Answering Your Questions About Solitary Confinement

Feb 28, 2024By Robert Woldhuis
Robert Woldhuis

Welcome back to 84 Square Feet. My name is Robert, and I'm happy to have you join me on this journey today. In this episode, we'll be diving deep into the questions viewers like you have asked me about my experience in solitary confinement. I received numerous questions after reaching out on Facebook, and I'm excited to address some of them in this video.

The Importance of Viewer Questions

About nine months ago, I asked my audience if they had any questions about my time in solitary confinement, and the response was overwhelming. People from all walks of life shared their curiosity and eagerness to learn more. For this reason, I believe it's crucial to address these questions and shed light on the realities of solitary confinement.

The Reality of Solitary Confinement

One question that caught my attention was from Kim Z, who asked about the things I was allowed to have to maintain my sanity, particularly if books were permitted. Interestingly enough, yes, books were allowed. In fact, I had to fill out an inmate book request form to receive books at Ely State Prison.

84 Square Feet Solitary Confinement Documentary
Nevada DOC Inmate Book Request Form

It was an incredible relief to have access to reading materials during my time in solitary confinement. They provided me with an escape, a way to expand my mind, and prevent my thoughts from becoming stagnant.

The Role of Books in Solitary Confinement

While the physical space in solitary confinement is limited, the impact of books on my mental well-being was immeasurable.

In my 84 square feet cell, there wasn't much room to run or engage in physical activities.

However, books became a source of solace and comfort. I was able to immerse myself in different worlds and narratives, temporarily escaping the confines of my reality. I devoured newspapers, workout magazines, and nourished my mind with educational materials.

The Struggles of Physical Limitations

Beyond the mental challenges, physical limitations were also a significant obstacle during my time in solitary confinement. The confined space made it challenging to engage in physical activities like running. However, I discovered alternatives to keep myself active and combat the sedentary nature of my confinement. I paced back and forth in my cell, wearing the soles off my shoes in the process.

Additionally, I found solace in correspondence courses, connecting with mentors, and engaging in Bible studies. These activities allowed me to feel a sense of connection to the outside world, easing my feelings of isolation.

The Importance of Correspondence Courses

84 Square Feet Solitary Confinement Documentary
Serving Students in Jails and Prisons in all 50 states and 27 countries.

While being cut off from society, it was necessary to maintain a connection to the outside world. The fast-paced nature of life and the ever-changing landscape can be disorienting when you're confined within the four walls of a cell. That's why I chose to engage in correspondence courses, like Crossroads Prison Ministries, which provided structure, encouragement, and the opportunity to grow intellectually.

The Impact of Time and Change

One thing that weighs heavily on individuals in solitary confinement is the knowledge that life continues outside the prison walls. The rapid pace of change in society, from technology advancements to evolving cultural trends, made me acutely aware of my stagnation. It felt as though I was suspended in time, cut off from the world's progression. This realization only fueled my determination to push for change and strive towards rehabilitation, not just for myself, but for others as well.

The Role of Puzzles and Activities

Crossword Puzzle Game
Crosswords gave my brain the challenge it needed.

During solitary confinement, engaging my mind and keeping busy became vital for my mental and emotional well-being. I discovered the therapeutic benefits of puzzles, such as crosswords and Sudoku.

These activities provided me with a much-needed mental challenge and a sense of accomplishment.

Establishing routines and finding purpose within my daily schedule helped me stay focused and resilient in the face of adversity.

The Challenges of Keeping the Mind Busy

Peter asked a thought-provoking question about how I kept my mind occupied during the 23 hours per day spent in my cell. I shared a rather unexpected approach that I took during my time in solitary confinement—I decided to teach myself how to write with my right hand. It may seem like a trivial pursuit, but in the absence of anything else to do, it's essential to find creative ways to stay engaged and prevent boredom from becoming overwhelming.

The Experience of Rec Yard Time

Veronica posed a couple of fascinating questions about the limited time spent outside the cell. In solitary confinement, the word "solitary" holds great significance. While we were allowed one hour out of the cell, there was no opportunity for interaction with other inmates. Every movement outside the cell was meticulously controlled, with two correctional officers accompanying us. Rec yard time offered a brief respite, but even within the enclosed space, there was zero opportunity for socialization.

Empty Basketball court in some village during the beautiful stormy afternoon light, table is grunge, cracked and old and shadow of the wall, atmospheric and moody minimalism image
The rec yard where I was at had 30 foot high concrete walls

Addressing these viewer questions has been enlightening for me, and I hope it has provided insights into the realities of solitary confinement. I appreciate all the questions and comments you've shared, as they help give a voice to this topic that's often misunderstood or misrepresented. If you have any more inquiries or if there's anything specific you'd like to know about my experience, please feel free to share in the comments.

Thank you for joining me today on this journey through the questions surrounding solitary confinement. Remember, sharing this blog post with someone who may benefit from its insights can make a difference. Together, we can promote compassion, raise awareness, and hopefully be encouraged that no matter what it is you are going through, you too can make it to the other side. Be blessed and be a blessing wherever you are at! 

-Robert J.