If the SHU Fits -


Voices from Solitary Confinement


Total Isolation for 23 hours daily.

Sensory deprivation.

No contact with family. Poor food.

Minimal access to medical needs.

Hear the stories of those who have been

held in state-sanctioned torture.

A Reader's Theatre performance script compiled by Andy Griggs and Melvin Ishmael Johnson

Produced by If the Shu Fits Collaborative:

Dramastage Qumran * LA Laborfest * Public Works Improvisational Theatre

About the Play


In the spring of 2013, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) invited Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP) to propose an idea for supporting a campaign to end indefinite solitary confinement.

Andy Griggs, at that time the Program Director of ICUJP, began working with Melvin Ishmael Johnson, Artistic Director of Dramastage Qumran to develop the script which became If the SHU Fits - Voices from Solitary Confinement.

The first performance was presented on Human Rights Day, December 10, 2013.


Since then, the script has gone through many changes, and has been read by professional actors, members of religious communities, and students in classrooms. This is what we want - for people to read the play out loud, to hear the voices of those who have been held in solitary, and to take action to make change.


The Script


The script uses the history, use of, and statistics about solitary confinement in the United States to paint a broad picture of the practice. But the heart of the play comes from letters, articles, statements, stories and commentaries from those imprisoned and their family members, as well as legal and community testimony.


You can download a copy of the script to read from our toolkit page.


These stories are just a few of the many out there. We urge you to also visit the resources listed to read and hear more of these.

And then - take action!


The Compilers


Andy Griggs and Melvin Ishmael Johnson take part in a discussion after a recent performance of

If the SHU Fits - Voices from Solitary Confinement

Andy Griggs - Bio to be added


Melvin Ishmael Johnson - Bio to be added

About Solitary Confinement

"Solitary confinement of prisoners exists under a range of names: isolation, control units, supermax prisons, the hole, SHUs, administrative segregation, maximum security, or permanent lockdown.

Prisoners can be placed in these units for many reasons: as punishment while they are under investigation; as a mechanism for behavior modification, when suspected of gang involvement; as retribution for political activism; or to fill expensive, empty beds, to name but a few."

-from https://afsc.org/resource/solitary-confinement-facts

The video on the left is a short and vivid portrayal of solitary confinement and its effects. We thank Molly Crabapple for its use here, and as part of our production.

Producers: If the SHU Fits Collaborative

If the SHU Fits Collaborative


The If the SHU Fits Collaborative consists of the three following producing groups. It initially came together to produce this play. We intend to explore other projects addressing the issues of mass incarceration, solitary confinement, and the entire criminal justice system and its relationship to society.



Dramastage-Qumran is a non-profit recovery theater company whose objective is to utilize community theater to impact the violence found in the individual, home, school and community. The goal of Dramastage-Qumran Veterans Community Theater Workshop is to provide a forum for military veterans to access community theater and to create a full time Veterans Community Theater Company made up of veterans and non-veterans. Dramastage-Qumran also produces a weekly Internet Radio Show – The Qumran Report (Monday’s at 8:00pm at Skid Row Studios) dealing with issues relating to the Downtown and Skid Row community.


Email: dramastage1@yahoo.com Web: www.dramastage-qumran.org

Qumran Report: www.skidrowstudios.com/category/the-qumran-report


LA Laborfest


LA Laborfest is a collaboration of union and community activists and artists formed to promote commemorative events and build energy and capacity for future annual Labor Festivals. We invite trade unions and their members, labor historians and activists, health and safety advocates, immigrant rights and women’s organizations, writers, artists, musicians, theater artists, filmmakers, and workers to join us and honor the movements that grew out of these historic moments, to remember our past and inform our future.


Email: lalaborfest@gmail.com Web: www.lalaborfest.org


Public Works Improvisational Theatre


Public Works Improvisational Theatre (PWIT) specializes in cultural activism theatre that puts audiences in touch with contemporary events and their immediate personal, political and social relevance. Besides performing around the nation, PWIT regularly dedicates a portion of its resources running theatre workshops for at-risk youth, the elderly, and community groups. PWIT has been funded by California Arts Council, National/State/County Partnership, Cultural Affairs Dept. of L.A., Brody Arts Fund L.A., and the Puffin Foundation N.J.

Web: www.publicworksimprov.com



Sponsors are those who would like to book us for a performance or can assist in underwriting one or more performances with substantial financial or in-kind assistance in meeting production costs - venue rental, performer and staff stipends, promotion and printing, and other related costs.

Endorsers agree to promote performances to their membership through any means available to them: newsletters, e-blasts, social media, etc., and/or can offer in-kind support such as copying, printing, or supplies.


We are grateful to the following organizations that have sponsored or endorsed the creation and performances of If the SHU Fits - Voices from Solitary Confinement in the past. Without their support, the work would not have been possible.


Bill of Rights Defense Center (BORDC) * Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP)

National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) * Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition (PHSSC)


ACLU of Southern California * ACLU – Pasadena/Foothill Chapter * American Friends Service Committee– LA Anti-Racist Action -LA * Café Intifada * California Families Against Solitary Confinement (CFASC) Californians United for a Responsible Budget (CURB) * Children’s Defense Fund of California Common Peace, Center for the Advancement of Nonviolence * Critical Resistance –LA * FACTS Education Fund Fair Chance Project * Global Women’s Strike & Women of Color/GWS * Holman United Methodist Church Homies United * LA Progressive * LA No More Jails * MLK Coalition of Greater LA Neighborhood Unitarian Universalist Church * Progressive Christians Uniting (PCU) School of the Americas Watch –LA (SOAW-LA) * Stop Police Violence The WE Empowerment Center * Youth Justice Coalition