Twenty pictures

Inmates in solitary confinement spend 23 hours of the day in a windowless 6’x9′ cell.

William Blake has been in solitary confinement since 1987.

In his essay A Sentence Worse Than Death, he describes the unraveling a mind endures in this abyss. A detail in his account overwhelmed me:

“There is also very little allowed [into a cell]: three sets of plain white underwear, one pair of green pants, one green short-sleeved button-up shirt, one green sweatshirt, one pair of laceless footwear that I’ll call sneakers for lack of a better word, ten books or magazines total, twenty pictures of the people you love, writing supplies, a bar of soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, one deodorant stick, but no shampoo.”

The obliterating heartbreak of solitary confinement: that wall of photos, those faces of the people you love, of the people who love you – that wall will never grow.

Hell is a Very Small Place collects essays written by people currently or formerly in solitary confinement.