Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Scott Richardson
In 1831, Alexis de Tocqueville visited the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia to observe first-hand the effects of a peculiar — and, at the time, entirely novel — form of incarceration. The Quakers, who had opened the prison two years earlier, believed that long-term solitary confinement was an ideal form of religious penitence (whence the termpenitentiary) and would hasten prisoners’ rehabilitation and reintegration into society. They saw it not as extreme punishment but as a progressive idea, far preferable to the giant holding pens typical of the age, where mutilations and violence among prisoners were common, and spiritual betterment all but unthinkable.
Tocqueville was favorably impressed. “Can there be a combination more powerful for reformation,” he wrote, “than that of a prison which hands over the prisoner to all the trials of solitude, leads him through reflection to remorse, through religion to hope, and makes him industrious by the burden of idleness?”
Ten years later, Dickens paid his own visit to Eastern State, and came away with a rather different opinion. Solitary confinement, he found, inflicted unimaginable torment on the minds of those subjected to it. Far from leading prisoners to enlightenment, it ruined their concentration and haunted them with hideous visions. They fell into deep despair, losing track of time and of themselves. “I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain, to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body,” he wrote in his American Notes for General Circulation:
[B]ecause its ghastly signs and tokens are not so palpable to the eye and sense of touch as scars upon the flesh; because its wounds are not upon the surface, and it extorts few cries that human ears can hear […] It wears the mind into a morbid state, which renders it unfit for the rough contact and busy action of the world.
Dickens was not alone. Harry Hawser, who wrote poems about his experience at Eastern State around the same time, hauntingly described the effects of being plunged into a “living tomb.” By the end of the 19th century, the Supreme Court noted that solitary confinement had caused many prisoners to fall “into a semi-fatuous condition,” and others still to kill themselves or to become violently insane. By World War I, the practice was largely abandoned.
Still, the idea never entirely went away, and in our bewildering world of chronically overcrowded, gang-infested prisons, it has returned with a vengeance. The new generation of high-security supermax prisons, whose spreading popularity over the past 40 years has coincided with an explosion in prisoner numbers, is premised on the notion that dangerous inmates — the “worst of the worst,” in official parlance — need to be kept separate from the general prison population, and from each other….
This article originally appeared in the LA Review of Books.
Please, sign my Petition: http://youtu.be/lTLV-9S61zk
NO PLACE FOR CHILDREN – SOLITARY CONFINEMENT
Food for Thought articles written by a PA Death Row Prisoner Robert Fisher
FOOD FOR THOUGHT PART 46
JUSTICE FOR SALE:
The Pennsylvania courts., many of the Judges and Justices are in chaos and completely out of order, to say the least. Philadelphia’s Traffic Court, most of the states common please courts (regular trial courts) and the State Supreme Court has become a cesspool of corruption,. Favouritism and the most egregious form of judicial misconduct in American. It appears this commonwealth has the best justice system money can buy!!!
The Philadelphia traffic court got so bad and out of control that the federal bureau of investigation (F.B.I) raided the traffic court building in 2011. They had numerous complaints and reports of illegal wrong doing, ticket fixing and a host of other crap. Over two dozen court staffers and four judges admitted that ticket-fixing was endemic at their building. It’s commonly known the there are two tracks of justice in the Phila. Traffic court, one for the public and another for the politically connected. Yes, one set off rules for the “In Crowd” and another for everyone else.
Judge Warren Hogeland was reluctant to fix tickers, etc, Initially, but was told by another Judge (Bernice DeAngelis and others to get with the program, this is how things are done in Philly, so Hogeland did indeed get with the program. Lisa Rapaport, Supreme court Justice Seamus McCaffery‘s wife got special consideration from Judge Hogeland when she got a ticket for driving the wrong way down a busy one way street. After a call from her husband and a visit from the fixer, William Hird (fixed tickets for the in crown) Anyway, Hogeland acquitted her. The ticket was for $119.50, not a lot of money for her and her Supreme court justice husband that make a combined $271,000 a year, but their arrogance won’t allow them to abide by the same rules as everyone else.
