Crime and Penitence
Immorality, criminality, that is the stuff of the outside world. Well, that's what some people thought, like the Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons, back in the 1820's. So they opened up the Eastern State Penitentiary, an experiment in correcting criminal behavior through solitary confinement. Advocates for the system believed that if left alone for long enough, away from the dirty outside world, a criminal's innate morality would prevail and, sort of, straighten them out. The experiment failed. Nonetheless, producer Josh Braun takes us to Eastern State and ponders why. To do so, he willingly locks himself in an isolation cell, as recorded by Sally Herships (a radio producer and the artist also known as SoHo Sally). It's a grey day. The stone walls encase a chilling silence. The tiny, circular sky-light stares down from above just as the nineteenth century architects intended: like an "Eye of God." You'll feel as if you're there too, with nothing but your own inside self to figure out if solitary confinement breeds penitence or insanity. Listen to the full show here.