historical prison

Legit’s List of Historical Myths

Writing something historical, or a fantasy based on historical occurrences? Awesome. Except when you’re writing about history, it’s really important to know history. That’s especially true with myths that are potentially harmful (like pretending there were no black people in Elizabethan England or that trans people didn’t exist until this millennium). Here are some myths you may or may not have known about, and the truth behind those myths. 

1. Witches Were Burned at the Stake - Eh. Sort of. Burning was generally a European thing. In America we mostly hanged witches, or in some cases crushed them to death with stones. Also, though women were executed for witchcraft at a higher rate than men, men could also be accused and killed. 

2. Sailors (like Columbus) Proved the Earth Round - Sorry, flat earthers. People have known the world was a globe since about 400 BC. So in stories set after that time, you’re not going to have a character mistakenly believe the earth is flat. Not unless they are very uneducated or they like conspiracy theories. 

3. Gladiators All Fought to the Death - Not really. Gladiators were sportsmen - and women - who were worth a lot of money. They trained, they fought, and they were taken care of. They weren’t all slaves either. Many volunteered to fight. I’d do research if I were writing gladiator-inspired fiction. 

4. Victorians Were Prudes - They really weren’t any more prudish than people are at any given point in history. If sex was discouraged it was probably because it was risky to sleep around - diseases like syphilis weren’t curable. Also, they didn’t cover up table legs because they were risque. And there were tons of sex workers. And Queen Victoria herself liked hot boys when she was young and wrote about how much sex she had with her hubby. (She got a bit more prudish with age.) 

5. Native Americans All Lived in Tipis - Come on now. First of all, which Native Americans are you referring to? There are tons of tribes and they all have their own practices, culture, and beliefs. Natives on the plains did use tipis and were at times nomadic. Other Natives built huge cities. Research Native culture and don’t perpetuate stereotypes folks. 

6. Any Slave/Indentured Servant Myth - There are a ton of these. Indentured servants were all white? Nope (though it was quite dangerous to be an indentured POC). Indentured servants were treated badly? Well, most had contracts, some that stated indentured servants required medical care, food, etc. Historically, most slaves were prisoners of war or debtors. Heck, going back in history you’ll even find that the pyramids weren’t built by slaves, as most think, but by paid laborers. All this to say - research it before you write it. 

7. Slavery Myths #2 - Because apparently I have a lot to say on the subject… Historically, it was more common to make your own people slaves rather than go out and capture an enemy force. Also, only “barbarians” are slaves… Nope. I mean, yeah, but not in the sense a lot of people think. Slavery generally doesn’t develop until you have a solid civilization that can support it, with a food surplus to feed slaves, etc. So if you write a story and the good (usually) white people don’t have slaves but the less organized, less structured natives do, you’re doing it wrong. (I’ve seen a ton of this shit in high fantasy.)

 8. Cleopatra Was Egyptian - Nah. She was Greek, and spoke a Greek dialect as her main language (though she DID speak native Egyptian). She basically belonged to the “ruling class” of Egypt at the time. So…that means she was white right? Nah. That is to say, we don’t know for sure. Leading to point 9… 

9. Race Has Been a Big Divide Throughout History - It’s only recently we started caring about race, guys. Back in classical times, skin color wasn’t all that important. What mattered was your country of origin, religion, stuff like that. A lot of our modern ideas about “race” came from European conquerors opposing enemies of different religions (who happened to be dark) and, obviously, American Slavery. Racism is a fairly modern phenomenon if you do your homework.

10. Back in the Day, People Married Super Young - No. They did not. While betrothals sometimes took place where young children were promised to each other, usually they didn’t actually marry until they were much older. In fact, the common age of marriage in Medieval Europe was generally around 20 for women and 30 for men. Therefore, no excuses for having a 12 year old marry an older man. That’s just gross.

Anyway, here are 10 history myths for you to learn from, whether you’re writing historical fiction, fantasy, or just want to learn a bit more about our past! I will likely be doing a few more of these since I uncovered a lot of things I want to talk about while researching! 

anonymous asked:

You know the basic dungeon you see in fantasy tv/movies? Underground or with tiny window, and metal bars? If a person were kept on their own in a cell like that, but no other prisoners around, and visited once or twice a day for food or interrogation by the same 1 or 2 people, would they suffer any short or long term psychological effects? Or be ok-ish? Also, probably cold and damp. For how long would you say a situation like that could last? I'd meant to have it go a few months. Unreasonable?

