Posts Tagged ‘psychiatry’

“The idea of mental health took hold in the first three decades of the twentieth-century United States not so much because it was an idea whose time had come, but because of the threat presented by fulminating radical socialist thought.

At the turn of the twentieth century, US elites were drunk on wealth, even as they panicked at the specter of violent social revolution. Their paranoia was not entirely unfounded. The decades following the Civil War were a period of capitalist accumulation that by 1900 resulted in the top 1 percent of households owning 51 percent of the nation’s wealth; the bottom 44 percent owned only 1 percent.

Menaced by falling rates of profit, industrial capitalists and bankers after 1865 began a transition from laissez-faire competition to industrial monopolies, trusts, and mergers, in an attempt to artificially raise profits by controlling prices. This transition from industrial to finance capitalism subjected ordinary workers to the frenzied boom and bust cycles of speculative capital. It relied heavily on the expansion of consumer credit and debt, making ever-greater tranches of the population vulnerable to the convulsions of financial markets.

The nation roiled with class warfare. Class politics in the post–Civil War period were largely articulated via recurrent populist crusades. These movements were mostly comprised of farmers, tenants, and small proprietors, loosely if pugnaciously affiliated around resistance to the banking rackets’ entrenched interests in maintaining high interest rates and keeping the currency wed to gold backing.

By the turn of the twentieth century, one third of all small farmers were mortgaged at dizzying interest rates. 70 percent of the nation’s labor force had been transformed into landless wage earners with no delusions of achieving financial independence from the industrial and financial oligarchs.

The chasm between the increasingly desperate position of deskilled labor — subject, with the introduction of Taylorism, to ever-more tyrannical control by management — and the gilded excesses of the speculative and industrial elite was obvious, most of all to the swelling ranks of the landless and precarious wage earners packed into the squalid flophouses coating the underside of the industrial cities.

The manifest antagonism of interests between Gilded Age capital and labor caused a proliferation of increasingly radical labor organizations, among them the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the Knights of Labor, and the American Federation of Labor (AFL). The period between 1870 and 1905 witnessed over thirty-seven thousand strikes.

Flailing to control working-class militancy, industrialists turned to armed scabs and police terror to break labor in bloody confrontations like the Haymarket Riot (1886), the Coeur d’Alene Silver Mine Strike (1892), the Pullman Strike (1894), and the Ludlow Massacre (1914).

Elites were alarmed by the spate of new social pathologies resulting from these social and demographic changes. By 1910, vagrancy, homelessness, and begging were rampant in urban centers. Chicago alone had up to seventy-five thousand homeless men in its streets and flophouses in 1923, and a 1915 government survey estimated the total number of “unemployables” nationally at five million, growing at a rate that eclipsed the general population increase. Divorce, or abandonment — the “poor man’s divorce” — rose to a rate of 20 percent of households in metropolitan areas by 1930, swelling the number of women and children requiring state or philanthropic support.

The dissolution of local or traditional kinship care networks was directly implicated in the seismic increase in the number of persons requiring care in asylums, whose inmates multiplied from 74,000 in 1890 to 150,000 in 1904, and over 267,000 by 1922. By 1920, the total cost of care for those labelled “insane” was estimated to exceed that of all agricultural production, with Americans diagnosed as “insane” growing at double the overall rate of population increase.

In short, by the first decade of the twentieth century, it was clear that the nation was in crisis. The question was a crisis of what? Faced with this question, the newly formed discipline of psychiatry would ally with Gilded Age elites and New Liberal political philosophy to argue that this turmoil could be solved by understanding the vast array of social ills as problems of mental health.

Emotions as Political Substance
If we want to understand the conditions under which “mental health” was proposed as the total cure for the United States’ ills, we need to grasp the dominant forms of political thought that emerged as part of the new liberal consensus. To the ills of a nation riven by class conflict and plagued by social ills, Progressive Era “New Liberals” offered a prescription of harmonious social integration. This vision of society as an integrated organism was to be guaranteed by the “emotional adjustment” and “mental health” of the individual. Its success would be secured through the benevolent rule of technocratic experts, trained and housed in the nation’s freshly minted university system.

Faced with the twin specters of social breakdown or a revolution of the strain developing in Russia, turn-of-the-century liberals embarked on a political project anchored in a redefinition of democracy. Here, the fundamental unit of politics was not the property owner, but the psyche. This political-philosophical outlook put aside the question of ownership (or not) of property, and instead prioritized the individual as a psychological entity, always conditioned by cultural habits and considered in relation to a cohesive social group unfractured by class conflict.

Thus, the New Liberals performed a kind of magic trick: by waving the wand of psychiatric technocracy over a scene of profound economic inequality, they transformed the subject of politics from the property-owning citizen into a freshly politicized psyche.

The New Liberals performed a kind of magic trick: by waving the wand of psychiatric technocracy over a scene of profound economic inequality, they transformed the subject of politics from the property-owning citizen into a freshly politicized psyche.

The political philosophy of the New Liberals differed from its predecessors in three key ways. First, in place of the free-willed individual posited by classical liberalism, New Liberalism regarded the individual as motivated by unconscious drives and habit formation that occurred below the surface of conscious thought or choice. The individual, they thought, was shaped through the accumulation of habit. As the influential pragmatist psychologist William James wrote in 1890:

Habit is thus the enormous fly-wheel of society, its most precious conservative agent. It alone is what keeps us all within the bounds of ordinance, and saves the children of fortune from the envious uprisings of the poor. It alone prevents the hardest and most repulsive walks of life from being deserted by those brought up to tread therein. It keeps the fisherman and the deck-hand at sea through the winter; it holds the miner in his darkness, and nails the countryman to his log cabin and his lonely farm through all the months of snow; it protects us from invasion by the natives of the desert and the frozen zone … It keeps different social strata from mixing.

