After Two Decades in Solitary, This Is His First Day Out


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After Two Decades in Solitary, This Is His First Day Out

July 26, 2022, 5:00 a.m. ET
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By Pete Quandt

Mr. Quandt is a documentary filmmaker.

I was introduced to Jack Powers during his final month of nearly 33 years spent in prison. A former bank robber, Mr. Powers spent over two decades in solitary confinement, most of them in the notorious maximum-security prison known as the ADX.

During this unconscionable period of time, he committed serious self-harm, wrote prolifically, lost his son, educated himself and participated in a monumental civil case regarding the abuse and neglect of inmates. Today, he is a reflection of all of his life experiences — a profoundly changed man, an author, a mourning father and a loving son, and a critical voice in the anti-solitary confinement and prison reform movements.

It was a privilege to be present with him as he navigated his first hours of freedom — opening himself up to the lens of our camera, despite the deluge of emotion and stimuli that surrounded him. As seen in the short documentary above, re-entering society after a prolonged prison stay can seem like both an intoxicating dream and an insurmountable challenge.

Pete Quandt is a Brooklyn-based director and cinematographer. You can read more about Jack Powers’s story in his book, “ADX Supermax: The Alcatraz of the Rockies,” and essays.

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