Well if you don’t want them to have any long term problems it’s not very reasonable at all. It is survivable though so it really depends on how open you are to the character having long term physical and mental health problems.

I have a Masterpost on solitary confinement here, which you should have a look at for the full list of effects and symptoms. But the upshot is that if someone is kept in solitary confinement for longer than a week they develop serious psychological problems and if they’re confined for a really prolonged period (ie months) those problems could become permanent.

It’s also worth pointing out that the tv image isn’t exactly how historical prisons worked.

In England at least prisoners paid for their food and board, so the treatment they received could be very good. But even without payment prisoners were rarely kept isolated and so far as I can tell prisoners regularly received visitors.

The conditions you describe could lead to a lot of pretty serious physical effects. Hypothermia springs to mind, and prisoners did freeze to death in these sorts of cells. If it’s winter frostbite on their extremities is a very real risk and could lead to the loss of fingers or toes.

In one of the cities I used to live in a prisoner drowned in a cell one winter when the river rose. An underground cell would be particularly prone to that sort of flooding.

Lack of any hygiene facilities would also be a major problem and the risk of disease is pretty high.

The bedding available also makes a big difference.

If there’s no bedding then the character would probably develop bruises sleeping on the floor which might eventually turn into sores. These sores would be incredibly prone to infection in the damp, unhygienic conditions of the cell.

If there’s communal bedding used by the previous occupant there’s a good chance of ticks and fleas. Aside from spreading disease the bites from these insects also represent another possible site of infection.

Fresh straw is probably a lower risk, but in damp conditions it would probably start rotting and might well soak up any human waste. Again this increases the chances of the character catching something nasty and fatal.

How long this could last without the character being permanently changed depends a lot on the character.

Children and the elderly were imprisoned in conditions like these historically and they would definitely be at greater risk of death. If your character is in either of these categories, or has a chronic condition that makes them more prone to infectious diseases, I’d say the survival time is in the realm of days. Perhaps a week during the summer and less than a day during a bad winter.

A healthy adult could last longer but the longer they’re in the cell the greater the risk of death from infection or disease. And as an entirely separate factor the longer they’re in the cell the greater the damage to their mental and physical health caused by isolation.

Eye problems seem more common when a solitary cell has dim lighting, so I’d expect a character who’d been confined for several months to have long term problems with their vision.

The poor living conditions in the cell would make the character’s mental health problems much worse and the extremely long confinement period means you’d be talking about multiple, serious, long term mental health problems. There’d also be an extremely high risk of self harm and suicide.

You’re talking about giving your character several mental health problems that will last the rest of their life.

You can embrace that. In which case I suggest consulting the solitary confinement Masterpost and picking symptoms that you feel fit with the character and the story you want to tell. I’d suggest at least 3 symptoms, 5 would be better. You’d then have to commit to showing the character dealing with these conditions for the rest of the story and any future stories.

The other option is that you drastically reduce the amount of time the character is imprisoned to something like a week. They’d have an absolutely terrible experience and they might well experience some of the mental health problems associated with solitary confinement. But they’d probably make a complete recovery once released.

I hope this helps. :)


russianspacegeckosexparty  asked:

What would happen to the military and police force in a solarpunk society? What about jails/prisons? How might a solarpunk society defend itself?

I have a rough answer to this, but my friend Chelsea has a lot of experience in direct prison abolition activism, so I’ve asked her to take a look at this ask and respond. Here’s what she wrote: 

The underlying assumption here is that military and police are necessary for society to function. But that’s not really the case. The military-industrial complex and prison-industrial complex uphold the intertwined structures of white supremacy, hetero-patriarchy, and capitalism. As I understand it, solarpunk is an attempt to create alternatives to these systems of violence. 

With regards to the military, its role in the US is to defend the nation from real or potential threats, both internal and external. It enacts unspeakable violence on any perceived threats. For the last 100+ years of US history, the military has been the muscle of US imperialism. (And this is the case for other past and present empires/ colonizers.) 

This Jacobin article summarizes the violence enacted by the US military, and why it should be abolished: (1) US imperialism breeds racism; (2) the military is anti-feminist; (3) US militarism is bad for American workers and for the planet; (4) the US military is global capitalism’s police; and (5) the military is no humanitarian force, although US military interventions are often explained away with language about humanitarian efforts. 