This elevation of the unconscious conditioning of the individual over freedom of choice provided the basis for the second key difference that separated the New Liberals from earlier social philosophy. While older positivist social theory (like that of Emile Durkheim) held that something called “society” exerted an inexorable force on the individual, New Liberals thought it was possible to engineer society itself through scientific principles.

If the individual was shaped by the unconscious processes of habit formation, then the best tactic for social control was not in outright force (of the sort witnessed in bloody labor confrontations) but in changing individuals’ education and environment so as to inculcate social consensus. Accordingly, the political theater should be located in the psyche of the individual, one evolving dynamically in his or her environment, taking on habits that could be engineered by the elite, university-trained technicians of social order.

The idea of social consensus was the New Liberals’ third major innovation on older forms of political thought. Previous political economy recognized competing interests (either between classes or between property owners) as creating intrinsic, constitutive social factions whose necessarily clashing positions were mediated through politics.

The New Liberals rejected the notion that society was fundamentally fractured, instead understanding society as a harmonious whole comprised of a division of labor and social roles. As a result, the question of American democracy was not a matter of ensuring equality of property, but of ensuring psychic buy-in to the social system, in which every individual would find their “natural place” to which they were best suited by habit.

The New Liberals thus put the individual psyche and emotions at the center of their vision of democracy. In replacing the question of property with that of the “personality” or psyche, they pivoted from a positive definition of freedom (e.g. freedom to pursue equality of property) to a negative one: freedom from the “emotional disturbances” that result in the individual’s failure to buy into a social harmony based on varying personal roles.

In the words of the future architect of American psychiatry Adolf Meyer, the “very foundation of democracy” rested on the recognition that “men are not born equal” in their habits and natural endowments. Consequently, democratic freedom consisted in each person finding their “natural place” in the social order. The New Liberal vision of society and politics, then, hinged on the enshrinement of what Meyer termed an “emotional culture that will cause people to stand by the rules of the social game even when it is not in one’s own benefit.”

But how was this social consensus to be achieved? The New Liberals’ vision claimed to apply truly scientific principles to the management of social ills. This was American psychiatry’s promise to the US ruling class: a universal science of the individualized psyche that could guarantee the emotional adjustment of each person to their role in the social order.”

– Zola Carr, “Medicalizing Society.Jacobin, August 28, 2018.

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““Don’t be stupid, be a smarty, come and join the Nazi Party” is an intentionally obnoxious line from the hilarious “Springtime for Hitler” in Mel Brook’s The Producers. Not hilarious is the reality that doctors in Nazi Germany were “smarties” in Brook’s sardonic sense, as they joined the Nazi SS in a far higher proportion than the German general population. Also not funny is that U.S. doctors and healthcare professionals—from their “aiding torture” (description used in the CIA Inspector General’s Report) at Guantánamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere to the more recent drugging of detained child migrants—have served U.S. authoritarian policies.

In the Journal of Medical Ethics in 2012, Alessandra Colaianni reports “More than 7% of all German physicians became members of the Nazi SS during World War II, compared with less than 1% of the general population… . By 1945, half of all German physicians had joined the Nazi party, 6% before Adolf Hitler gained power.” Colaianni points out, “Physicians joined the Nazi party and the killing operations not at gunpoint, not by force, but of their own volition.”

Colaianni offers several explanations for doctors’ penchant for authoritarianism—reasons that continue to exist today. Two of her explanations are doctors’ socialization to hierarchy and their exceptional career ambitiousness. “Medical culture is,” she concludes “in many ways, a rigid hierarchy… . Those at the lower end of the hierarchy are used to doing what their superiors ask of them, often without understanding exactly why… . Questioning superiors is often uncomfortable, for fear both of negative consequences (retaliation, losing the superior’s respect) and of being wrong.” She also points out, “Becoming a doctor requires no small amount of ambition… .The stereotypical pre-medical student [is] ruthlessly competitive, willing to do anything to get ahead.”“

“Authoritarian” is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as “characterized by or favoring absolute obedience to authority.” Authoritarians in power demand unquestioning obedience from those with lower rank, and authoritarian subordinates comply with all demands of authorities.

I have a special interest in authoritarianism among psychiatrists and psychologists. In their schooling and training (and often beyond that), they live for many years in a world where one complies with the demands of all authorities, and so their patients who challenge authority and resist illegitimate authority appear to be “abnormal” and “mentally ill.”

In my training to become a psychologist, I discovered that students, trainees, and subordinate mental health professionals who challenged authorities routinely got labeled as having “authority issues,” which stigmatizes them in terms of career advancement. Both the selection and socialization of mental health professionals breed out most anti-authoritarians, and the handful of anti-authoritarians who manage to slither through the academic hoops to obtain their degrees have all, from my experience, paid a career price for challenging illegitimate authority. And that punishment has intimidated other mental health professionals from taking an anti-authoritarian path.

Corroborating my personal experience of the retribution heaped upon those rare anti-authoritarian psychiatrists, the journal Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry (in 2017) devoted an issue to dissident psychiatrists Thomas Szasz (1920-2012) and his protégé, psychiatrist Ron Leifer (1932-2017).

Perhaps the most famous anti-authoritarian psychiatrist in U.S. history is Thomas Szasz. His The Myth of Mental Illness (1961) brought the wrath of the entire psychiatric establishment against him. Szasz continues today to be widely misunderstood. “He did not deny that people suffer mentally and emotionally,” Leifer pointed out, “He was not even denying mental illnesses exist. He acknowledged that they exist, but … not as diseases in the same sense that diabetes or pneumonia are diseases.” Szasz argued that “mental illness” is a metaphor for emotional and behavioral problems in living. Szasz has been widely accused of being anti-psychiatry, but what he opposed was coercive psychiatry. Szasz was a fierce opponent of involuntary psychiatric treatment, believing psychiatry and psychotherapy should only be utilized when there is informed choice and consent.

