Skip to main content

A screen shot from Surviving Solitary, The Globe and Mail's virtual reality experience of solitary confinement in Canadian prisons. Surviving Solitary is premiering at Hot Docs House in Toronto from April 29 - May 7, 2016.The Globe and Mail

Surviving Solitary, The Globe and Mail's first foray into virtual reality journalism, is premiering at this year's Hot Docs film festival in Toronto.

The project takes an immersive look at the reality of the solitary confinement experience in Canadian prisons. Approximately 1,500 provincial and federal inmates are locked in cells — some as small as two metres by three metres — for at least 23 hours a day, deprived of human contact, on any given day. The mental and physical health effects from this type of incarceration are sometimes irreversible.

"Imagine a world where you are locked away from all sense of time," said David Walmsley, The Globe's editor-in-chief. "Our project, Surviving Solitary, provides an extraordinarily immersive experience that provokes questions about the use of solitary confinement in our prisons and the consequences of sensory deprivation."

Surviving Solitary is part of an innovation lab initiative at The Globe and the result of a cross-departmental collaboration between developers, designers, reporters and editors to tell a new kind of story. The project places viewers inside an animated recreation of a cell where they will see and hear about the real experiences of inmates who spent time in that environment.

The project will be available at Hot Docs House (610 Markham Street) from April 29 to May 7, 11:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. The event is open to the public and is free of charge.