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Why a VICE Producer is Livestreaming His Own Solitary Confinement

VICE Producer James Burns is streaming 30 days of life in solitary confinement.

VICE Producer James Burns—who produced our SMITE Documentary—is currently enduring 30 days of (voluntary) solitary confinement. He started yesterday, and he is livestreaming the entire thing here. You can watch James struggle with a practice that most experts agree is harmful and has no rehabilitative value.

This is not a stunt—Burns wants this to shine a light on a practice that thrives almost literally in the dark, in the typically cut-off world of the correctional system. And he is uniquely qualified for the job: he spent much of his youth in and out of the criminal justice system, with his first experience in solitary traumatizing him as a six-year-old.

"I don't want to put poison in anyone's ear—I want to start a conversation," Burns says. "Is this something as a society that we should continue to do? Everything suggests that it doesn't make facilities safer, doesn't make our community safer, and that people are developing mental and physical ailments because of this practice. So knowing all of these things, why are we still doing this? I want people to really think about that."

Why are we writing about this on Waypoint? Because games don't exist in a bubble, and neither do we. We published two pieces yesterday on games that reflect on prison: On how Prison Architect fails to engage with the political power of prisoners, and on the games that have touched on the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. We will continue to cover work that touches us and comments meaningfully on important issues.