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Built on an Appalachian mountaintop, Red Onion State Prison (one of over 40 supermax prisons across the US) is nearly 300 miles from any urban center, and holds up to 500 prisoners in 8’x10′ solitary confinement cells for 23 hours a day- isolated, and forgotten by the world. Journalists call these prisons “Black Sites”- mysterious places where virtually no press are admitted, and even those few that are are stripped of all recording devices before being allowed on highly observed visits. In the immersive SOLITARY, filmmaker Kristi Jacobson managed to gain unprecedented access to Red Onion and its residents, capturing its chilling sounds and haunting atmosphere. In startlingly intimate and reflective interviews with the inmates, Jacobson discovers their violent childhoods, the dangers of prison life, and their struggles to maintain sanity in the unrelenting monotony of confinement. Interwoven with their stories are the voices of the corrections officers, who are serving a different type of time right alongside the prisoners as they struggle to maintain their humanity. As the prison initiates a reform program to reduce the number of inmates held in solitary, the process provides an unexpected window into life on both sides of the bars.

Filmed over the course of one year, SOLITARY tells the stories of people caught in the complex American penal system and raises provocative questions about punishment in America today.


Director: Kristi Jacobson

Producers: Kristi Jacobson, Katie Mitchell, Julie Goldman

Co-Producer: Ingmar Trost

Executive Producer: David Menschel

Senior Producer for HBO: Nancy Abraham

Executive Producer for HBO: Sheila Nevins

Commissioning Editors: Jutta Krug & Christiane Hinz (WDR), Kai Henkel & Gudrun Hanke el Ghomr (SWR)

Cinematographer: Nelson Hume

Editor: Ben Gold

Composer: T. Griffin




Tribeca Film Festival: 2017 Premiere

2018 Emmy Award Winner: Best Investigative Documentary


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