Another Traffic court Judge, William Singletary had to resign in disgrace in March 2012, following a complaint by a subordinate that he showed a picture of his judicial package (his penis) to her. Singletary apparently was proud of his hard-on and in an attempt to seduce her showed a cellphone photo of it to the 22 year old court worker. All of this crap further erodes confidence in Penna’s judicial system that already has judges telling their stenographers not to transcribe certain un favorable portions of the the trial, prosecutors routinely hiding exculpatory evidence and supreme court justices accepting money, gifts and special favors from lawyers and business people that often come before them, like has been recently reported in regard to chief justice Ronald D. Castille.
No Judge, not even Pa’s top jurist should be allowed to accept gifts that impugn the court’s integrity. Castille regularly accepts weekend political junkets, dinners, golf outings, sports tickets, plane rides, and all kinds of other stuff, This goes without saying, it creates an impression that rulings from the bench are for sale!! So let’s keep it real, these chumps are taking money and gifts to give favorable rulings for those that can afford to buy their services. Now they have to balance that off by coming down hard on people that aren’t paying them, so the lower class get jammed with lengthy sentences, death penalties etc etc.
Presently there are seven justices on Pa’s state supreme court, but at the moment only six are doing the business of the court because one of them, Justice Joan Orie Melvin, was suspended and is awaiting trial for allowing her staff to work on her campaign instead of preforming commonwealth duties. If she doesn’t get any special treatment, she should be going to prison shortly. Two other of our state supreme court justices McCaffery and Castille are gang-waring with each other about personal matters and disagreements about court issues, plus engaging in a host of other unsavoury and sleazy activities, which I mentioned some of them previously.
These are the same Justices in the commonwealth of Pa. That are deciding appeals for death row inmates and trying to speed up executions with chief Justice Castille leading the charge. Not long ago in a death penalty opinion Com v. Spotz 18 A3d 244 he went on a 20 page rant, criticizing the federal defenders assoc, of trying to obstruct capital punishment in Pa. Basically he doesn’t want them to do their job, which is to challenge the prosecutors evidence and put on a defense.
There are rumours that Chief Justice Castille will retire in 2014. I certainly hope so or is forced to resign and sent to prison. He does not have any morals or integrity, even his own fellow judges voted to remove him from overseeing the Phila. Courts that are under his watch and are in complete chaos. He still refuses to recuse himself from several death penalty cases that are clearly a conflict of interest. He was the district attorney in Phila, Pa. Prior to his assignment to the state supreme court. Several guys here on the row were tried by his assis. D.A’s that he assigned to their cases under his watch. Their appeals are on – going. How can he have an independent objective opinion on the issues, when he headed the same office that prosecuted them. He has every reason in the world to make sure their conviction and sentences stand. There is plenty more of this that I expect to expose in future articles.
TO BE CONTINUED
Intensify the Struggle!!!
By Robert Fisher, PA Death Row Prisoner, January 2013
Robert Fisher AS-1738
175 Progress Dr.
- Castille Hopes To Stay on Pa. Supreme Court Bench Until Mandatory Retirement (philadelphia.cbslocal.com)
- Judges charged in alleged Phila. ticket-fixing conspiracy (bizjournals.com)
Marie Mason Birthday Events Being Planned Across the World
From Earth First Newswire
Marie Mason’s 51st birthday is coming up on January 26, 2013. We are asking that folks hold events for Marie around her birthday as part of what will be an annual time to celebrate her life and keep her spirits up while she remains imprisoned.
The original call out for Marie’s birthday can be found at www.supportmariemason.org, along with her current address, artwork, interviews, letters and more ways to get involved.
- Marie Mason Birthday Events Being Planned Across the Country (supportmariemason.org)
- Call Out for Celebrations of Marie Mason’s 51st Birthday (supportmariemason.org)
- Marie Mason Birthday Events Being Planned Across the World (earthfirstnews.wordpress.com)