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Greenhouse at MSU inspired by solitary confinement cells

Solitary Greenhouse
Posted at 7:00 AM, Jun 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-29 07:00:28-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. — The greenhouse at the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden isn't your average greenhouse. It was built to resemble a solitary confinement cell.

The greenhouse at the W.J. Beal Botanical Garden isn't your average greenhouse. It resembles a solitary confinement cell.

"It is patterned after the exact dimensions of a solitary confinement cell. And this particular example comes from the ADX supermax prison in Florence, Colorado," said Peter Carrington, W.J. Beal Botanical Garden curator and collection manager.

The greenhouse was designed by Jackie Sumell, an artist working to raise awareness about solitary confinement.

The greenhouse was designed by Jackie Sumell, an artist working to raise awareness about solitary confinement.

Carrington believes it forces us to, "re-examine what punishment actually means."

What a solitary greenhouse allows a prisoner to see

The supermax prison in Colorado is mostly underground. Prisoners never see sunlight.

But with this solitary greenhouse, Carrington said, "you can see all of the birds and trees and plant life and hillsides that you cannot see if you were unfortunate enough to be in one of these places."

Lois Pullano from the Open Mi Door campaign said solitary confinement is a horrific punishment, that inmates suffer from post-traumatic stress, nightmares and other mental health problems.

Lois Pullano from the Open Mi Door campaign

"You have to understand that it's not only the fact that they were held in this space, but that they saw and heard and listened to individuals around them being often tortured," said Pullano.

More than 3,000 individuals in Michigan prisons are held in solitary confinement for 20 or more hours a day each year, according to information she received from the Michigan Department of Corrections.

More than 3,000 individuals in Michigan prisons are held in solitary confinement for 20 or more hours a day each year

Pullano said, "individuals across the board are still not getting out for a significant number of hours per day, still due to the impact of COVID and being short-staffed."

The plants surrounding the solitary greenhouse were chosen by students from professor Johanna Schuster-Craig's spring 2020 Global Studies In the Arts and Humanities course. Seed packets can be viewed at Eli and Edythe Broad Museum's Seeds of Resistance Exhibition.

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