Jack McCann wrote a series of poems while in solitary. One of these,
entitled 'My Home is Hell,' was read to the court. Here are some of the
My home is hell in one small cell
That no man wants to own,
For here I spend my life condemned
A man the world disowns.
So I, the damned, within walls crammed
Lie in my man-made grave
A man all men condemned for sin
But no man strives to save.
Each lonely dawn that night spawns
I stand and face the wall
In bitterness and loneliness
I await the whistle's call.
Men scream and yell within my hell
But I'm a man alone.
My tears of pain. like bitter rain,
Spill down on naked stone.
Here every gate is one of hate.
Love has no place to hide
For each lost fool who breaks a rule
The way to hell is wide.
The things men hate and mutilate,
Are those that all men value.
The mind of man, the will within,
The spirit that God gives you.
The right to sin, but rise again,
A free man, not a slave,
To find a friend and at the end,
Escape a pauper's grave.
I cannot tell to those in hell,
The dreams I send above,
Nor how the shrill of whistles kill,
Each passing thought of love.
Within these walls that never fall.
The damned all come to know.
The row of cells - the special hell,
Called Solitary Row.
Where seconds cheat and hunger eats
The belly of each slave.
Where gas is shot and each man rots
In his lonely grave.
To sleepless nights, to glaring lights,
To guns and bars and chains,
To walls of stone and men alone,
In years I can't regain.
To those who take my dreams and make
Me live in hell forever,
To those who lash -and try to smash,
The human spirit forever.
To those who steal the things I feel
And sow my heart with sorrow,
Each farewell I bid in hell.
Is lost in each tomorrow.83
While the evidence of the plaintiffs in the McCann
case represents the most detailed elaboration 'so far available of the
conditions and effects of solitary confinement in a Canadian maximum-security
penitentiary, an extensive interpretation of and commentary on that evidence
was given by expert witnesses in the fields of penology, psychology, and
psychiatry. The plaintiffs called Dr. Richard Korn, Dr. Stephen Fox and
Dr. Tony Marcus. Dr. Korn, who at the time of the trial was the executive
director of the Center for the Study of Criminal Justice at Berkeley,
California, is an eminent penologist who brought to bear in his evidence
not only the benefit of many years of study and analysis of the correctional
system but also actual experience in running a penitentiary and having
responsibility for the establishment of a special segregation unit. Dr.
Stephen Fox, professor of psychology at the University of Iowa, has done
extensive research in the area of sensory deprivation and has studied
the effects of solitary confinement on prisoners. Both Dr. Korn and Dr.
Fox have testified before congressional committees in the United States
on prison conditions and have given expert evidence before the U.S. courts
on the effects of solitary confinement. They interviewed all the plaintiffs,
visited SCU and spoke to the director and other members of the staff at
the penitentiary. Dr. Marcus, acting head of the department of psychiatry
at the University of British Columbia, has had extensive experience with
prisoners in the British Columbia Penitentiary and had been the senior
investigator in a study of dangerous sexual offenders being held in protective
custody at the penitentiary under section 2.30(l)(b).84
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