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"Solitary" (The Survey)

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[page 6]

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“Locked” Cells

Normally used for a lower type of prisoner; under the present conditions such distinctions cannot be made imagine staying in this cell all day with nothing to do. I could, of course, count the bricks in my walls and do a few other things of that sort, but such possibilities would be soon exhausted. I tried to imagine staying there for several says and wondered how soon depression would come. Suppose the error concerning my food should be corrected and I should receive only bread and water the regulation died. How long would my stomach stand it? Finally, I tried to imagine staying there two weeks without exercise and without anything to occupy my time but my thoughts. In what state of mind would I be at the end? Would I be repentant, would my defiant spirit be tamed and docile, would I yield willingly to suggestion after that? Or would I be bitter and vengeful, would I come out with a permanent grudge, would I hate the authority that had thrust me into such a place and kept me so long? If so, what would be the effect of double that time—of four weeks, of six weeks, of eight weeks, of ten? I could not tell. My mind refused to take in the prospect. Whatever form of mental inactivity I should have to achieve to endure it, I felt certain that the experience would leave its mark permanently. I began to want to hit somebody—the inventor of solitary confinement or the first man who thought that human nature could be improved by such treatment.

IV.

Solitary confinement at Ft. Leavenworth is not an exceptional punishment. It is sixth in order of severity in the list of eight permissible punishments specified by the adjutant-general, the loss of a part or all of "good conduct time" being regarded as more severe. Yet the solitary cells are constantly in use. At no time during my two weeks' visit were there fewer than ten men in them, while the entire row of twenty cells is not infrequently filled. Last fall, when conscientious objectors who refused to work were placed in solitary the capacity of the cells was overtaxed. Between September 4 and September 30 sixty-four men were sent there; between November 4 and November 23, eighty-seven. At that time the population of the barracks was about 3,300. Single cells in another part of the building had to be brought into use to accommodate the overflow.

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“Open” Cells in tiers for the better type of prisoners The men are confined in this wing except when at work or at mess. They have no outdoor recreation, but may read, write, converse, an play checkers

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