The Underworld

Solitary Confinement, the New Wave Punishment


The System

Famous Crime





Mealtime in solitary confinement, Guiana, by Roger Violette

One reasoning behind the installation of solitary confinement within the French prison system was to create a punishment even more severe than the death penalty. Also, reformers argued that because prisoners would be alone and idle, they would have time to reflect and repent. Definately a form of rehabilitation. During the July Monarchy, reformers wanted to do away with the death penalty and replace it with solitary confinement. However, only half of this proposal was carried. Both solitary confinement and the death penalty were practiced in the prisons.


Solitary confinement was seen as a harsher punishment than the death penalty. An execution took only seconds to perform and the convicted criminals were not in pain for a long time: they experienced little suffering, clearly not enough in the eyes of the reformers. However, with solitary confinement, prisoners experienced physical pain and mental anguish for months, even years at a time. Living off of a bread and water only diet, having absolutly no contact with the outside world, not being able to move outside of one's extremely small and dimley lite cell certainly is a harsh punishment considering also that some of these "hard criminals" were only petty theives.