Free Film Screening on September 18 and Community Forum on Solitary Confinement on September 19

What kind of house would you dream of creating after spending decades in a six-foot-by-nine-foot cell?

In 2001, Herman Wallace, a prisoner at the Angola Prison in Louisiana, received a life-changing letter that asked that question. Herman’s House is the acclaimed documentary about his decades in solitary confinement–and his friendship with a New York artist who asked him to imagine different walls.

Herman Wallace is one of tens of thousands of people held in solitary confinement in the United States, even after the UN’s Committee Against Torture has recommended the abolition of the practice. Herman’s House provides a closer look at its devastating effects and an artist’s mission to call attention to its injustice.

On Tuesday, September 18, you can catch a free screening of Herman’s House from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Center for Creative Photography, 1030 North Olive Road, Tucson, Arizona. This film screening was generously made possible by the filmmakers of Herman’s House and is sponsored by ACLU Arizona, AFSC Arizona, the
Hanson Film Institute, and Read Between the Bars.

Dazed and Confused Magazine (UK) calls it a “shrewd indictment of solitary confinement…a protest movie without being sententious.” You can view the trailer at www.hermanshousethefilm.com and follow it on Facebook at www.facebook.com/hermanshousethefilm and on Twitter at @hermansfilm.

Following the film screening, there will be a brief panel and discussion.

For directions and information regarding parking at the Center for Creative Photography, please visit www.creativephotography.org/visit.


The following evening, ACLU Arizona and AFSC Arizona will host a community forum called Arizona Is MAXED OUT. The forum will look at the high costs of solitary confinement and its ineffectiveness at making our communities safer. Each year thousands of people are held in solitary confinement in Arizona, and the state plans to add hundreds more maximum-security prison beds. The forum takes place at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church (Geneva Room), 3809 East 3rd Street, Tucson, Arizona, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 19.

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How Arizona Fares in the United States Peace Index

The release of the annual United States Peace Index (USPI) by the nonpartisan Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) has given Arizona a bit of notoriety. The USPI ranked Arizona number 46, making it one of the least peaceful states in an analysis that examines how homicide, violent crime, small arms, incarceration, and police employment compare from state to state. While Arizona isn’t at the very bottom of the rankings (that distinction goes to Louisiana), Arizona did show the biggest fall from previous USPI data.

Although Arizona’s fall is attributed to an increase in homicide, what’s worth pointing out is that incarceration is where Arizona is furthest beyond the national average. IEP provides an interactive map for people who want to browse this year’s USPI results. Clicking on a state opens a bar graph that will show how that state measures up in rates per 100,000 people for each indicator. A green dot on each bar indicates where the national average is. For Arizona, incarceration is where the bar passes the dot by the widest margin. Arizona’s rate, at 5 per 100,000, puts it among the six worst states in the nation. (If the number seems too small, it’s because of the limiting criteria; it “only includes prisoners under state jurisdiction who have been sentenced to more than one year in prison. This means that both federal prisoners and prisoners in jail are not included in calculating the USPI.”)

But Arizona’s prisons continue to expand. The Arizona Daily Sun reported today on Arizona’s latest spending plan, which includes “$20 million this coming year–with a promise of another $30 million the year after that–to build a new maximum security prison.” In a state that has made deep cuts in education spending, reining in prison spending seems to be off the table.

The good news is the USPI shows that the U.S. is the most peaceful it’s been at any time in the last two decades, and that while “state incarceration rates in the U.S. have dramatically increased from 1981 to 2007,” “this trend seems to have reached a plateau and the incarceration rate has even slightly decreased over the last two years.” Of course, in a nation that is the world leader in incarceration, at 743 per 100,000, a plateau is little consolation for those working to turn the tide against mass incarceration–and, more importantly, for those incarcerated.