The military is not necessary for a society to thrive. There are 22 countries that do not have a standing army. Not all are examples to follow, but there are ideas for further consideration and things that can be improved.

I am more knowledgeable about the prison-industrial complex, so I’m going to move on to that…

In the US, we use prisons and jails to hide away, punish, and obliterate people we have labeled as “criminals.” Crime and criminality are socially constructed and historically variable (so it is different in different times and places; I am a US historian, so this is where my experience is coming from).

Since the 19th century, the system of jails/prisons in the US has served to identify and “reform” non-normative bodies and behaviors. Today, it has become system of punishment that targets and destroys people who experience intersecting oppressions based on race, gender, disability, and class—on a massive scale.

We may be able to find an approach that encompasses harm reduction and restorative justice, which are increasingly used today to eliminate the perceived need for state violence. Activists that I worked with in western MA have been fighting against the construction of new jails. The Massachusetts Statewide Harm Reduction Coalition (SHaRC) emphasizes the need to “deconstruct” the ideology of prisons, and to “reconstruct” viable community alternatives.

We need to rethink the role of jails/prisons, and realize that our communities are best served by harm prevention/reduction and restorative justice alternatives, including equitable access to affordable housing, food, job opportunities, childcare, quality education, and healthcare.

As I understand solarpunk, restorative justice would have to be a core part of solarpunk society. This would be part of wide-ranging efforts to decriminalize criminalized communities, to end environmental racism, and to dismantle white supremacist violence (institutional and otherwise).

 – @space-crabs

 Some resources:

anonymous asked:

How much did the US govt know about torture not working in the early 60's? Information isn't the point here - convincing/coercing a rebellious superhuman raised since he was 3 to be a super-soldier to do as he's told is the goal. Military upbringing kept him cheerfully obedient for 20-odd years, but now the plot has hit the fan and he's killed several people in a bid to gtfo. So the brass is obviously freaking out. Would they have known torture was a Bad Plan? Or were we still figuring that out?

That’s a genuinely interesting question.

I think it isn’t just about the information that was available at the time but who would have access to it and who would read it. It also depends on whether we’re talking about scientific data or anecdotal accounts. People have been saying torture doesn’t work for literally hundreds of years. But it’s only within the last 100 years or so that we’ve had systematic scientific experimentation back that up.

There’s also the significant issue of whether anyone would listen to information they didn’t want to hear. There have been several scientific studies which strongly suggest we as a species are very bad at listening to data that contradicts our strongly held beliefs.

Which means that if these characters strongly believe torture is effective they will probably argue for torture whether they’ve seen evidence to refute their belief or not.

And conversely characters who strongly believe that torture doesn’t work will argue against torture whether they have evidence or not.

Some of the experiments on sensory deprivation would have already been conducted by this time, but I’m not sure how widely available the results were within the military. I’m not sure how much effective communication there was between high ranking individuals across departments.

There had been analysis of Soviet ‘brainwashing’ techniques by that time, with the conclusion that the tortures used were not unusual and indeed had been used by the Chicago police force for decades. I’m not sure how many people in the military will have had access to that report though.

And the report itself is not exactly ‘anti-torture’ or even really saying that torture doesn’t work. Just that Russian torture at the time was neither unique nor unusual.

What keeps coming to mind for me is actually medical ethics.

One of the experiments that comes up in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was doctors injecting live cancer cells from Henrietta into patients without telling them what the injections were or why they were doing it. Doctors administering the injections were instructed not to tell patients and most of them went along with it.

Until the head researcher Southam made an arrangement with the Jewish Chronic Disease Hospital in Brooklyn in 1963 to use some of their patients in his experiments. Three Jewish doctors refused to inject anything in the patients if they couldn’t tell the patients what it was.

They cited Nuremberg.

When the hospital carried on with the experiments the doctors sent a resignation letter to their boss. And the papers.

Now both Southam and the hospital director claimed they’d never heard of Nuremberg.

In 1963 two people at the top of their field in the US who were both heavily involved in experimental research on humans said they had not heard of the only ethical guidelines for experimentation on human beings. And other doctors backed them up.

What I’m driving at here is that I’m not sure it matters for your story whether the research existed or not. Because there is a lot of precedent for people in positions of authority being unaware of or ignoring things they thought might be detrimental to them.

Which means that I think this question basically comes back to making a decision based on what’s right for the story.

Do you want this character to be tortured? And if so why? How would it affect the story you want to tell? Not just the character or the plot or even the relationships between the characters but the mood and atmosphere of the story?

