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[Photos] In Solitary Confinement, Requesting The Outside World


When it opened in 1998, the Tamms Correctional Center was a super-maximum security prison in Illinois designed to isolate its prisoners. They were kept alone in cells with little: walls painted with beige paint, no communal space and no pictures on the walls. And so when the advocacy group Tamms Year Ten, which was campaigning to close the prison, offered to take photos and send them to the men in solitary confinement, the requests they got were remarkable.


Chris Murphy, 2012
Darrius requested a photograph of Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, including his auntie’s house and the whole block of 63rd and Marshfield, at 2 p.m., facing east. "Let the people outside know that the picture is for 'D-man,'" he said.


Jeanine Oleson, 2013
Robert, a man with a serious mental illness, sent a photo of his mother, who had died the previous year. Because he had no family and no visitors, he was hopeless and desolate. He asked for an image of "my mother standing in front of a mansion, or Big Castle, with a bunch of money on the ground. OR if you can’t do that, THEN a substitution is a big mansion or castle with a bunch of money in front of it and a black hummer parked in front of it."


Laurie Jo Reynolds, 2011
Robert wanted his picture matched with an alternate background. He wrote, “If you can place my picture on another background, nothing too much please. Something simple like a blue sky with clouds or a sunset in the distance would be fine.”


Rachel Herman, May 6, 2011
Willie asked for a photograph of a vigil at Bald Knob Cross, which stands on a mountain in southern Illinois, to pray for his deliverance from the Tamms prison and for parole. Willie was transferred from Tamms, and on July 27, 2012, he was paroled after 36 years.