Charles Dickens on Solitary Confinement: “Immense Torture and Agony”

by | February 27, 2010


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  • Lindsey Kieffaber

    Where are the citations for Dicken’s words?

  • Ok I read this and I should look into a better history The shaking explains alot . I am not wanting to add names but I will say solitary is not for the weak hear ted and it messes with these mens lives . they don’t use hoods but they definitely make them think about there crime so many say a month they are in there . My man was in there 5 years and we together are working on getting his mind better , it’s hard .I mean they don’t do that to any one . lock them up with no contact for five years could you do it and still think happy thoughts ?????

  • joshlyn

    i ben to ESP when i die i want my asses spred in the hole of it odd thing i feel at peaces thare but is it leagal for a judge to mandate that a sentince be done in solitary i was thingken of the black panther case thout the bop got the say but dident thingk judges can mandate how you do your time only way i know of that a judge can do this is under terimsum act but is a judge real hated you for some reson can they realy do that with out the tarest act thing just as you or me if i stood trial tarmarow and the judge thout i was going to be a pain in the ass and i made a joke of him in cout pissing him off like hell can they realy find loop holes to make it part of a sentices that it has to be in solitary no one ever ben abal to anser the queston was hopeing so lawer anyone who knows the anser mite tell me allways wondered

  • Alan

    Also from Atul Gawande’s “Hellhole” article:

    It wasn’t always like this. The wide-scale use of isolation is, almost
    exclusively, a phenomenon of the past twenty years. In 1890, the
    United States Supreme Court came close to declaring the punishment to
    be unconstitutional. Writing for the majority in the case of a
    Colorado murderer who had been held in isolation for a month, Justice
    Samuel Miller noted that experience had revealed “serious objections”
    to solitary confinement:

    A considerable number of the prisoners fell, after even a short
    confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition, from which it was next to
    impossible to arouse them, and others became violently insane; others,
    still, committed suicide; while those who stood the ordeal better were
    not generally reformed, and in most cases did not recover sufficient
    mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community.

    The simple truth is that public sentiment in America is the reason
    that solitary confinement has exploded in this country, even as other
    Western nations have taken steps to reduce it. This is the dark side
    of American exceptionalism. With little concern or demurral, we have
    consigned tens of thousands of our own citizens to conditions that
    horrified our highest court a century ago.

    On Liberty, John Stuart Mill:

    ”Society can and does execute its own mandates, and if it issues wrong mandates instead of right, or any mandates at all in things with which it ought not to meddle, it practices a social tyranny more formidable than many kinds of political oppression, since, though not usually upheld by such extreme penalties, it leaves fewer means of escape, penetrating more deeply into the details of life, and enslaving the soul itself. Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough. We need protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling, against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them.”

    Oscar Wilde in “De Profundis”:

    “Now I am advised by others to try on my release to forget that I have ever been in a prison at all. I know that would be equally fatal. It would mean that I would always be haunted by an intolerable sense of disgrace, and that those things that are meant for me as much as for anybody else – the beauty of the sun and moon, the pageant of the seasons, the music of daybreak and the silence of great nights, the rain falling through the leaves, or the dew creeping over the grass and making it silver – would all be tainted for me, and lose their healing power, and their power of communicating joy. To regret one’s own experiences is to arrest one’s own development. To deny one’s own experiences is to put a lie into the lips of one’s own life. It is no less than a denial of the soul.”

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