A grim documentary examines solitary confinement

Solitary: Inside Red Onion State Prison aired last night after a successful festival run. The film is an unflinching look at life in solitary confinement at Red Onion supermax, where prisoners spend 23 hours a day or more in solitary confinement.

In an NPR interview, director Kristi Jacobson acknowledges that the inmates were often in solitary for conduct as prisoners.

Many of the men in my film have committed violent acts inside the prison system and therefore presented a threat to either other prisoners or the staff. And - so Dennis, for example, 17 years ago tried to slit the warden's throat. Lars tried to escape. Michael got in a fight. Randall had some, you know, violent attacks on other inmates. But I want to point out that across the country, people who are in solitary confinement or segregation units are often people who are simply just not able to follow the rules. So these men that are in the film had particularly interesting stories that I felt were important to tell, especially because if we're looking at these men and asking the question of is this OK, I think we're asking the tougher question.

I couldn't help but think of Chelsea Manning as I watched it, and the reasons she has been held in solitary.

More info on the HBO site.

Solitary: Inside Red Onion State Prison (YouTube / HBODocs)