Using Theatre to Help End Solitary Confinement

WASHINGTON, D.C., Thursday, October 20, 2022 - Voices Unbarred provided testimony before the D.C. Council’s Committee on Recreation, Libraries, & Youth Affairs in support of the Eliminating Restrictive and Segregated Closures (ERASE) Solitary Confinement Act of 2022, also known as the ERASE Bill. If passed, the Bill will limit all forms of segregated confinement for individuals incarcerated at institutions owned, operated and controlled by the D.C. Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS), a transformation that has been the aim of the D.C. coalition of the national campaign, Unlock the Box, of which Voices Unbarred is a member.


Key messages echoed throughout many of the testimonies that day: solitary confinement is torture; it causes long-term physical and mental complications; the DOC uses solitary confinement three times the national average; and evidence shows that solitary confinement makes people more likely to engage in violence. Many testimonies also noted that DOC’s “safe cells,” a form of solitary confinement officials say is designed to prevent self-harm, in fact still fit the bill’s definition of solitary confinement.


Thursday’s hearing brings the ERASE Bill a step closer to being reality. Voices Unbarred has played an instrumental role in ensuring that members of the D.C. community have a voice in creating recommendations for the bill, particularly those with direct experience with incarceration and solitary confinement. In March of 2022, Voices Unbarred hosted its “Rehearsal for Change” event on solitary confinement in partnership with fellow Unlock the Box coalition member, DC Justice Lab. Rehearsal for Change is a series of community workshops that feature a technique called Legislative Theatre, where policies are brainstormed after engaging with a scene written and performed by Voices Unbarred Community Advocates with lived experience of incarceration.


The next Rehearsal for Change event will be November 3, 2022 at 6pm located at 945 G St. NW, Washington, D.C. CLICK HERE to register!



With a mandatory second hearing for the ERASE Bill by the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety ahead, there is still time for YOU TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR ENDING SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IN D.C.! Residents have until November 3, 2022 to submit written testimony. Written testimony must be submitted to rya@dccouncil.us.


To learn more about the ERASE Bill visit the website at https://erasesolitary.com/.


About Voices Unbarred:

Voices Unbarred centers the voices of people impacted by incarceration, and collaborates with theatre practitioners and policy organizations to creatively reimagine the prison system and advocate for change. Through theatre and justice workshops, script writing, and interactive performances, participants affected by incarceration in the D.C. area are given a platform to share their stories, tackle complex issues, and lead the criminal justice reform movement. Voices Unbarred is the main programming of Ally Theatre Company. For more information, visit their website at www.voicesunbarred.org.


About Unlock the Box:

Unlock the Box is a national advocacy campaign aimed at ending solitary confinement in all U.S. prisons, jails, and youth facilities, and bringing the United States into full compliance with the UN’s Nelson Mandela Rules within 10 years. The Unlock the Box Campaign is a national coalition of organizations and movement leaders who partner with state and local campaigns across the United States working to end the use of solitary confinement for all people. The national coalition is comprised of a steering committee that includes members from the ACLU’s Stop Solitary Campaign, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Amend at University of California San Francisco, California Families Against Solitary Confinement, and the Center for Children’s Law and Policy. For more information, visit their website at www.unlocktheboxcampaign.org.

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