Today, slavery persists in the social death of prisoners who are locked away for years, decades, or even multiple lifetimes, in a situation that undermines their capacity to sustain or rebuild a meaningful sense of life in a world shared with others.
In his book, Slavery and Social Death , Orlando Patterson argued that the defining feature of slavery is not forced labor, nor even the status of being owned as property, but rather the extreme dishonor and alienation of being excluded from networks of mutually-supportive social relations…
Social death is the best name I know to describe the situation of the Angola 3, and of the tens of thousands of prisoners currently held in solitary confinement across the U.S.
Since 1972, apart from a brief period in a shared dormitory in 2008, Wallace and Woodfox have spent 23 hours a day, every day, in a 6’ x 9’ cell with constant artificial light, blaring TV, and extremely limited non-contact visits from a short list of family and friends.
I’ve offered my view on this one before. If any punishment possesses the property of being ‘inhumane’, this is it. It is torture. It is sickening. And for me, thinking about it, it’s the most powerful argument against any form of retributive justice there is.
Hat tip: Feminist Philosophers.