What was establishment psychiatry’s reaction to Szasz? Psychologist Chuck Ruby reports, “Starting immediately on his open revolt, Szasz’s colleagues ridiculed him, and they considered him a traitor to the profession of psychiatry.” Ruby, the Executive Director of the International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry, notes, “There were unsuccessful attempts by New York state officials to remove him as a professor at SUNY Upstate Medical University at Syracuse, and his superiors at the university attempted to goad him into quitting.” Szasz was a full professor with tenure; but the chairman of the Department of Psychiatry, David Robinson, according to Leifer, “tried to drive Szasz into insubordination so he could fire him.” Szasz ultimately had to hire a lawyer to defend and protect his tenured appointment.

Ron Leifer, lacking tenure, was far more vulnerable to a career “hit.” Leifer reported that he was “excommunicated” from academic psychiatry in 1966, “fired [by Robinson] in retaliation for publishing a book that was interpreted to be criticism of psychiatry.” Leifer recounted, “I applied at other departments of psychiatry … but was rejected because of my association with Szasz. So much for the free expression of ideas in academic psychiatry!”

Then there is the case of Loren Mosher (1933–2004), the psychiatrist perhaps most respected by ex-patients who have become activists fighting for human rights. In 1968, Mosher became the National Institute of Mental Health’s Chief of the Center for Schizophrenia Research. In 1971, he launched an alternative approach for people diagnosed with schizophrenia, opening the first Soteria House in Santa Clara, California. Soteria House was an egalitarian and non-coercive psychosocial milieu employing nonprofessional caregivers. The results showed that people do far better with the Soteria approach than with standard psychiatric treatment, and that people can in fact recover with little or no use of antipsychotic drugs. Mosher’s success embarrassed establishment psychiatry and displeased the pharmaceutical industry. Not surprisingly, the National Institute of Mental Health choked off Soteria House funding, and Mosher was fired from NIMH in 1980.

Dissident psychiatrists are a rare breed, and those whom I have known tell me that the attempted hit on Szasz and the successful hits on Leifer and Mosher were as predictable as any hit by La Cosa Nostra (“our thing”)—as the psychiatry establishment is also not exactly tolerant of any challenges to “their thing.”

Anti-authoritarian patients should be especially concerned with psychiatrists and psychologists—even more so than with other doctors. While an authoritarian cardiothoracic surgeon may be an abusive jerk for a nursing staff, that surgeon can still effectively perform a necessary artery bypass for an anti-authoritarian patient. However, authoritarian psychiatrists and psychologists will always do damage to their anti-authoritarian patients.

Psychiatrists and psychologists are often unaware of the magnitude of their obedience, and so the anti-authoritarianism of their patients can create enormous anxiety and even shame for them with regard to their own excessive compliance. This anxiety and shame can fuel their psycho-pathologizing of any noncompliance that creates significant tension. Such tension includes an anti-authoritarian patient’s incensed reaction to illegitimate authority.

Anti-authoritarian helpers—far more commonly found in peer support—understand angry reactions to illegitimate authority, empathize with the pain fueling those reactions, and genuinely care about that pain. Having one’s behavior understood and pain cared about opens one up to dialogue as to how best to deal with one’s pain. Because anti-authoritarian mental health professionals are rare, angry anti-authoritarian patients will likely be “treated” by an authority who creates even more pain, which results in more self-destructiveness and violence.

It is certainly no accident that anti-authoritarian psychiatrists and psychologists are rare. Mainstream psychiatry and psychology meet the needs of the ruling power structure by pathologizing anger and depoliticizing malaise so as to maintain the status quo. In contrast, anti-authoritarians model and validate resisting illegitimate authority, and so anti-authoritarian professionals—be they teachers, clergy, psychiatrists, or psychologists—are not viewed kindly by the ruling power structure.”

– Bruce C. Levine, ““Don’t Be Stupid, Be a Smarty”: Why Anti-Authoritarian Doctors Are So Rare.” Counterpunch, August 16, 2018. (via quoms)

Source: antoine-roquentin

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“Orlikow was one of several hundred patients who became unwitting subjects of these experiments in Montreal in the late 1950s and early 60s.

“It’s almost impossible to believe,” said her granddaughter, Sarah Anne Johnson. After her grandmother died, the Canadian artist began reading up on the institute, delving into Orlikow’s journals and court documents. “Some of the things he did to his patients are so horrible and unbelievable that it sounds like the stuff of nightmares.”

Patients were subjected to high-voltage electroshock therapy several times a day, forced into drug-induced sleeps that could last months and injected with megadoses of LSD.

After reducing them to a childlike state – at times stripping them of basic skills such as how to dress themselves or tie their shoes – Cameron would attempt to reprogram them by bombarding them with recorded messages for up to 16 hours at a time. First came negative messages about their inadequacies, followed by positive ones, in some cases repeated up to half a million times.

“He couldn’t get his patients to listen to them enough so he put speakers in football helmets and locked them on their heads,” said Johnson. “They were going crazy banging their heads into walls, so he then figured he could put them in a drug induced coma and play the tapes as long as he needed.”

Along with intensive bouts of electroshock therapy, Johnson’s grandmother was given injections of LSD on 14 occasions. “She said that made her feel like her bones were melting. She would say: ‘I don’t want these,’” said Johnson. “And the doctors and nurses would say to her: ‘You’re a bad wife, you’re a bad mother. If you wanted to get better, you would do this for your family. Think about your daughter.’”

Orlikow died when Johnson was 13 years old. Her experience – and the profound imprint it left on her family – has influenced Johnson’s artwork.

