Solitary Confinement: Punished for Life
After being in Solitary confinement one becomes unengaged with emotions stripped from all human dignity
When again and again people have been subject to injustice and tragedy, at some point one somewhat comes to disregard one’s feelings and surroundings. You can only reach the bottom of despair after which there is really nothing that can hurt; one becomes unengaged with emotions stripped from all human dignity.
I consider the unlawful methods used and the abuse of power and injustice, which my loved ones and I have been subjected to, to be of the same character and disposition which sent people to concentrations camps forty years ago and now in Russia. I believe that I would not be moved emotionally if the door to my torture cell was opened and they told me: Hauschildt you will now go to the torture chamber or you have been given a thirty years sentence. I do understand the poor people in the Gulag of injustices.”
In writing the above, I did not know that I would remain in my pre-trial torture cell for another nine months after that, not seeing my wife, sons and mother sometimes for so many months. Moreover, remain in pre-trial detentions for more than four years. My disgust and aversion towards Bagmandspolitiet at the time, also to the prison guards, made my life even more difficult since it left me alone for weeks – alone with my own thoughts and apprehensions.
Yes, I did do something unlawful from my solitary confinement in a moment of madness
I did indeed commit various unlawful acts, even so-called “criminal acts”, like giving instructions to my wife to go abroad and get help and money and later asking her for help to get me out from prison. After all, my wife could legally go abroad and indeed secure the companies and our family’s assets and more importantly, instruct and pay lawyers to assist. As to these assets abroad, they never were included in the Danish estate, partly as I as the unlimited partner in M. Hauschildt et Cie in Zurich, was responsible with all my assets, moreover, the various countries, including Switzerland did not agree with the Danish claims and trumped-up allegations. Most of these instructions were made during my solitary confinement and some shortly thereafter. One could claim that these instructions “broke the Danish law”, despite that the claims I made was against my own companies abroad and companies which were solvent at the time, moreover assets which I later received. Nevertheless, the claims and actions can be seen as ridiculous and on reflection, made steps, but they were a result of my mental state and hopelessness at the time.
I simply had to do something; I saw all the actions taken against me by Bagmandspolitiet as unlawful, political and criminal since I was innocent. When you face so much injustice, you somehow feel inclined to do something and to take some kind of action, even which can be considered stupid later after doing it.
Solitary confinement for months on end is torture and your mental capacity changes as a result. I planned all sorts of actions, but nothing serious. How low and ridiculous Bagmandspolitiet became when it prosecuted me for actions which I had participated in long into my solitary confinement. Any psychiatrist would have declared me mentally ill and not responsible and indeed unfit even for trial; moreover, my actions had only been to write instructions to my wife, mostly instructions which she did not carry out.
The solitary confinement just distorted everything including my mental ability to think straight, and even worse – to concentrate. When my lawyer went away on holiday and had other matters to attend to, in March/April 1980, I did not speak to any person for weeks and after a month I found that I had lost my voice and could not speak.
The Special Prosecution took full advantage of using psychological methods, like instructing that without any warning, I was always brought straight to a courtroom or a meeting at their offices so that I would be shaken, disoriented and confused. They also instructed, at any time searches of the cell, where several people certainly would enter my little space. Like the colleagues in Stasi and KGB, they knew all the tricks of the trade. (See: “Bagmandspolitiet Used Zersetzung on Me” )
Frankly, I was very shaken and found coming from solitary confinement straight into a room with people (in fact anyone), to be chaotic every time which was so overwhelming as well as a frightening experience for me. Whereas people that are in pre-trial detention solitary confinement in Denmark now (see Rodhe vs. Denmark 2005), receive regular visits by various people such as prison teachers, the chaplain, welfare officers all in addition to having regular medical inspections. Moreover, they are allowed to use the fitness room (gym) and receive tuition and even having the use of a physiotherapist. Their cell contains a television and a refrigerator/freezing compartment.
I did not have any of this happening to me, none so ever. In stating this, it is only fair to say that I could have asked to see the prison chaplain or a medical doctor, but I simply did not trust nor did I want to speak to these people at the time. I did not speak to them for months. First, when I went on a hunger strike and refused food, only taking water, the doctors did visit me and took urine samples. Ultimately, the doctors ordered me to the hospital department.
