Quick answer: head here and contribute towards Opening the Box before August 5, 2013. Longer answer: read on.

IN THE SUMMER of 2011 I spent 24 hours locked in a small room in my apartment. I was participating in a solidarity fast with detained hikers Shane and Josh, who had spent over 2 years in Evin Prison, Iran, wrongfully detained on suspicions of being American spies. Their third companion, Sarah Shourd, had been released earlier on humanitarian grounds, and had campaigned tirelessly for the freedom of her friends ever since.

Credit: NY TImes

Credit: NY TImes

Before their imprisonment, I had had an existing relationship with Sarah. As founder of the spiritual travel magazine Brave New Traveler, she had written a beautiful piece on an Iraqi family, and the depth of their grace and forgiveness.

Thankfully, Shane and Josh were finally released on Sept 21, 2011, yet the scars remain. All three were held in prolonged solitary confinement, a practice common in prisons across the US, and the world. In her article “Tortured by Solitude” Sarah describes the nightmare here:

It’s impossible to exaggerate how much the company of another human being means when you’ve been cut off from the world and stripped of your rights and freedom.After two months with next to no human contact, my mind began to slip. Some days, I heard phantom footsteps coming down the hall. I spent large portions of my days crouched down on all fours by a small slit in the door, listening.

In the periphery of my vision, I began to see flashing lights, only to jerk my head around to find that nothing was there. More than once, I beat at the walls until my knuckles bled and cried myself into a state of exhaustion. At one point, I heard someone screaming, and it wasn’t until I felt the hands of one of the friendlier guards on my face, trying to revive me, that I realized the screams were my own.

Both Sarah and Shane have become tireless advocates for the abolition of solitary confinement. In 2012, Shane released a short film and expose “No Way Out” that examined the practice in America today.

Sarah believes momentum is building to create significant reform. In “The High Price of Solitary Confinement” she writes:

In the last year and a half, there has been a remarkable rise in interest and outrage against this practice, as well as policy changes in various states. Still, with an estimated 80,000 people in our country held in isolation on any given day, a problem of this scope calls for a deep, sustained global response.

One creative response now needs your support. Sarah has joined with Solitary Watch to raise funds for a new theatrical play “Opening the Box” aimed at ending solitary confinement in the US forever. Watch the pitch video below:

How to Support this Campaign:

I’m continually in awe of Sarah’s heart and perseverance, and am honoured to support her advocacy work.



  1. Thank you for supporting Sarah and Shane in their campaign, Ian. You are all greatly inspiring to me.

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