Critics of cellular isolation of the prisoner in the thinking of Luigi Ferrarese (1795-1855)

Jutta M. Birkhoff, Giuseppe Armocida


The Authors present some aspects of Luigi Ferrarese’s thinking, a Neapolitan alienist of the early nineteenth century, particularly
interested in the conduction of asylums and the organization of prisons. This figure of scientist, at the border between medicine
and philosophical psychology appears little studied in our history and this may surprise considering the originality of many of
his ideas. Ferrarese was interested in forensic issues of the profession and expressed a precocious sensitivity for criminology. He
knew the updated international literature, but never failed to support his own beliefs even in opposition to the current positions.
Here the authors face his discussion on the problems of prisons as they appeared in the early nineteenth century.
While American and European prison jurisdictions were confident in the quality of isolation cell system of the detainee,
Luigi Ferrarese expressed himself in a quite opposed sense, convinced that such an approach seriously injures the health of
prisoners. He claimed that the isolation could be supported well by Quaker or by people with similar rigorous costumes,
respectful of silence and order, while, on the contrary, “vivacious and forwarded in civilization” people, like typically live in
the southern regions of Europe would suffer isolation and silence as a real and unacceptable torture.

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