How comfortable are you with writing it?

I don’t mean the gore. Gore is easy. How comfortable are you getting inside your character’s head when they are suffering? How comfortable are you getting inside a torturer’s head when they hurting someone? Because believe me that is not a very pleasant thing to have floating around your brain for the days/weeks/months it takes to write something.

How comfortable are you with introducing something that would leave a mark over the rest of the book? Because done well, this isn’t just a one-off incident that the character can then walk away from; it’s something that will affect them for the rest of the time you write about them.

Keeping in mind that referencing and having a conversation within the story about torture is very different to using torture.

It sounds like whatever you pick that conversation is going to come up in your story. I’d suggest making it a debate and giving the audience some insight into who wants what to happen and why. Whichever side ‘wins’ having the discussion in your story will probably help the story.

Going back to specific experiments: Shalev references the isolation prison systems of the 19th century as providing clear evidence of the damaging effects of solitary confinement. I get the impression that the information was either not well known or ignored in the US because solitary became a large and integral part of the US prison system. This is despite the fact some of these historical prisons were in the US.

Donald Hebb’s ethical experiments on sensory deprivation took place in the early 50s. Baldwin was discussing sensory deprivation with the CIA in 1955 and Lilly quit his work on sensory deprivation in 1958 in part because of how CIA officials wanted to use his research.

So the CIA knew about the damaging effects of sensory deprivation in particular in the early 50s but were still pursuing unethical experiments on the subject in 1958. Which does not, in my opinion, show a great ability to pay attention to results.

The report on Soviet ‘brainwashing’ by doctors H Wolff and L Hinkle began in 1953. It was handed in to the CIA in 1956.

The Wickersham commission, a report on torture by US police, was conducted in the 1920s.

I do not know how widely available the CIA reports would have been to the US military. They don’t seem to have been public knowledge in the 60s but high ranking military officials might have been able to read them, since I know very little about the way the US military works I don’t know.

The Wickersham commission however was public knowledge as were the reports by individual isolation prisons.

So there were a good number of reports that your characters could potentially reference and draw on for information.

My suggestion? Have the debate in the story. Have the military characters discuss whether they think ‘tougher’ tactics would work, whether they’re ethical and whether it’s worth the risk. (Because it is a risk, they risk losing their supersoldier)

Have the characters draw on the reports I’ve mentioned and have them draw on their own experience as well. Because the men you’re talking about will probably remember the Second World War. Some of them will have been in Europe and seen the liberation of the camps.

Use that. You can get one helluva an emotional scene out of this, whether it leads to torture or not.

I hope that helps. :)



Boston Post, Massachusetts, June 5, 1921

In 1921 Bebe Daniels was cruising in her Marmon Roadster with current beau boxer Jack Dempsey (and her mother, chaperone for proprieties sake). When they crossed the into Orange County she was pulled over for speeding - she was going 56 ½ MPH. The judge in the case was notorious for giving steep fines to anyone going above the speed limit, as well as jail time for anyone going over 50 - and Bebe was no exception. She told the motorcycle officers at the scene that she’d been speeding because her radiator had sprung a leak, she wanted to get it fixed before more trouble ensued, but they didn’t buy it.. neither did the jury.

She was sentenced to 10 days in jail, although some critics were unimpressed when she was gifted a full bedroom set (including a rug and a phonograph) from a local furniture store for her Santa Ana cell, claiming that it looked like a boudoir scene from a movie. They also ridiculed the fact that her mother stayed with her for the majority of the term, and  weren’t impressed when she bragged about her guest book which she claimed had racked up 721 signatures from visitors while in the clink. On her first day in jail the judge who sentenced her welcomed her with a bouquet of roses. She was pretty upbeat about the whole thing though, telling the sheriff that “This is a comfy little place, anyhow. It will be sort of a quiet vacation.”

Judge Cox later fined former Secretary of the Treasury and future California Senator Williams Gibbs McAdoo and his son, William Jr, separately for speeding in his jurisdiction within a week of each other. 