Most people read about hunger strikes and truly have no idea about how difficult it is. The human body will fight every moment, every hour and day against the human will. To refuse food is not only against our natural instinct but very difficult as one have every moment to overcome oneself. I only took water and 2 vitamin tablets. In the end, I had to tire a scarf around my fingers to remind myself to drink water, you do not feel thirsty or anything. After being alone over a long period, even to speak to people become a problem.
It is characteristic that Rodhe asked to stay in solitary confinement after his long incarceration – this is quite normal because other people close to you become frightening and you want to be left alone. You can practically feel their space and it can be very overwhelming.
They Slowly Destroy Your Humanity
The people working in prison and the prison environment slowly destroy your humanity. I registered that I had been personally subject to nearly one thousand searches during the years; when you are undressed regularly and everything you have is searched and gone through, your humanity slowly disappears and apathy takes over. These searches break down your dignity.
The prosecution or the prison guards could come and go through everything at any time, everything you have written down, everything you have in your Spartan cell. This random search is part of the process to break you down and make you amenable. Dignity had slowly but steadily run into the sand and I was left without any my dignity, gone forever. Privacy is an inherent human right and a requirement for maintaining the human condition with dignity and respect. When you are stripped from all dignity and locked up in a cell with cold walls, hearing screams from others either crying out in their misery or being beaten by prison guards and you can’t do anything – your humanity slowly disappears.
In pre-trial solitary confinement I remained vulnerable against the unjustifiable parasitic strains of the Danish tabloid press.
When you face so much injustice, you somehow feel good to do something and to take some kind of action, even an action which can be considered stupid at the time when you look back later on. Solitary confinement for months on end is torture and your mental capacity changes as a result. The actions I took where: two hunger strikes (one for seventeen days and the other for fifty-five days, just drinking water) and writing ridiculous instructions to my wife which I later was prosecuted for. I lost more than fifty-seven kilograms in weight; when I was arrested my weight was one hundred and twenty kilograms and after my last hunger strike it was sixty-seven kilograms.
It was worse to be in solitary confinement in Denmark because I was not “mentally” prepared for the solitary confinement; I had, as a result, a much greater trauma. When I say mentally prepared, I relate to the fact that if I lived in Russia or another totalitarian country or if I was a prisoner of war in Vietnam, I would know what could happen if you were arrested. Under such conditions, our mind is somewhat able to adjust to much more pressure.
I knew that I was innocent and in the first few months of my solitary confinement, not only did I lose out a large amount of money daily, everything I had worked for and my family was being destroyed day by day by the Special Prosecution. In my solitary confinement during the summer months of 1980, I did not speak a word to any person; at the same time I could hear the children from the nearby playground (where I myself played football as a child), and even worse, the sound from a nearby kindergarten where I heard the voices of happy children – I love children I did not want to show to the Special Prosecution or the court that they could break me down by all their actions and injustices. Moreover, I did not want to show my family and sons what had happened to me. Therefore, I suppressed a lot of traumatic experience at the time.
To make matters worse, I was never allowed a proper diagnosis and treatment. Since it was obvious that I suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), after my solitary confinement – having been subjected to psychological trauma – getting treatment as soon as possible after PTSD symptoms developed could prevent PTSD from becoming a long-term condition.
“The effect of solitary confinement on the mind of a person charged with a crime may be imagined. It is a well-known psychological fact that men and women have frequently confessed to crimes which they did not commit” – The Washington Supreme Court 1910
Not Permitted to See A Respected Psychiatrist
My defence lawyers and I asked the court on many occasion for permission for me to see a respected Danish psychiatrist Mogens Jacobsen. Through the more than four years, the courts and the prosecution did not want me to get “outside” help; they simply did not want me to expose what had happened to me and the “mental scars” from the invisible torture. Mental scars which really made me unfit to stand trial. No psychological or psychiatric examination was carried out on me during the more than four years of pre-trial detention.
The fact that the Danish authorities (Ministry of Justice, courts and prosecutions) did not permit me outside help and treatment during my long incarceration, caused me to suffer from the following: severe stress symptoms, reoccurring nightmares and flashbacks, panic attacks, extreme agitation and irritability, amnesia and severe anxiety, migraines, severe depression and feelings of worthlessness. I have suffered from bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) which involves abnormally “high” or pressured mood states, known as mania or hypomania, alternating with normal or depressed moods. At times all of this can overwhelm me and my ability to cope.
