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Shortly after the demise of this experiment with the full rigours of solitary confinement, the regime at Auburn was modified into what has subsequently become known as the' Auburn system.' The prisoners were put to work in small, strictly supervised groups in workshops and out of doors during the day and were locked up in individual cells at night. Complete silence was to be observed. Breach of this rule was punished by flogging. Discipline was extremely strict in all respects; prisoners were required to walk in lock-step and to keep their eyes downcast.46 The Auburn system of separate confinement at night and work in association by day, girded by a strictly enforced rule of silence, was to become one of the two dominant models that influenced refinement of the penitentiary ideal in North America and Europe.

The other model, which in North America has become known as the 'Pennsylvania system,' closely parallels the model of discipline initially introduced at Gloucester penitentiary in which prisoners were kept in twenty-four-hour solitary confinement and were assigned work to be performed within their own cells. This was the system that the Pennsylvania Legislative Assembly enacted to govern confinement in the Cherry Hill Penitentiary in 1829. Prisoners worked in their individual. cells and exercise was taken in an adjoining yard in isolation from other prisoners. Prisoners were permitted no communication whatever with their families or friends, and they were seldom allowed to receive letters. Only the prison inspectors, ministers and priests, the warden, the doctor, prison staff, and official visitors were permitted to meet with the prisoners.47 The separation of prisoners from each other was strict and complete.

The warden of Cherry Hill told Demetz and Blouet, two Frenchmen who visited the prison in 1837, of the prisoner who had been sentenced the same day as his accomplice; the prisoner had inquired two years later how things had turned out for the accomplice, even though the two men had occupied neighbouring cells the whole time. The Frenchmen were favour- ably impressed with the system of separate confinement as practised at Cherry Hill. The following passage from their report, in which they describe the advantages of the system over the Auburn silent regime, summarizes the theoretical underpinnings of solitary confinement in nineteenth-century America:

In the separate system the prisoners cannot become more depraved. They are not under the influence of their fellow prisoners. The false pride in being even worse than one's fellows, the conceit that prevents a prisoner from submitting to his fate, all these feelings that need approval in order to flourish, evaporate in solitude. Regardless of his nature, the convict is compelled to look at himself. He is alone with his conscience. It does not take him long to grasp that his punishment is a consequence of his errors and that he has been deprived of his freedom because he has made bad use of it. During the first few days he may only hear the voice of his anger, but what purpose does that serve in the deathly silence of his surroundings. He is defeated. That is the point at which work is given to him. This becomes a distraction for his gloomy thoughts, solace, and he applies himself eagerly to the task offered him, which is thus not an augmentation of his punishment.

The possibility of changing the attitudes of criminals through this system has been doubted. But the purpose of the punishment is not so much to chastise as to set an example to society that is beneficial and moral. If in this process, the criminal can be given the possibility of reforming, no effort should be spared to achieve this twofold result. If the criminal is not completely reformed in solitary, he is at least taught calm and regular habits. He is held in order and discipline; he learns to work and to respect the law.48

The Cherry Hill Penitentiary was subject to inspection by members of the Philadelphia public who were appointed for two years by the Supreme Court. In 1821, the board of inspectors of the Walnut Street Jail had recognized the severity of solitary confinement without labour and had proposed that a year so spent should be regarded as the equivalent of three years of solitary confinement with labour. Demetz and Blouet had been laudatory of the regime of solitary confinement at Cherry Hill. Other distinguished visitors had the gravest reservations about what they saw happening within its austere walls. Charles Dickens visited the prison in 1842. In his American Notes he reflected on what he saw there.

In its intention I am well convinced that it is kind, humane and meant for reformation; but I am persuaded that those who devise the system and those benevolent gentlemen who carry it into execution, do not know what it is they are doing. I believe that very few men are capable of estimating the immense amount of torture and agony which this dreadful punishment, prolonged for years, inflicts upon the sufferers; and in guessing at it myself, and from reasoning from what I have seen written upon their faces, from what to my certain knowledge they feel within, I am only the more convinced that there is a depth of terrible endurance in it which none but the sufferers themselves can fathom, and which no man has a right to inflict upon his fellow creatures.

I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body; and because its ghastly signs and tokens are not so palpable to the eye and sense of touch as scars upon the flesh, because its wounds are not on the surface and it extorts few cries that human ears can hear; therefore I denounce it as a secret punishment which slumbering humanity is not roused to stay.49

Charles Dickens's denunciation was read in 1975 to the federal court judge who was asked to declare the continuing use of solitary confinement in the British Columbia Penitentiary cruel and unusual punishment.

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Cherry Hill Penitentiary