After a few months, the raging frustration at his position, the constant nightmares began to subside and Luciano came to accept as inevitable the fact that release would not come soon, that the appeals process would be a long one. He began to come somewhat to terms with his situation, particularly in the library. ‘There I was, surrounded by all them books and I started to think about Lansky—how Meyer was always walkin’ around with a book stuck in his back pocket and his nose buried in another one. The son of a bitch was always readin’, always learnin’ somethin’, mostly havin’ to do with numbers. That’s when I started reading.’ … 'I was reading so much that one day, when Frank Costello came up to see me and I started tellin’ him about all the books I’m reading, Frank says to me, “Charlie, you’re becoming a goddamn Sicilian Meyer Lansky.” Whadda you think of that?’
—  The Last Testament of Lucky Luciano

Incarcerated women suffer different traumas than men in prison. The needs and the problems that women face in prison are much different than those of men, and our emotional reactions are quite different. In order to understand the emotional difficulties that affect many women prisoners, one needs to consider their backgrounds and the obstacles they face as mothers in prison. Women prisoners suffer from harsh discipline and sexual harassment. Women also have unique medical and mental needs, which are difficult to address in the harsh environment of prisons. Access to reliable health or mental health care is a major concern for all female prisoners. Women are afraid that incompetent medical attention, more than the illness itself, will lead to death.

My last roommate at CRC was a soft-spoken, middle-aged Mexican woman from Los Angeles. Like many other women, Rita was doing time because she was addicted to drugs. The last few months before her release she had terrible stomach pains. Rita begged for a doctor to take a serious look at her pains. Prison staff refused to listen to her, accusing her of trying to get free drugs. Many nights I would sit up with her as she cried because the pain was unbearable. It got to a point where Rita was unable to eat because she would throw it back up. We tried to get her some extra milk when we could. Rita’s parole date came, and she was able to go back home. We got word a few weeks after her release that Rita was taken to the hospital, where she died on the operating table. The cancer had spread like wildfire; there was nothing they could do.

Medication is used as a way to control women in prison. Studies in the United States indicate that incarcerated women are more heavily medicated than incarcerated men. Most psychiatry in prison has everything to do with control and management and nothing to do with holistic, effective treatment.

“I was medicated the entire time I was in county jail. Before I was sentenced, the doctor prescribed me Elavil twice daily and Mellaril three times daily. These medications made me sleep most of the day and night. I would wake only to go to “chow-hall” and to take a shower. These meds were given to me throughout my nine-month incarceration. By the time I left for state prison, the pills had affected my speech. The thoughts were there but I had a difficult time getting the words out. My mouth and skin were dry and I was weak from constant sleep. Upon arriving at the prison I was given Thorazine for two weeks; it made me a walking zombie. The other Indian women there told me that many of them were also medicated. After being sentenced to five years at the California Rehabilitation Center and returning to jail I was given a med packet with a small pill inside. “What is this for?” I asked the guard as she locked my cell door. “It came from the doctor this morning when he found out that you were being sentenced. Take it Stormy—it’s just to calm down,” she told me. The next thing I remember was my cellmate shaking me as I sat on the floor, watching my cigarette burn a hole into my nightgown. “What did they give you Storm?” “I am not sure what it was,” I said to her with slurred speech, “all I know is that it was small.”“Must have been Thorazine,” was her reply, “the doctor gives that to all of us women, especially the Sisters that get sentenced to prison.”

Inadequate medical care is one of the most pressing problems facing women prisoners. Women in custody have an increased incidence of chronic health problems, including asthma, gynecological disease, nutrition problems, and convulsive seizure disorders, often due to their exposure to violence. Moreover, care is provided with an eye toward reducing costs and is often based upon the military model, which assumes a healthy male. Consequently, medical care for women in California prisons is woefully inadequate. In addition, increasing numbers of women arrive at prison malnourished, with sexually transmitted diseases and untreated gynecological problems. Many scholars and activists have argued that the poor medical care in prisons is a violation of the 8th Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.

Many women in prison were victimized by sexual violence and abuse before incarceration. It is estimated that 43 percent to 57 percent of women in state and federal prisons have been physically abused at some time in their lives. Any experience of sexual abuse in prison compounds their suffering. Privacy violations are an unpleasant fact of prison life. Historically, incarcerated women in the United States have experienced sexual advances, coercion, and harassment by the staff. Guards observe female inmates at all times, while taking showers, dressing, and going to the bathroom. Women are searched continuously, from pat downs after meals to complete strip and body searches after family visits. Many women are victims of sexual abuse by staff (both male and female). The abuse includes sexually offensive language and inappropriate touching of their breasts and genitals when conducting searches.

—  Stormy Ogden, Sharing Our Stories of Survival: Native Women Surviving Violence