The cell interior was designed in Unity, a game engine, using computer-generated imagery and drawing on testimonies former inmates. Photograph: Ed Thomas

6X9 : A virtual experience of solitary confinement (The Guardian 27 April 2016). Do the test !

Welcome to your virtual cell: could you survive solitary confinement?
Based on former prisoners’ testimonies, our virtual reality prison, 6×9, replicates the experience in disturbing detail

Caroline Davies
Wednesday 27 April 2016

There’s a thin mattress on a concrete platform bed, a stainless steel washbasin and toilet, a metal door with a slot for food, and four walls rather too close for comfort.

At least, that’s what you can see in a compelling new virtual reality journey built by the Guardian, which replicates the experience of solitary confinement in disturbing detail, complete with unsettling peripheral images, cracks in the walls and the hollow cries of fellow prisoners.

6×9: a virtual experience of solitary confinement aims to highlight the psychological toll on those subjected to such harsh incarceration for between 22 and 24 hours a day. It offers a visceral, interactive experience through a Guardian app on your smartphone and VR goggles or Google Cardboard headset.

Your time in your cell will last nine minutes – not nine days, nine months, or even the nine years and longer experienced by some of those in real life solitary. “Welcome to your cell. You’re going to be here for 23 hours a day,” a voice directs as you move your head to gaze around, taking in the sparse furnishings. You hear the voices of seven people who have spent time in solitary confinement. Working with Solitary Watch, the Guardian interviewed each at length about their experiences.

The purpose of 6×9 is to demonstrate, using immersive journalism, how being in long-term solitary can affect the mind of prisoners held in segregation around the world, an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 of them in the United States alone.

This method of storytelling is a highly effective way of highlighting the sensory deprivation that solitary confinement entails.

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About

Prison activist and editor. Currently preparing a book on the introduction of maximum security prisons in Belgium and Europe, including the practice of solitary confinement. In 2008, Luk started the Belgian Prisoners' Family & Friends Association. (http://familiesfriendsassociation.blogspot.be/ In 2009, with Farida Aarrass he launched the Campaign Free Ali Aarrass (www.freeali.eu ). In 2012 he organised the Committee of the Families of European detainees in Morocco (http://prisonnierseuropeensaumaroc.blogspot.be/). Luk Vervaet is the author of « Le making-of d'Anders B. Breivik » (Egalité=Editions, 2012), « Nizar Trabelsi : Guantanamo chez nous ? (Editions Antidote, 2014). He is co-author of « Kim et Ken, mes enfants disparus » (Editions Luc Pire, 2006), « Condamnés à la prison? Ecrits sur un monde caché » (Revue Contradictions, 2008) et « L'affaire Luk Vervaet : écrits sur un interdit professionnel » (Revue Contradictions, 2011). Contributions : « Etats généraux sur les conditions carcérales en Europe : La condition pénitentiaire, regards belges, français et européens"» (2010, éditions MGER) ; « The violence of incarceration: a response from mainland Europe »(2010, Race & Class) ; « Gevangenissen: spiegel van onze samenleving » (2013, MO Mondiaal Nieuws) Publishing house : www.antidote.be


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