I still have increased arousal and therefore difficulty in falling and staying asleep, and have hypervigilance at times. All this was an effect of psychological trauma during my long pre-trial solitary confinement soon 40 years ago. New research has revealed how severe trauma can produce long-term changes in the nerves in the brain. In particular, it is now believed that the problem is caused by alterations in the chemical substances that nerves in the brain use to communicate with each other, substances referred to as neurotransmitters. These alterations in neurotransmitters may be responsible for the symptoms and behaviours. Treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder has therefore shifted to drugs that target these chemical substances. Unfortunately, however, side effects interfered with the long-term use of these drugs; moreover, they do have considerable effects on one’s ability to live a normal life. New research shows that a person’s normal capacity can be reduced by up to 50%.
I organised a general complaint to the European Commission of Human Rights in 1983 signed by hundreds of former prisoners who had been subject to pre-trial solitary confinement. In 1983 it was a too controversial issue for the Commission to deal with, moreover, they wanted individual complains at the time. I did not know how we could make a Class action at the time, moreover, all sort of difficulty was created by the prison authorities and no doubt the Ministry of Justice, as to communication between the group of prisoners. It was shameful! The tactic used was the same as close by in the DDR with Stasi. Despite speaking out against pre-trial solitary confinement in political opposition and working as a defence lawyer some years earlier, when he became Minister of Justice Erik Ninn-Hansen had no opinion and would not comment on this torture. Neither did he do anything to change this. Some of the best descriptions of the effects of solitary confinement I find in the World Health Organisation writes about solitary confinement. I have experienced most of the effects mention below.
Prisons and Health
“Three main factors are inherent in all solitary confinement regimes: social isolation, reduced activity and environmental input, and loss of autonomy and control over almost all aspects of daily life”. Each of these factors is potentially distressing. Together they create a potent and toxic mix, the effects of which were well summarized as early as 1861 by the Chief Medical Officer at the Fremantle Convict Establishment in Western Australia: In a medical point of view I think there can be no question but that separate or solitary confinement acts injuriously, from first to last, on the health and constitution of anybody subjected to it … the symptoms of its pernicious constitutional influence being consecutively pallor, depression, debility, infirmity of intellect, and bodily decay.
The rich body of literature that has accumulated since that time on the effects on the health of solitary confinement largely echoes these observations and includes anxiety, depression, anger, cognitive disturbances, perceptual distortions, paranoia and psychosis among other symptoms resulting from solitary confinement. Levels of self-harm and suicide, which are already much higher among prisoners than in the general population, rise even further in segregation units. The effects on the health of solitary confinement include physiological signs and symptoms, such as Psychological symptoms occur in the following areas and range from acute to chronic: anxiety, ranging from feelings often tension to full-blown panic attacks:
- persistent low level of stress;
- irritability or anxiety;
- fear of impending death;
- panic attacks;
- depression, varying from low mood to clinical depression:
- emotional flatness/blunting;
- emotional liability (mood swings);
- social withdrawal,
- loss of initiation of activity or ideas, apathy, lethargy;
- major depression; •
- anger, from irritability to rage:
- irritability and hostility
- poor impulse control;
- outbursts of physical and verbal violence against others, self and objects;
- unprovoked anger, sometimes manifesting as rage;
- cognitive disturbances, ranging from lack of concentration to confused states:
- short attention span;
- poor concentration;
- poor memory;
- confused thought processes, disorientation;
- perceptual distortions, ranging from hypersensitivity to hallucinations:
- hypersensitivity to noises and smells;
- distortions in time and space;
- depersonalization, detachment from reality;
- hallucinations affecting all five senses (for example, hallucinations of objects or people appearing in the cell, or hearing voices);
- Paranoia and psychosis, ranging from obsessional thoughts to full-blown psychosis:
- recurrent and persistent thoughts (ruminations)
- often of a violent and vengeful character (for example, directed against prison staff);
- paranoid ideas, often persecutory;
- psychotic episodes or states: psychotic depression,
- self-harm and suicide.
How individuals will react to the experience of being isolated from the company of others depends on personal, environmental and institutional factors, including their individual histories, the conditions in which they are held, the regime provisions which they can access, the degree and form of human contact they can enjoy and the context of their confinement. Research has also shown that both the duration of solitary confinement and uncertainty as to the length of time the individual can expect to spend in solitary confinement promote a sense of helplessness and increase hostility and aggression. These are important determinants of the extent of adverse health effects experienced.
