Locked in a Box: How Activist Art Affects Opinions About Solitary Confinement

Authors: Toby Bolsen, Bailey Fairbanks and Kristina LaPlant, Georgia State University


Delivered at the Annual Meeting of the Georgia Political Science Association, Savannah, GA, November 9-11, 2017 


Does exposure to activist political art influence citizens’ beliefs about solitary confinement? This research uniquely assesses the impact of exposure to an art exhibition on general support for solitary confinement.  It utilizes an experimental research design that involved randomly assigning half of participants to enter a public art installment replicating a solitary confinement prison cell prior to completing a survey that measured opinions about the use of solitary confinement.  We find that participants who entered the art exhibition for a short amount of time were less likely to support solitary confinement for both juveniles and adults.  We also evaluated the impact of political and demographic characteristics of respondents, and attitudes toward the criminal justice system, as predictors of support for solitary confinement. We find evidence that race, ideology, and pre-existing attitudes toward the criminal justice system are strongly associated with opinions about the use of solitary confinement.


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