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Dickens was not the only European commentator to be concerned about the effects of solitary confinement on prisoners' sanity. The Swiss prison system had been much influenced by American developments, and during the 1830s the regimes in Swiss prisons came to resemble more and more closely the Pennsylvania system of solitary. In 1838 two Swiss doctors published critiques of the Swiss prisons ort the basis of their effects on the prisoners' mental health. In particular, they stated that in the prisons in Geneva and Lausanne the number of deaths and mental disturbances increased in direct relation to the shift in the Swiss institutions from the Auburn to the Pennsylvania system.50 However, in a report by an investigating committee in Philadelphia in 1837 it was maintained that comparison of the records in the North American correctional institutions revealed that there were fewer rather than more cases of mental illness in Cherry Hill than in other prisons. The committee was of the view that however greatly one might fear for the prisoners' sanity under the pres sure of absolute and continuous solitude without labour, without books, without instruction, and without daily association with prison employees and visitors, the regime at Cherry Hill was such that no one was in danger of losing his mind because of isolation.51

Although the debates in the United States and in Europe pivoted around the respective advantages of the two models of penitentiary discipline, it is important to realize that, notwithstanding their diversity, the separate and silent systems had a common basis. In a report made to the New York legislature in 1867, E.C. Wines and Theodore Dwight described that common basis in this way:

Isolation and labour lie at the foundation of both. They are fundamental principles of both, according to the ideal on which they were formed. The difference is one of application; of mode, and not of principle. In one the isolation is effected by an absolute bodily separation by day as well as by night. and labour is performed in the cell of each individual convict. In the other, labour is performed in common workshops and the isolation at night is secured by the confinement of the prisoners in separate cells, but during the day is of a moral species, being effected by the enforcement, so far as such a thing is possible, of an absolute silence. The bodies of the prisoners are together, but their souls are apart; and, while there is a material society, there is a mental solitude.52

Michel Foucault, while agreeing that isolation and labour were the common principles around which both the Auburn and Pennsylvania systems were organized, expressed the differences in more graphic terms: 'Auburn was society itself reduced to its bare essentials. Cherry Hill was life annihilated and begun again.'53

The debate that took place on both sides of the Atlantic about the relative advantages of the two systems was not an empty one, however. As Foucault states, 'a whole series of different conflicts stemmed from the opposition between these two models: religious (must conversion be the principal element of correction?), medical (does total isolation drive convicts insane?), economic (which method costs less?), architectural and administrative (which form guarantees the best surveillance?). This, no doubt, was why the argument lasted so long.'54

While the influence of the American experience with the two models of penitentiary disciplines was to be felt throughout Europe, it was particularly influential in England. It is important to consider the way in which the American experience was evaluated and implemented in England, because in turn that system came to influence events in Canada. The overcrowding in the English prisons brought about by an increase in the crime rate in the wake of demobilization after the Napoleonic Wars led to the abandonment of the regime of solitary confinement in the institutions that had sought to introduce it. In its place and under the influence of the American experience in Auburn and Sing Sing the rule of silence was extended, and in the 1820s and 1830s the silent system, along with the introduction of the bread-and-water diet and the tread wheel, ushered in an era characterized by an escalation in repressive measures directed against prisoners.55

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