by Soorya A’18
On February 3, 2017, QHSS’ Amnesty International presented the issue of solitary confinement in prisons. The project was done in collaboration with Mrs. Majumder-Afzal, Mr. Kalamaras, and Mr. Sweiven. The President of Amnesty, Mohamed M’17 (nicknamed as Momo) explained that the members “[aimed to find a topic that would] target a large part of our criminal justice system and address its effects on our society.” From there, students created a presentation designed to convey the seclusion of solitary and its detrimental effects on the prison populations, as well as focus on the youth involved in the practice. As Valerie F’18 described, Amnesty’s primary goal was to raise awareness of the subject to the students of QHSS. They’ve accomplished this not only by their elaborate presentations, but also by their bold outfits, displaying the attire commonly worn in prisons.
Momo M. (‘17) and Nia R. (19’) answering a question during presentations.
For those who may have missed the presentation, solitary confinement is the isolation of prisoners in a cell, anywhere from 22 to 24 hours a day. In order to express the severity of the practice, presenters began by gauging a range of the students’ prior knowledge, asking questions such as, “What do you know about it?” and “What do you think it accomplishes?” In one class, all of the students in the audience were actively participating, both asking and answering questions. According to one presenter, Arwa R’18, the orange jumpsuits themselves sparked interest in students and were “vessels [for students] to ask questions on the topic.”
Amnesty members discussed aspects of solitary confinement such as which countries uses it, what it hopes to accomplish, who is held under solitary, and what its effect is. What seemed to be the climax of the presentations was when the students were shown a 360° interactive video on the effects of the practice. During her presentation, Valerie F’18 found that students “grew wide eyed and had interesting opinions to share with the class.” The video rendered the class silent, as many began to comprehend the severity of solitary. It seemed to be one of the defining moments of the presentation.
The presentations closed with “steps to move forward,” as the presenters explained to the audience the importance of staying involved in the our society. Amnesty members confidently concluded that they “all effectively delivered our message to our intended audience and learned a great deal from the experience” and “that there were a number of people, regardless of grade, who learned something regarding the experience of solitary or the effects of it.”
Arwa R’18 went on to say, “This experience was valuable to me as well, as I did not know much about the issue of solitary confinement before. This experience allowed me to be actively involved and truly feel that I was helping in the cause.”