I’ve always been struck by the similarity between solitary confinement inmates and monks. Historically, monks were kept under the vow of silence. They could only leave their cells to attend religious services. The only visitors they were allowed tohave were their religious advisors. (If any of you have seen the movie Into Great Silence you’ll know what I’m talking about.) The idea of the modern penitentiary came from this ‘penitence’ process: put someone in a room by himself, give him religious guidance while he’s there and he’ll reflect, repent and reform. This was how prisons were run in the Nineteenth Century too: prisoners were kept under the rule of silence and they could only come out of their cells for religious services or for work. No one ever alleged that monks became psychotic because of this though.
Then there’s the psychiatric seclusion room. Again, a bare cell with a bed or a mattress, no visitors, no clothes except a hospital gown. There is no ‘vow of silence’ or ‘rule of silence’ though.
So what makes the difference between the prison segregation cell, the monk’s cell and the psychiatric seclusion room? Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*