WATCH: "Last Days of Solitary" takes a critical look at a common prison punishment

Reforming solitary confinement system is much more than a "liberal issue," says filmmaker Lauren Mucciolo

By Amanda Marcotte
April 18, 2017 4:00PM (UTC)
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This Salon Talks video was produced by Alexandra Clinton

“Last Days of Solitary” is a searing documentary, airing April 18 on PBS’ “Frontline” series, about the horrors of solitary confinement in the American prison system and efforts by the Maine Department of Corrections to reduce the use of solitary to discipline prisoners. Director and producer Lauren Mucciolo came by Salon to speak with host Amanda Marcotte about the documentary.

“The goal of the film is to look at this prison in the process of rolling out these reforms, to follow several inmates who go through life in that prison through those changes with the reform slowly being implemented, and to follow some prisoners when they were released, to see how they fared being through solitary, when they were back out in the community,” Mucciolo explained.


“Solitary confinement wasn’t used for most of the 20th century, until the second half of the century, when we had a lot of sentencing changes,” Mucciolo continued, noting that the drug war, the rise of gangs and prison overcrowding contributed to the rise of discipline problems within inmate populations.

That’s when solitary confinement came back big time, she said, and reducing its use is far more than "just a liberal agenda,” Mucciolo added. “This actually saves money. It makes working conditions for officers better. Prisoners who go through the prison system are actually less likely to commit violent crimes when they get out, if they’re not going through solitary.”

“Last Days of Solitary” premieres this week on "Frontline," and will be available soon from the PBS website as well as home video and streaming platforms. 

Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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