- gastro-intestinal and
- genito-urinary problems
- deterioration of eyesight
- profound fatigue
- feeling cold
- heart palpitations
- migraine headaches
- back and other joint pains
- poor appetite,
- eight loss
- aggravation of pre-existing medical problems.
http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/249194/Prisons-and-Health,-5-Solitary-confinement-as-a-prison-health-issue.pdf “Subjecting prisoners with mental illness to solitary confinement only makes their conditions worse, and it can even cause mental illness in previously healthy prisoners,” https://www.splcenter.org/news/2017/10/16/splc-solitary-confinement-can-cause-mental-illness Many books and pages have been written about solitary confinement, including its use in Denmark on pre-trial prisoners.
During my time as a spokesman for the prisoners, I collected a large amount of material which we then submitted to The European Commission of Human Rights in 1982. Unfortunately, nothing happened at the time despite the clear evidence that solitary confinement is invisible torture. Solitary confinement in Danish prisons has received substantial international criticism. Amnesty International criticised Denmark in 1980 (after my application to the Commission) and in 1983.
These criticisms have grown stronger after 1990 especially from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) and the Committee against Torture (CAT). The CPT visited Denmark in 1990, 1996 and 2002, critically raising issues concerning solitary confinement each time. When I was the spokesman for the prisoners, I did participate in the early work of the “Isolation Group”. Interestingly, several studies have been carried out in Scandinavia on the effect of solitary confinement later on; I have never been contacted nor have I participated in such studies. The Convention Against Torture was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1984 and came into force in 1987. Article 1 of the Convention stipulates that: For the purpose of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person.
Regrettably, the judgment by the ECHR in 2005 as to Denmark’s use of pre-trial solitary confinement in the Peter Rohde case cannot be considered fair or right. This judgment was made with only seven judges and not the full seventeen court judges; this was not really proper considering the importance of the whole issue. Four judges voted for Denmark (including the Danish), and three judges against Denmark, judging that Denmark had indeed contravened Article 3. So four judges against three – not a great win for Denmark. Everyone reading this judgement should read the Joint Dissenting Opinions of Judges Rozakis, Loucaides and Tulkens. Christos Rozakis was President Judge in charge when the Commission considered Erik Ninn-Hansen case and found it to be inadmissible in 1995. Unfortunately, I did not follow this case and did not know about the whole affair at the time otherwise I certainly would have supported the applicant. Later on, I will deal with various issues of this case and how I see the large difference between my solitary confinement in 1980 and that of Peter Rohde in 1995.
I do not believe today that the ECHR will make any serious judgment against Denmark, considering the profound changes to the membership of the European Council during the last twenty years with countries such as Moldova, Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Although that I have shaken hands and been in the company of kings, queens, presidents, prime ministers, princes and princesses, Nobel price laureates, ambassadors and captains of finance and industry, during the last 41 years I never found myself again after the terrible events in Denmark, I am not who I was, I have lived as a changed person marked by the scars which the Danish State inflicted on my family and me.
I did leave my isolation cell, but the solitary isolation has never left me!
Justitslig? - What does this word mean in English? Literary translated, it means a human corpse left from an injustice. Dead, due to injustice and a corpse cannot be brought back to life. The Germans use justizmord, the Danes the word justitsmord.
My first defence counsel, one of the most experienced criminal lawyers in Denmark, Jørgen Jacobsen, was just prior to my hunger strike in August 1980, speaking to me. He said that he felt that a “justitsmord” had already been committed in my case. Further, such murder leaves a corpse, – I said justitslig? Yes, he said, as a corpse cannot be revived.
That first day the Bagmandspolitiet and the Danish authorities arrested you and closed your business, a judicial murder took place, and since then, a corps has been left to rot.
Like I told you before, injustices take place in all part of the society. It is a fact, that if there were tens of thousands of people gathered at the Rådhuspladsen (Town Hall Square) and from the loudspeaker, someone shouted out:” the woman over there in the red coat and hat is a slut and a whore”. Most people would believe this and there is nothing that poor woman can do, there and then disprove the masses impression of her.
Everything they (the Danish authorities) did thereafter, was just to cover up this corpse from injustices, the killing and everything which really took place. This was very simple as they used (misused) their power by fabricating lies and deceit whilst using the willing Danish gutter-press to spread the lies.