Can you imagine a landscape without prisons?
Reyn Studios is excited to continue our support of organizations seeking to bring awareness to the issues around mass incarceration, particularly in Louisiana. In support of Solitary Gardens, the artist project helmed by our very own Jackie Sumell is the focus of November’s RSOM.
We are hoping to build compassion, share gratitude and kindness with incarcerated individuals and their families though this partnership. Reyn Studios community members are encouraged to very literally lend a hand on November 24th for a workday in the gardens. We’ll have a brief warm up then get to work assisting in whatever maintenance work the gardens require at this time. Please wear closed toed shoes, bring water, sun and bug protection and work gloves if you’ve got them.
Additionally, we’ve set up a letter writing space in the studio for you to send a note of love, gratitude, and support to incarcerated individuals who do not receive regular correspondence.
Solitary Gardens is currently in correspondence with dozens of incarcerated people (known as "Solitary Gardeners") at facilities around the United States. To people who are in prison (specifically, a solitary confinement cell for a minimum of 23 hours per day) human connection in the form of handwritten letters is crucial. This month, we encourage you to write one or more letters for Solitary Gardens to mail to the Solitary Gardeners as a gesture of solidarity with them and all others impacted by solitary confinement. Note: Please write letters on pieces of paper as cards are prohibited at many facilities. Please avoid any content, materials, or language that might be deemed inappropriate by prison personnel.
Not sure what to say? Share something you saw today that gave you gratitude, perhaps even your understanding of “liberation”, or a special take away from your yoga practice. Questions? Email Mary Okoth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To facilitate correspondence between families and their incarcerated loved ones this holiday season we are also offering a “free” class in exchange for the donation of a book of stamps.
Below is a description of the project and mission of Solitary Gardens:
Of the 2.2 million incarcerated people in the United States, 80,000 to 100,000 are subjected to indefinite solitary confinement everyday. People are isolated for a minimum of twenty-three hours per day in a six-by-nine-foot (or smaller) concrete and steel cell. No judge or jury places an individual in solitary confinement; the decision is made solely by prison officials. The devastating, and often irreparable, effects of solitary confinement include, but are not limited to, alienation, dehumanization, despair, disorientation, paranoia, and suicidality. Solitary confinement is torture and has been defined as such by the United Nations, the American Civil Liberties Union, and human rights watchdogs around the world.
Solitary Gardens utilizes the tools of prison abolition, permaculture, and alternative education to facilitate unexpected exchanges between incarcerated people in solitary confinement and people on the “outside.” Each 6’x9’ Solitary Garden Bed maintains the blueprint of a standard U.S. solitary confinement cell. The beds are designed and remotely “gardened” by our incarcerated collaborators, known as Solitary Gardeners, through written and photographic exchanges with volunteers.
As prisons are the descendants of slavery, the garden beds are constructed from the ancestral byproducts of sugarcane, cotton, and tobacco, exposing the exception in the 13th Amendment and the illusion that slavery was abolished in the U.S. These former chattel slave crops are grown on-site, and then milled down to produce the components of the Solitary Garden Beds. Ultimately, Solitary Gardens creates conversation, commiseration and inspires the community to imagine alternatives to incarceration.
As the garden beds mature, the prison architecture is overpowered by plant life, proving that nature—like hope, love, and imagination—will ultimately triumph over the harm humans impose on ourselves and on the planet.
Feeling inspired? Want to do more? We got you! Host a garden bed!
Solitary Gardens is in search of individuals or groups that would like to host a Solitary Garden Bed on our site at 2600 Andry St. in the Lower 9th Ward. As a garden host, you would be assigned to an individual garden and partnered with a Solitary Gardener (one of our incarcerated collaborators, directly impacted by solitary confinement) who has remotely designed that specific garden on our site. This partnership is essential to maintaining the exchange and dialogue between our garden site and those who are incarcerated. Essentially, this partnership involves just 1 visit to the garden per week, sending just 1 email per week (via the prison email app, JPay) and writing just 1 letter per month -- all to keep the Solitary Gardener you're partnered with up-to-date on their garden's progress! If interested, please contact Mary Okoth at email@example.com.