“I knew, even at a very young age, that my grandma was not like other grandmas,” said Johnson, 41. “She had a hair trigger for nerves and anger. If someone bumped into her or if we were in a restaurant and someone spilled something on her, she would just explode. She wouldn’t hurt anybody, she would just scream and yell and it would take hours to calm her down.”

Johnson was close to her grandmother, often spending afternoons at her home while her parents worked. They would sit on the couch and watch TV together, surrounded by piles of books and newspapers.

Years later, Johnson found out that the experiments had wreaked havoc on Orlikow’s brain; it could take her three weeks to read a newspaper, months to write a letter, and years to read a book.

“But she kept trying, she kept trying to be her old self and do the things that she used to love,” said Johnson. “Now I think that she was just sitting in a big pile of her own failures, every day on that couch.”

Similar scenes played out across Canada as former patients of the institute attempted to return to their lives. “It tainted our whole family,” said Alison Steel, whose mother was admitted to the institute in 1957.

Her mother was 33 years old at the time, reeling from the loss of her first child and showing signs of depression. “Back at that time, this Dr Cameron, he was this miracle psychiatrist,” said Steel. “He was supposed to do wonders with people with depression or mental health issues.”

Steel’s mother, Jean, was put into chemically induced sleep, once for 18 days and a second time for 29 days. She was subjected to rounds of electroshocks, injections of experimental drugs and seemingly endless bouts of recorded messages.

“They say it was torture for human beings, human torture,” said Steel, who was four years old when her mother was hospitalised. “What they attempt to do is erase your emotions. They strip you of your soul.”

After three months at the institution, her mother returned home. The treatments had taken a toll on her memory and left her riddled with nervousness and anxiety. “She wasn’t able to talk to me about life and regular stuff. She wasn’t able to joke and laugh,” said Steel.

At times her mother would interrupt conversations to utter statements out of the blue, which Steel believes were the recorded messages she had been exposed to. “She would blurt out something like: ‘We must do the right thing,’” said Steel.

Cameron, the psychiatrist behind the experiments, died in 1967 of a heart attack while mountain climbing, but recent decades have seen various attempts by former patients and their families to hold the Canadian government and the CIA accountable.”

– Ashifa Kassam, “The toxic legacy of Canada’s CIA brainwashing experiments: ‘They strip you of your soul’.” The Guardian, May 3, 2018.

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“When Charles Manson was a prison inmate, he got introduced to Scientology by fellow prisoners, and his ability to psych out people was intensified so that he could zero in on their weaknesses and fears. In 1967, he was released and went to the Scientology Center in San Francisco. A friend who accompanied him there told me, “Charlie said to them, ‘I’m Clear – what do I do now?’”

But they expected him to sweep the floor – shit, he had done that in jail. However, in Los Angeles, he went to the Scientology Celebrity Center. Now this was more like it – there he could mingle with the elite. I was able to obtain a copy of the original log entry: “7/31/68, new name, Charlie Manson, Devt. No address. In for processing = Ethics = Type III.” The receptionist – who, by Type III, meant “psychotic” – sent him to the Ethics office but he never showed up.

At the Spahn Ranch, Manson combined his version of Scientology auditing with post-hypnotic techniques he had learned in prison, with geographical isolation and subliminal motivation, with sing-along sessions and encounter games, with LSD and mescaline, with transactional analysis and brainwashing rituals, with verbal probing and sexual longevity that he had practiced upon himself for all those years in the privacy of his cell. He was also raped by fellow inmates.

Ultimately, in August 1969, he sent his well-programmed “family” off to slay actress Sharon Tate, some friends, and her unborn baby. Tate’s husband, film director Roman Polanski, was in London at the time. A few months later, when the family members were captured and charged with homicides, Manson was portrayed by the media as a hippie cult leader, and the counterculture became a dangerous enemy. Hitchhikers were shunned. Communes were raided. In the public’s mind, flower children had grown poisonous thorns. But Manson was never really a hippie.

He had grown up behind bars. His real family included con artists, pimps, drug dealers, thieves, muggers, rapists, and murderers. He had known only power relationships in an army of control junkies. Indeed, Charlie Manson was America’s Frankenstein monster, a logical product of the prison system – racist, paranoid, and violent – even if hippie astrologers thought that his fate had been predetermined because he was a triple Scorpio.

Now, on their black-painted bus, they visited the Hog Farm commune were all in a circle, chanting “Om,” which somehow caused the visiting Manson to start choking and gagging, so his family began counter-chanting “Evil.” It was an archetypal confrontation. Charlie even tried to get Hugh [later Wavy Gravy] Romney’s wife, Bonnie Jean, in exchange for one of his girls. But they finally left, mission unaccomplished.

Manson had convinced himself and his family that the Beatles’ songs – “Helter Skelter” and “Blackbird” – were actually harkening a race war, which he wanted to hasten by leaving clues to make it appear that black militants had done the killing. Stolen credit cards were deliberately thrown away in a black neighborhood. Healter (sic) Skelter was scrawled with a victim’s blood on the refrigerator, and the word WAR was scratched onto a victim’s stomach.

Roman Polanski put a $10,000 contract out on Manson’s life.

Meanwhile, Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver was still on the lam. He had gone from Cuba to Algeria. Having been arrested for possession of marijuana, Timothy Leary escaped from prison to Algeria with the help of the Weather Underground, only to be imprisoned by his host, Cleaver. Leary escaped from Cleaver’s clutches only to be arrested by American agents and taken back to the States, then put in solitary confinement at Folsom prison, in a cell right next to Manson’s. The two “hole-mates” couldn’t see each other, but they could talk. Manson didn’t understand why Leary had given people acid without trying to control them.

“They took you off the streets,” Manson explained, “so that I could continue with your work.””

– Paul Krassner, “He Was No Hippie: Remembering Manson, Prison, Scientology, and Mind Control.AlterNet, November 26, 2017.

