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‘As a Tale That is Told’ Extract 62 Page 233

Visiting prisoners

Another tragic case still lives in my memory. A young man, wealthy, educated and who had been doing good social work in teaching swimming and athletics to boys in various schools, was arrested and sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for homosexual offences. I got what the Quakers call “a concern” about this man and very much against my inclinations I decided on my next unexpected visit when I was alone to ask to see him. The head warder

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was wonderful. He suggested I should see the man in his private office for which I expressed my gratitude. He brought the prisoner in, told him to sit down, and then left us with the door just ajar but not open.

I spent two hours in close conversation, and I hope never again to see any man in such a tragic state. He was verging on a complete nervous and mental breakdown, his face twitched in uncontrolled distortion. But I hoped that possibly a talk with a sane old woman might be of some help to him. I stayed a long time and we talked right down to the depths. I promised to send him some books and sent him a series of the Yogi works. I hoped they would pass the censorship of the chaplain. They did. I hoped that possibly if he achieved some concentration his nerves might become steadier and he might take a saner and healthier view of life and use the prison discipline, hard as it was, as a help not a cause merely of bitter resentment. He told me the doctor was doing everything he could for him, so in the book when I had to record my visit, I entered: “Found S. in very bad state of nerves but he says the doctor is doing everything possible for him.”

The next time I went the Governor told me that he had a message for me from the man. He was feeling quite different and his message was one of thanks. The Governor told me he was a different man, his nerves had quieted down, and he felt hopeful about him. I never saw him again, nor do I know what became of him. But his name came up in my presence one day and I heard a well-educated many say: “If I had my way I would have him thrashed, salt rubbed on the wounds and then when they were healed, have the same process repeated.” I believe this attitude is unusual but while any of it remains there is no hope of health and restoration for these unhappy men. In recent years, owing to the researches of scientists and doctors, such as Havelock Ellis, Freud, Jung and Adler, there must be some better method of treating these men other than putting them like caged beasts behind prison bars, with no possibility of their emerging more sane and healthy and able to take a normal outlook on life.

In spite of all that one appreciates of kindness and understanding shown by the prison officials, and of the good intentions of visiting magistrates and official visitors, one yet sensed in going from cell to cell and from floor to floor an undercurrent of desperate resentment, and rebellious misery, however it is cloaked by outward deference to authority.
 



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‘As a Tale That is Told’ Extract 62 Page 233