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Alone Inside: Lisa Guenther on solitary confinement

By Ideas with Paul Kennedy
CBC Radio

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When the concept of solitary confinement was first implemented in the early 19th century, the idea was not to punish the prisoner, but to give him space to reflect and reform. Two centuries later, despite the growing use of segregation in Canada and the United States, the practice continues to produce very different results. Prisoners who have lived through solitary confinement say the experience is torturous. Freelance journalist Brett Story explores the roots of this practice in North America, and the profound and often devastating impact it has on people who are severed from social contact.

Guests in order of appearance:

Susan Rosenberg is a writer, educator, and former political prisoner. Author of the prison memoir An American Radical - Political Prisoner in My Own Country, Rosenberg spent 16 years incarcerated in United States and 11 of those in some form of segregation.

Gregory McMaster has served 35 years in prison in both the United States and Canada. He is currently held at Fenbrook Institution in Ontario on consecutive life sentences. He has spent a total of 7 years in segregation, most of that time in the U.S.

Caleb Smith
is a Professor of English at Yale University, and author of The Prison and the American Imagination, and most recently, The Oracle and the Curse: A Poetics of Justice from the Revolution to the Civil War.

Michael Jackson is a Professor of Law at the University of British Columbia and author of, among other books, Prisoners of Isolation: Solitary Confinement in Canada. As a lawyer he has represented prisoners and First Nations in leading cases before the Supreme Court of Canada.

Lisa Guenther is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. Her most recent book is Solitary Confinement: Social Death and its Afterlives. She also runs a philosophy reading group with prisoners on death row.


Listen here.

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