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“Buckner’s short-lived program at
the Neuro-Psychiatric Clinic (NPC) was the closest Ontario came to transforming
the prison into a therapeutic environment, and to treating sex offenders as
more mentally disturbed than criminally motivated. In this respect, the
transfer of ‘sex deviants’ from Guelph to the newly opened maximum-security
facility in Millbrook was a giant step backward for the prison reform movement.
Touted by the Department of Reform Institutions as the first North American
facility for psychopathic inmates, Millbrook was intended to house the ‘tougher
and meaner breed of inmates’ that guards complained were overrunning the Guelph
Reformatory and corrupting young, first-time offenders. Officials claimed that
the province’s most incorrigible inmates were to be reformed by the new
prison’s highly regimented and strictly controlled environment, in which
treatment, not punishment, would be the guiding spirit. However, it was
precisely the opposite. By the mid-1960s, critics denounced Millbrook as
Ontario’s Alcatraz.

Intended to house the province’s
most violent prisoners, Millbrook was an extremely punitive environment.
Situated on one hundred acres of bucolic Ontario countryside, the prison
buildings were immured in a twenty-foot concrete wall. Eight glass-enclosed
towers housed guards who were on watch twenty-four hours a day. According to
the sentencing guide for magistrates, an inmate was ‘lodged in a single cell
bare of anything but a matressless steel bunk, bedding, and flush-to-wall
button wash-basin and toilet; with a frosted bullet-proof glass window set in
masonry and solid flush-with-wall door. The atmosphere of the place is chill,
clean, silent, and self-revealing.’ Though each cell had a window, it was too
high to look through, and prisoners were forbidden to stand on their beds to do
so. In an effort to prevent organized protests and riots, there were no dining
facilities where inmates could gather. Meals were delivered through a small
opening at the bottom of cell doors and consumed alone. In a letter to his
father, one inmate wrote, ‘You read about the palace a while back how tough it
is. You either resolve to a zombie state of mind or go out of it completely
whether that is the intention or not. All I can say it is a survival of the
fittest this is mentally.’ Indeed, a year earlier Millbrook’s consultant
psychiatrist, F. E. Webb, expressed grave concern over the growing number of
inmates showing signs of severe emotional and psychological damage. At least
one Group II (Sex deviant) inmate was sent to the nearby psychiatric hospital
in Penentanguishene, Webb anticipated that it was only a matter of time before
more would follow.

A major aspect of the disciplinary
regime at Millbrook was the Progressive Stage System, which aimed on the one
hand to force compliance with prison regulations through the withdrawal of
sensory stimulation, and on the other hand to reward compliance by
incrementally introducing the pleasures of food, human contact, and leisurely
pursuits. Upon arrival, inmates spent sixteen days on a ‘special diet’ without
letters, visitors, opportunities to exercise, and with only a Bible to read. At
Stage 2, inmates were permitted regular meals, one non-fiction book, tobacco,
forty-five minutes of recreation, and one thirty minute visit from a family
member each week. The best-behaved inmates entered Stage 3, where they were
granted library privileges, one letter out to family, one movie a week, and the
opportunity to take a correspondence course. Initially, all inmates entered at
Stage 1, but staff pointed out that Group II (sex deviants) and Group III (drug
addicts) were not sent there for punishment, and therefore should not be forced
to endure two weeks of what ammunted to solitary confinement. Soon thereafter,
the policy was changed so that Groups II and III entered at Stage 2. It was a
slight improvement, but they still had to ‘earn’ their way to Stage 3.

Despite promises that Millbrook would be a laboratory for the treatment of
sexual deviation, the reality was that the warehousing of homosexuals, sexual
predators within the inmate population, and men charged with crimes of sexual
violence and the sexual assault if children violated every tenet of the
treatment ideal. First, Millbrook made to distinction between male homosexuals,
male sexual predators within the prison system, and men incarcerated for sex
crimes. While it is true that male homosexuality was medically and popularly
regarded as a sexual deviation, public demands for prison treatment programs
grew out of a concern over sex crimes against children and, to a lesser extent,
women. Most would have agreed that homosexuals should have the opportunity to
receive treatment, but pedophiles were the primary object of concern. Second,
placing sex ‘deviants’ of any kind in a maximum-security facility was
diametrically opposed to the fundamental belief that perpetrators of sex crimes
needed psychological help, not punishment. Sending them to a maximum-security
prison for the ‘disturbers and disturbed’ is ‘really a terrible way to deal
with this type of offender,’ complained Helen Kinnear, one of the three
commissioners who studied and reported on Canada’s criminal sexual psychopath
legislation. ‘[The commissioners] would think that was discriminating against
the sex offender as compared with other offenders.’ Some experts simply
protested against the inclusion of homosexuals in the Millbrook program. For
example, W. T. McGrath, a leader in Ontario’s prison reform movement,
complained that the criminal justice system was being used to enforce a moral
order that ‘made criminals out of otherwise normal people.’ Learning to see
that most homosexuals are ‘in no way dangerous’ would solve the problem of
homosexuality in prison, he argued. It would reduce the number of homosexuals
committee to prisons and would ‘remove the need to plan for these special types
of inmates.’

Department of Reform Institutions
officials were unfazed by their critics. In fact, Frank van Nostrand
acknowledged that there was no plan to treat Millbrook’s homosexual prisoners
and that the policies were intended only ‘to remove them as a disturbance
factor.’ Officially, the primary objective of Millbrook’s ‘sex deviate’ unit was
the ‘complete segregation of some of the sexual perverts … for the protection
of other inmates,’ but even this was a gross abuse of the purpose of treatment
programs for convicted sex offenders. As far as the supporting public was
concerned, treatment was intended to facilitate safe release of sex criminals
into the community, not to provide inmates with protection from sexual
predation within the institution. Yet this is precisely how van Nostrand
justified the sex deviate unit. Providing treatment was never an imperative.

