcerated individual who spent a total of 7 years in solitary confinement, will be speaking about his harrowing experience and the work he does now to combat this use of torture in US prisons. Finally on Saturday, October 14th we will be hosting an orientation to Project Solidarity, Princeton's letter writing campaign between Princeton students and incarcerated individuals who are currently in solitary confinement.
In addition to raising awareness about solitary confinement through the 7x9 performance, SPEAR is excited to offer inclined students the chance to make a difference in the life of an individual currently in solitary confinement through its new correspondence program. This program will pair Princeton students with individuals in solitary, with the expectation that each pair will establish a written correspondence throughout the year. By doing this we hope that we can help address what many individuals who have experienced solitary report to be the least bearable part: the immense loneliness and boredom that come from being confined to a 7x9 cell with no form of stimulation. We hope that the 7x9 performance, in conjunction with the correspondence program, will challenge people in the Princeton community and beyond to recognize and confront the issue of solitary confinement in the United States.
What: 7x9 Solitary Confinement Performance
When: 5:00pm, Thursday October 12th - 4:00pm, Friday, October 13th
Who: Princeton Students and Alumni
Where: On the north side of Frist Campus Center on the Princeton University Campus
5:00PM: The 7x9 Performance Art Protest will begin.
4:00 PM: 7x9 Performance Art Protest ends.
4:30PM: Join us in McCosh 28 for a guest lecture by Tyrrell Muhammad, anti-carceral activist and justice worker, as he speaks about his 7 years in solitary.
4:30PM: Join us in Frist 302 for an orientation to Project Solidarity, a letter writing program between Princeton students and incarcerated individuals who are currently in solitary confinement.