The psychological effects of prolonged solitary confinement on inmates and efforts to decrease its use are the focus of a new two-hour Frontline documentary.
“Last Days of Solitary” is a follow-up to the 2014 documentary “Solitary Nation”, which gave viewers extraordinary access to life inside the Special Management Unit at the Maine State Prison.
Dan Edge is one of the producers of the film, which spans a three-year period as the prison implements reforms. Speaking from London, Edge said the difference between what the crew saw in 2013 and what they saw when they came back two years later was stark.
“When we there in 2013 we were seeing violence of one sort or another every day. I mean every day in the Special Management Unit, sometimes many, many times a day. We’d spend evenings there where the officers were having to deal with self-harm incidents, with multiple extractions, with multiple flooding of the unit by inmates,” he says.
Much of this violence, including self-harm, is shown in the film.
After Maine State Prison officials reduced the number of prisoners in the SMU and began offering more programming, therapy and opportunities for inmates to transition back into general population, Edge says it changed the atmosphere on the unit.