Emboldened by the 1958 retirement
of van Nostrand and the hiring of long-time reform activist J. D. Atcheson as
director of treatment services, Millbrook’s treatment staff, its pastor, and
its pro-reform Superintendent R. H. Paterson appealed to the deputy minister to
move forward with a sex deviant treatment program. Concerned that some staff
treated homosexual inmates poorly that non-homosexual Group II inmates were
distressed by the ‘constant sex talk’ among homosexuals, Millbrook staff
pressed Basher to allow the two groups to be separated from each other. They
claimed that homosexuals showed ‘a higher incidence of major personality
disorder, or potential mental illness,’ and that they ‘present less criminal
tendencies’ than other Group II (sex deviant) inmates. If homosexuals could be
separated, staff that had a strong dislike of homosexuals would not have to
work among them. They recommended hiring ‘Custodial Staff who are manly,
well-adjusted types and who have some understanding and acceptance of their
charges’ to work with them exclusively.

The suggestion that homosexuals
would benefit from appropriate role models whose gender presentation fit the
masculine ideal demonstrates the enduring link between gender and sexuality in
the 1950s and was consistent with popular theories of developmental psychology,
now widely considered oppressive. However, DRI records clearly demonstrate that
Paterson’s advocacy on behalf of Group II inmates was intended to ease the
extremely punitive and hostile conditions homosexual inmates were forced to
endure. At that time, there were a total of forty-four Group II (sex deviant)
inmates, almost half of whom were labelled homosexual (often based on prison
activity, not criminal conviction). Surprisingly, the deputy minister approved
the request and hired two new guards to work in a special wing created for
homosexual inmates. Custodial staff were given the option to refuse work in
that section.

Millbrook had an even worse track
record for providing treatment than did the Guelph Reformatory. Millbrook’s
first consultant psychiatrist, F. E. Webb, prescribed narcotics to the ‘sex
deviant’ population to ‘jump start’ the therapeutic process, and just before
retiring in the early 1960s began to administer ECT to those willing to
volunteer for the treatment. Based on the few surviving case files, it is clear
that he administered both sodium pentothal (popularly known as ‘truth serum’)
and shock therapy to make patients ‘more accessible to psychotherapy.’ …both
types were becoming a popular aid to facilitate psychotherapy. However, at
least one file suggests that ECT may also have been used punitively. In
February 1958, ‘Norman,’ a French-Canadian prisoner in an Ontario facility, was
cited for ‘doing his hair in a feminine way’ and was docked seven days good
conduct remission. One month later, Officer Woodly reported the same prisoner
for ‘biting his lips and rubbing his cheeks to make them red and also plucking
his eyebrows.’ This time Norman was sentenced to three days in solitary
confinement on a rationed diet. On 1 April he received yet another misconduct
report for ‘failing to achieve the required standard in conduct and industry
for 5 weeks,’ and lost yet another five days of good conduct. Two weeks later Norman
was admitted to the prison hospital for a course of ECT. He received a total of
six treatments and was released back into the prison. It is impossible to
conclude with certainty that his refusal to conform to institutional masculine
ideals and the disciplinary regime resulted in his receiving ECT, but given the
absence of any other documented explanation – medical or otherwise – it seems
reasonable to assume that his persistent effort to feminize his appearance was
the problem in need of treatment.

Despite ongoing requests from the
superintendent to create a therapeutic community, Webb’s ECT experiment was the
last significant venture in treating the sex criminal and homosexual population
at Millbrook. Yet, over the next four years, the Group II population almost
doubled from forty-four to eighty-three. In 1962, the few remaining members of
the treatment staff unanimously agreed that a program for sex offenders could
not be carried out at that institution and that other alternatives should be
pursued. Potts cited Millbrook’ss remote location as one of the reasons quality
staff were difficult to attract and retain. Other obstacles to building up a
program included conflict with the prison administration, lack of flexibility,
and the architecture of the building itself. The abandonment of treatment was
abetted by Webb’s successor, B. A. Kelly, who maintained that ‘incarceration is
a useful thing’ for Group II inmates and that most sex offenders were not
amenable to treatment. Even among those who were, Kelly insisted that treatment
in an outpatient setting was most suitable, since ‘sincere motivations for
changed sexual behaviour can only be assessed by a patient’s willingness to
keep appointments.’

In 1957 Minister Major John Foote,
the DRI’s most important advocate, retired. In the six years that followed, the
DRI portfolio changed hands five times. J. D. Atcheson, an outspoken activist
for criminal justice reform and former head psychiatrist of the Toronto Family
and Juvenile Court, was hired as the director of research and treatment
services the year Foote left, but could do little to keep the Ontario Plan
vision alive. In 1958 he complained to the minister that inmates were being
transferred to Millbrook simply to keep the marker plant running at full capacity,
to no avail. A year later, following a series of articles in the Toronto
Daily Star
and the Toronto Telegram denouncing the continued use of
the strap to administer punishment for rules infractions, ministry staff held a
special meeting on the issue, but because of Atcheson’s known opposition to
corporal punishment, he was not invited to attend. In light of the negative
publicity, Ontario Premier Leslie Frost approved its continued use only at
Millbrook. Alarmed by reportss that inmates were actually requesting transfers
to Millbrook Frost warned his deputy minister to ‘Keep Millbrook tough,’ and
custodial officers were told to keep their distance from inmates. Millbrook’s
pro-reform superintendent resigned in disgust.

