Prison exhibit, timed to the DNC, stirs visceral reactions

A new exhibit at the Free Library of Philadelphia puts a spotlight on solitary confinement in the prison systems.

As Ted Schmidt, 53, walked along the second floor of the Free Library in Philadelphia Wednesday, he slowed to look at the cellophane replica of a prison cell.

Eight-by-six-by-eight feet - the exact size of the solitary confinement cell, it is part of the exhibit, "Juvenile in Justice: End Solitary," on display since July 21 for the Democratic National Convention.

Schmidt, of New York City, had come to the air-conditioned library seeking a break from the blistering afternoon heat. In town to "protest Hillary and the DNC's corruption," he said he had attended a Bernie-or-bust rally on Tuesday.

Schmidt read over the observations written with sharpie markers on the clear walls of the cell. "It's so small," some had written, while other expressed opposition to the current system of incarceration.

"The system isn't perfect, but the public doesn't understand" the challenges of prison reform, said Schmidt, adding that he had worked for 23 years as a prison guard."Some of these kids are like wild animals - they throw feces," he said. "Solitary might be harsh, but how can a policy fix that behavior?"

vkannan@philly.com

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@KannanVibha

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