Tag Archives: prison

“He Must Die or Go Mad in This Place”: Prisoners, Insanity, and the Pentonville Model Prison Experiment, 1842–52

AHP readers may be interested in an article in the most recent issue of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine.

““He Must Die or Go Mad in This Place”: Prisoners, Insanity, and the Pentonville Model Prison Experiment, 1842–52,” by Catherine Cox and Hilary Marland. Abstract:

The relationship between prisons and mental illness has preoccupied prison administrators, physicians, and reformers from the establishment of the modern prison service in the nineteenth century to the current day. Here we take the case of Pentonville Model Prison, established in 1842 with the aim of reforming convicts through religious exhortation, rigorous discipline and training, and the imposition of separate confinement in its most extreme form. Our article demonstrates how following the introduction of separate confinement, the prison chaplains rather than the medical officers took a lead role in managing the minds of convicts. However, instead of reforming and improving prisoners’ minds, Pentonville became associated with high rates of mental disorder, challenging the institution’s regime and reputation. We explore the role of chaplains, doctors, and other prison officers in debating, disputing, and managing cases of mental breakdown and the dismantling of separate confinement in the face of mounting criticism.


CIA Psychologists “Broke the Law”

Guantanamo Bay prisonDuring the debate over how the American Psychological Association should respond to reports of  psychologists participating in the “enhanced” interrogation of terrorism suspects in off-shore prisons, APA officials consistently argued that psycholgoists were there to protect the prisoners, ensuring that the procedures used did not endanger their mental health. Continue reading CIA Psychologists “Broke the Law”

The “New Asylums” Are Prisons

Here is a truly astonishing 2006 documentary from PBS’s “Frontline” that you can watch in its entirety online: The New Asylums. It shows how one of Ohio’s prisons struggles to cope with the large proportion of its inmates who are mentally ill. The most disturbing statistic in the documentary is that, in the US, 500,000 mentally ill people are now in prisons, TEN TIMES as many as are in mental hospitals. Continue reading The “New Asylums” Are Prisons