Alcatraz - Uncle Sam's Devil's Island: Experiences Of A Conscientious Objector In America During The First World War
by Philip Grosser
An autobiographical account by Philip Grosser of his time in military prisons as a conscientious objector to World War One. Grosser was a well-known anarchist activist in Boston, and one of the first conscientious objectors to the 1917 draft. As a result, and in contravention of natural justice, Grosser was involuntarily inducted into the army, and then subjected to military law, which saw him risk the death penalty as a "deserter". At every stage of his three years in prison Grosser defied the right of the authorities to pass judgement on his actions. His resistance was steadfast and infuriated the various prisons' military commanders, refusing to wear army uniforms, refusing to stand in military formation, refusing to break rocks when sent for "hard labor". This in turn brought him repeated special punishments such as spells of solitary confinement, being dragged around on a rope, beaten, chained up, denied toilets, and the particularly horrifying incarceration in Alcatraz's "iron maidens". Grosser calls these the "coffin cages", where prisoners were locked upright in a cage of iron bars, measuring 23 inches by 12 inches deep, bolted onto cell doors - "a veritable iron straight jacket". Even though nearly a century has passed since Grosser's experiences, his descriptions of the torture and brutality that the U.S. military is prepared to mete out to its prisoners seems eerily prescient of the latter-day horrors in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.
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