By 1963 Millbrook’s skeletal treatment team of
two part-time consulting psychiatrists could no longer provide even a general
counselling service for inmates. Staff agreed that the maximum-security needs
of Group I inmates, the ‘troublemakers,’ clashed with the therapeutic needs of
Group II inmates, and the clinical program never got beyond conducting intake
assessments. R. R. Ross, the supervising psychologist for the region, reported
that treatment services would ‘henceforth be extremely limited in scope,’ and
that because of the shortage of staff, ‘there is little room for optimism about
future expansion.’ Ross recommended that the department transfer to a custodial
officer many of the duties that normally fell to the social worker and
psychologist, such as general counselling, psychological testing, and intake
interviewing. Various political appointments and public promises during the
late 1950s and 1960s kept afloat the illusion of the DRI as a therapeutic
haven, and magistrates continued to assume homosexuals and others charges with
sex crimes would receive treatment in prison. However, insiders regarded
Millbrook as little more than a ‘storage bin’ for problem inmates. In 1965 tow
inmates tried to draw public attention to the poor conditions at the prison by
hoarding their lighter fluid rations and lighting a fire. Guards anonymously
met with journalists to describe the appalling conditions inmates were forced
to endure. The opposition party called Millbrook the ‘Alcatraz of Ontario,’ and
demanded its closure.

The problem was not limited to
Millbrook. The treatment sham exploded in 1961 when all but two of the staff at
Toronto’s Juvenile and Family Court quit after the government imposed new and
highly punitive policies on the clinical management of the court’s clients.
Later that same year, eight staff members at the Alex G. Brown Memorial Clinic
resigned en masse. The DRI claimed the problem was budget cuts, but
according to Stuart Jaffary, increasingly rigid custodial regulations and
practices were creating insurmountable obstacles for professional staff who
were operating treatment programs in the clinic. ‘Despite its name,’ Jaffary
argued, ‘ they got little indication that the therapeutic program was really
the primary purpose of the clinic.’ The only hope for saving the system was for
the DRI to take concrete steps toward resolving the conflict between punishment
and treatment. ‘Does the institution exist for the man, or the man for the
institution?’ he asked. ‘If the former, it will have to have a full complement
of treatment services, and use them. If the latter, all you need is a rockpile
and a treadmill.’ As it stands, the pretense of ‘treatment,’ he concluded,
gives a show of humanity with one hand and keeps a firm hold on the inmate
population with the other.

By 1961, the director of treatment
services, director of psychiatry, and director of social work positions in the
Department of Reform Institutions were vacant. F. H. Potts, the first
psychologist hired by the department, was the only mental health administrator
remaining on staff. Minister George Calvin Wardrope announced that he was
retreating from the ‘idea that every offender, given the proper treatment and
assignment, could be successfully molded into a useful citizen. Penologically
speaking,’ he concluded, ‘the pendulum is swinging nearer to where it should
[be].’ Allan Grossman revived the rhetoric of rehabilitation while he served as
minister from 1963 to 1971, but the DRI continued to function in much the same
manner as it had since the Second World War, if not earlier.  

As the only province to respond to
public pressure and provide treatment for incarcerated sex criminals, Ontario
must have appeared progressive indeed. Appearances, however, were deceiving.
Unfortunately, Ontario was not unique in this regard. The conflict between the
postwar treatment ideal and the military-style disciplinary regime played out
whereever treatment staff were hired. Guy Richmond, a psychiatrist at the
British Columbia federal prison, lamented that prison doctors were forced to render
unto Caesar, not Hippocrates. According to another British Columbia
psychiatrist who undertook a study of sex offenders in prison, ‘the real power
structure in the institution is mainly concerned with custody, with keeping the
inmates in line, in order, and above all, inside…This is not an
environment in which the principals of reform and rehabilitation can even exist
and to say otherwise would be a mockery.’ Showing predictable restraint, the
1969 report of the Canadian Committee on Corrections concluded that the
relationship between prison services and treatment professionals in the federal
system was an uneasy alliance of opposing ideologies, the latter lacking the
support of the former.

As for the Group II program, top administrators would concede only that
Millbrook’s remote location and the nature of the work undermined any chance of
success. In 1962 Potts concluded that the only solution was to continue to
court outside help by building bridges between reformatories and faculties of
psychiatry, psychology, and social work. In the meantime, he recommended that a
sex deviant treatment program be set up at the Alex G. Brown Memorial Clinic
(AGBMC), where the DRI ran a pre-release treatment program for alcoholics and
drug addicts. There, he argued, research into the effective treatment of
homosexuals, who constituted approximately 25 per cent of the Millbrook Group
II population and who posed the greatest discipline problem for prison
administrators, could be set up.

If the use of mental health treatment
as a means to control prison discipline can be taken as a measure of the clash
of ideologies, Potts’s last proposal is a clear indication that nothing had
changed. Sex between inmates remained the primary concern. The public demand
for treatment for pedophiles, exhibitionists, and other sex criminals who were
considered a serious danger to the public was of no interested to the
Department of Reform Institutions.”

– Elise Chenier. Strangers in our Midst: Sexual Deviancy in Postwar Ontario. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008. pp. 152-159

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“Among Austria’s modernist architects, it was commonly held that modernity had arrived full force in cities still adjusting to a previous age—creating a perfect recipe for disorder and disease. Austria’s cities faced enormous population booms at the fin de siècle. Vienna’s population doubled between 1880 and 1900, its growth driven largely by immigration from the Czech lands—Bohemia, Moravia, and Silesia. These freshly minted and typically working-class city dwellers often found themselves in cramped, unhygienic quarters on Vienna’s outskirts, where tuberculosis was so common that the Viennese dubbed it the “proletarian disease.” Observers across the political spectrum—from Social Democrats, like Victor Adler, to nationalists, such as Adolf Hitler—agreed that the new urban life was taking a toll on the mental and physical health of the city’s laborers. Meanwhile, artists accused the built environment of encouraging anomie and malaise, as the structures that surrounded the modern man did not correspond to the new facts of his existence.

