The Hole

Behind the solitary project

Sunday, March 24th, 2013 

Five years ago, the Investigative Reporting Workshop initiated its examination of immigration detention, looking into the deaths and conditions inside the rapidly expanding U.S. immigration detention system. Our reporting eventually led to the our PBS FRONTLINE co-production "Lost in Detention," which aired in October 2011 and was later cited in a letter by 30 members of Congress asking the Government Accountability Office to investigate sexual abuse in immigration detention centers. 

When "Lost" co-producer and Workshop filmmaker-in-residence Catherine Rentz learned about the use of solitary confinement in immigration detention, she decided to investigate why the practice, which is typically used to punish criminal inmates, was also deployed on “civil” immigrant detainees are who not not serving time. Rentz paired up with Ian Urbina at The New York Times to write the piece featured in the Times' print and online editions as well on the Workshop's site.

Additional features produced by a team at the Workshop include an interactive map that shows how many immigrant detainees were in detention one day last spring and an article about what the U.N.'s special rapporteur on torture thinks about immigration detention.

In the weeks to come, the Workshop will showcase multimedia pieces developed by Rentz and a Workshop team. We’ll have in-person interviews with detainees and more photos from inside solitary confinement cells in detention centers.

Contributors to this project include:

• Michael Blain, a reporter, filmmaker and recent graduate of our film master's program at American University, who also did research for "Lost in Detention" and is helping to report and shoot.

• Alexia Campbell, the Workshop's graduate fellow, working on a master's in journalism and public affairs at American University, is a reporter, researcher and Spanish translator.

• Jacqueline Ho, a Workshop graduate intern, also working on a master's in journalism and public affairs at AU, is helping with photo editing and transcribing.

• Kelly Martin, a professional enrolled in the School of Communication's digital-certificate program, created the interactive map.

• Chris Amico, our web and interactive developer, also worked on graphics and supporting data.

• Madeline Beard, our undergraduate intern in graphics and photography, is creating charts and helping to edit photos.