On Sunday April 11 National Geographic will broadcast a special on the effects of solitary confinement. Part of the Explorer series, "Solitary Confinement" looks at the mental health issues that can be induced with isolation. One segment of the program focuses on how isolation is currently being used in an American prison - more than 80,000 prisoners are put in isolation every year - but the other more fascinating aspect is that NG is doing a reality TV version of solitary confinement.
Beginning today (April 2) three volunteers will live in an 80 square foot cell in the DC area with minimal human contact for one week, and have their every moment streamed via cameras to a website. Naturally since we're in the the Web 2.0 era participants will be allowed to write outgoing Twitter messages which will be sent to the world as well. (EDIT: Twitter feed appears to be http://twitter.com/ExploreSolitary.)
Here are some background links on solitary confinement, many which feature psychologist Craig Haney (who you may recall was a grad assistant during the Stanford Prison Experiment):
- An excellent article from the New Yorker last year by Atul Gawande that begins with Harlow
- An Inside Look at Solitary Confinement - an NPR Talk of The Nation episode which includes psychologist
- Solitaryconfinement.org -- includes a sourcebook and many links
- A Wired interview with Craig Haney on solitary confinement as invisible torture
- The Psychological Impact of Incarceration - a paper by Craig Haney