Silent Cells

The Secret Drugging of Captive America

2019
Author:

Anthony Ryan Hatch

Silent Cells

A critical investigation into the use of psychotropic drugs to pacify and control inmates and other captives in the vast U.S. prison, military, and welfare systems

Anthony Ryan Hatch demonstrates that the pervasive use of psychotropic drugs has not only defined and enabled mass incarceration but has also become central to other forms of captivity, including foster homes, military and immigrant detention centers, and nursing homes.

For residents of state-managed institutions, the American Dream too often has been warped into a drug-addled nightmare. Combining novel insights supported by rigorous scholarship with fresh, accessible writing, Anthony Ryan Hatch presents a powerful indictment of imposing psychotropics upon the caged powerless, building an unimpugnable case that unveils a deeply troubling pattern and also affords us the chance to end it.

Harriet A. Washington, author of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present

For at least four decades, U.S. prisons and jails have aggressively turned to psychotropic drugs—antidepressants, antipsychotics, sedatives, and tranquilizers—to silence inmates, whether or not they have been diagnosed with mental illnesses. In Silent Cells, Anthony Ryan Hatch demonstrates that the pervasive use of psychotropic drugs has not only defined and enabled mass incarceration but has also become central to other forms of captivity, including foster homes, military and immigrant detention centers, and nursing homes.

Silent Cells shows how, in shockingly large numbers, federal, state, and local governments and government-authorized private agencies pacify people with drugs, uncovering patterns of institutional violence that threaten basic human and civil rights. Drawing on publicly available records, Hatch unearths the coercive ways that psychotropics serve to manufacture compliance and docility, practices hidden behind layers of state secrecy, medical complicity, and corporate profiteering.

Psychotropics, Hatch shows, are integral to “technocorrectional” policies devised to minimize public costs and increase the private profitability of mass captivity while guaranteeing public safety and national security. This broad indictment of psychotropics is therefore animated by a radical counterfactual question: would incarceration on the scale practiced in the United States even be possible without psychotropics?
Silent Cells

Anthony Ryan Hatch is associate professor in the Science in Society program at Wesleyan University. He is author of Blood Sugar: Racial Pharmacology and Food Justice in Black America (Minnesota, 2016).

Silent Cells

For residents of state-managed institutions, the American Dream too often has been warped into a drug-addled nightmare. Combining novel insights supported by rigorous scholarship with fresh, accessible writing, Anthony Ryan Hatch presents a powerful indictment of imposing psychotropics upon the caged powerless, building an unimpugnable case that unveils a deeply troubling pattern and also affords us the chance to end it.

Harriet A. Washington, author of Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present

Silent Cells is a ground-breaking study of psychiatric violence in U.S. prisons—not as an exception to the rule, but as a normalized practice of prison management without which mass incarceration would be impossible to sustain. A must-read for anyone who wants to understand the material conditions of the U.S. carceral state.

Lisa Guenther, author of Solitary Confinement: Social Death and Its Afterlives

Hatch champions a more recent neologism: necropolitics, a system for managing the socially dead.

Inside Higher Education

Agitated children, ‘uncooperative’ foreign nationals held in privately-run immigrant detention facilities, depressed and plaintive elders in for-profit nursing homes and soldiers facing repeated deployment with little dwell time: they have all been guinea pigs in a giant (un)scientific experiment to see just how docile and cheap human lives can be made. And what of ‘free society’ itself? In a country where 16.7 per cent (one in six) adult Americans take at least one psychopharmaceutical regularly (with 80 per cent of those doing so on a long-term basis), freedom must be, if not redefined, then at least reappraised. Yes, a pocket of silence may have lingered within the scholarship on US mass incarceration, but Anthony Ryan Hatch’s masterful Silent Cells: The Secret Drugging of Captive America makes that silence speak volumes.

LSE Review of Books

Even readers who disagree with the conclusion will find value in thinking about some important questions concerning psychotropic drugs and social control this book raises. This is an excellent example of critical thinking done right.

CHOICE

Silent Cells

Contents

Preface

Introduction: Incarcerating Bodies and Brains

One: Climbing the Walls

Two: The Pharmacy Prison

Three: Experimental Patriots

Four: Psychic States of Emergency

Five: There Are Dark Days Ahead

Conclusion: Overdose

Acknowledgments

Notes

Index