Picks and Pans Review: Through the Wire

updated 06/25/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/25/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

PBS (Tues., June 26, 10 P.M. ET)

B+

Public television's documentary series P.O.V. (an acronym for "point of view") kicks off its season with a provocative look at a blot on our nation's prison system. In 1986, three women with radical backgrounds, Susan Rosenberg, Alejandrina Torres and Silvia Baraldini—all serving long sentences, primarily on conspiracy convictions—were essentially entombed in the newly created Female High Security Unit, an underground chamber within the Federal Correctional Institution in Lexington, Ky.

There, they were subjected to isolation, constant surveillance and "moderate" sensory deprivation (which means they had access to a television set but rarely to other prisoners). After public protests that the women were being subjected to a form of psychological torture in the Big Brother-like facility, a federal district judge ruled that the prisoners' First Amendment rights were being violated. The women were transferred, and the unit was shut down.

For those who think of political prisoners as being a phenomenon peculiar to other, less enlightened countries, the draconian measures revealed here are a shocker.

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