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July 31, 1897


JAMA. 1897;XXIX(5):243-244. doi:10.1001/jama.1897.02440310041005

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The following press dispatch tells a tale that perhaps deserves some editorial comment from a medical point of view:

New York, July 22.—Since the anticonvict labor law went into operation on January 1 twenty prisoners in the Kings county penitentiary have lost their reason. Madness began to assert itself without anything to attract public attention. It attacked the victims one at a time until last week, when nine convicts, under the dull torture of enforced idleness, went mad. Five of these unfortunate men were removed yesterday from the penitentiary to the State asylum at Matteawan. The remaining four will probably be disposed of today. Three are federal prisoners and their destination is the asylum at Washington. Madness in one case is laid at the door of mental torture, long sustained. In all the other cases enforced idleness —twenty hours of each day passed behind iron bars in traplike cells—seems to

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