Architects like Wagner responded by embracing those new facts—the very changes associated with this psychiatric dissolution—and remaking the environment to match. By the turn of the century, traditional architects had filled Vienna with new buildings made to look like they were constructed in the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries. The neo-Gothic Rathaus, neobaroque Hofburgtheater, and neo-Renaissance main building of the city’s university—all displayed an obsession with historical revival that was characteristic of the era. Against this trend, modernist artists championed styles alive to the changes engulfing Austrian society. “The only possible point of departure for our artistic creation is modern life,” Wagner wrote. Because in his eyes modern man was essentially practical, Wagner devised a functionalist philosophy that (allegedly) subordinated art to purpose: nothing in a building should interfere with its function, its Zweck, a principle he summed up with the phrase “Something impractical cannot be beautiful.”

Wagner worked on quintessentially modern projects such as Vienna’s new metropolitan rail network. Most representative of his modernist outlook on the city was his modular design for an infinitely expandable metropolis—comprising a network of radially arranged semiautonomous units, connected by railways, with Vienna at the center—that he believed would relieve population pressure and improve hygiene. Wagner claimed that the architect could rescue city dwellers from the perils of ill-designed and ill-ventilated neighborhoods through enlightened planning, just as the psychiatrist could rescue his patients from the quasi-imprisonment of work and family life by confining them in an asylum.

Psychiatrists’ and architects’ thinking aligned in other ways too. Some psychiatrists saw the asylum as a model community to which the outside world could look for guidance, a utopic vision that jelled nicely with the master-planning impulses of Austria’s modernist architects. The asylums that Austria’s psychiatrists built in partnership with these architects were meant as trial runs at constructing ideal communities that would operate on an almost monastic logic: these were to be settlements where the mentally ill could heal, living apart from the world at large, in purpose-built structures based on the most modern principles. Confinement itself could produce a cure—as long as the physical and social conditions were right.

Imagining themselves as heirs to the 18th-century reformers who first released the mentally ill from their chains at Bedlam or the Salpêtrière, liberal psychiatrists promoted the villa asylum, a new treatment model rooted in modern ideas that promoted balancing autonomy and control. …Otto Wagner’s design for Steinhof reflected this new idea. In its plan, Steinhof departs from the older style of asylum, in which one sprawling structure, connected by an unbroken corridor, confined patients to life under a single roof. The so-called corridor asylum relied on locks and bars to control its patients; its high walls set it apart from the landscape. By contrast, the patients of a villa asylum lived in freestanding structures arranged within a landscaped campus. During a turn-of-the-century psychiatric building boom, Austrian officials erected seven villa asylums, part of a self-conscious effort by psychiatrists to separate their profession’s reputation from that of the increasingly deplored corridor asylum, which looked and felt like a prison.

But this design transition had a medical objective as well. Liberal psychiatrists contended that the corridor asylum exacerbated rather than cured mental illness. Although the mentally ill required a retreat from modern life, they argued, it did not follow that the asylum should rob patients of all their freedoms, that being the practical outcome of confinement in a corridor asylum. Albrecht Paetz, a psychiatrist who ran an early villa asylum in Germany, insisted that locks and bars demoralized patients and interfered with care. Paetz and the Austrian psychiatrists he inspired sought to create a place where the mentally ill would be as free as possible within confinement. This vision of organized liberty came to distinguish the modern Austrian asylum from its unenlightened forebears…

The new asylums, Paetz and his colleagues insisted, should more closely resemble a settlement. The design of Paetz’s Rittergut Alt-Scherbitz studiously avoided all visible signs of confinement, employing locks no different than those used in ordinary houses. The buildings lay scattered irregularly at the edge of a nearby town. The patient pavilions resembled prosperous country dwellings, and even the floor plans were modeled on domestic living arrangements: sleeping quarters above, living spaces below. Paetz intended the homey atmosphere to keep patients calm and content, and therefore easy to manage and surveil. Alt-Scherbitz was designed to be a sort of rural utopia where patients could absorb the positive effects of a retreat from the city under the benign gaze of their doctors.

Although many Austrian villa-asylum planners drew inspiration from Alt-Scherbitz, their projects often looked much different—and more institutional. Rarely did Austrian villa asylums house their patients as Alt-Scherbitz did. More often, patients slept and spent their days on a single level of the pavilion. Whereas Alt-Scherbitz embodied rustic asymmetry, Austrian villa asylums, particularly those in which Wagner or one of his students was involved, exemplified rational modularity. Indeed, Steinhof owes its striking appearance to the fanatical symmetry that Wagner imposed on the site. What began as a loosely symmetrical plan accommodating the natural variations of the hillside became, in Wagner’s hands, a rigid arrangement that called for expensive terracing. Seen today, Steinhof presents as the apotheosis of order. Thus the visual vocabulary of liberty deployed at Alt-Scherbitz gave way to a modernist vocabulary of order and efficiency. Rather than mimicking domesticity, Austrian villa asylums projected a planned monumentality. Steinhof in particular looks as though it were built to awe its patients into compliance.

The villa asylum may indeed have been the right response to Austria’s “nervous age.” It removed patients from their surroundings and let them recuperate, not unlike the popular spas and sanatoriums of the time. But it also subjected them to two crucial tools of modern social control: surveillance and planning. Those committed at Steinhof found themselves sorted according to the severity of their illnesses and subjected to varying degrees of control organized by the environment around them. We see a variant on this principle today in the design of hospital intensive-care units, where glass is a prominent feature of the interior-facing sides of patient rooms. Large windows and wide glass doors allow medical staff to monitor patients at a glance, surveilling in the service of a cure.”

– Kyle Walker, “Modernism, Heal Thyself: Review of Leslie Topp, Freedom and the Cage: Modern Architecture and Psychiatry in Central Europe, 1890–1914.Public Books, September 21, 2017.

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