Senator Gary Winfield Goes “Inside the Box” for Nearly 2.5 Hours
State Senator Gary Winfield (D-New Haven), in collaboration with the ACLU of Connecticut, unveiled a replica solitary confinement cell in the south lobby of the State Capitol Tuesday.
The replica cell provides visitors with a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in the experience of solitary confinement. During the press conference, Senator Winfield, who is the vice chairman of the Judiciary Committee, urged his colleagues in the General Assembly to support solitary confinement reform and to visit the replica cell while it is on display in the Capitol building until March 2.
“If we’re going to be about the business of putting people in our prison system, which means that they can end up in places like this, to spend five or ten minutes in this box to get a sense of what it means to be here, I don’t think is too much to ask,” Sen. Winfield said. “And I actually think it’s informative in ways that somebody can’t describe to you, so I would encourage every single legislator who speaks about prisons—and that’s all of us—to spend a little bit of time in this box, close the door, and see what it’s like.”
Sen. Winfield made a commitment to remain “inside the box” for an extended period of time so at the end of press conference, he entered the cell, closed the door behind him and spent nearly 2 ½ hours in solitary confinement. He stepped in at approximately 2:53 p.m. and remained inside until 5:15 p.m.; a total of 2 hours and 23 minutes.
“It’s a strange experience. You have no sense of what time is. What I was trying to do was figure out what time it was, so I was trying to count, but then the noise would disrupt the count, so I couldn’t even count to figure out what the time was.”
Earlier this month, Sen. Winfield visited in the replica cell twice while it was on display at the New Haven Free Public Library and remained inside the box first for five minutes, then for 12. Keishar Tucker, of New Haven, joined Winfield at the Capitol building Tuesday shared his personal experience with solitary confinement inside Northern Correctional Institution in Somers.
“It was a horrible experience. It definitely had a negative, long-lasting effect on me mentally,” Tucker said. “It’s torture.”
“It does have an impact on you,” Sen. Winfield said. “Anybody who says it doesn’t, I say you come spend some time here, and if it doesn’t have an impact on you good, but it had an impact on me.”