Type of Spiritual Experience
Dr. Grassian was a Board Certified Psychiatrist who was on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School for over twenty-five years. He had had extensive experience in evaluating the psychiatric effects of solitary confinement, and in the course of his professional involvement, has been involved as an expert regarding the psychiatric impact of federal and state segregation and disciplinary units in many settings. His observations and conclusions regarding this issue have been cited in a number of federal court decisions.
A description of the experience
From Psychiatric Effects of Solitary Confinement - Stuart Grassian
Dr. Milton Meltzer, former Chief Medical Officer at Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary, contributed his observations of psychiatric disturbances among prisoners exposed to punitive solitary confinement at Alcatraz.
These prisoners were rarely confined for periods beyond one week. Despite this, Dr. Meltzer described acute psychotic breakdowns among prisoners so confined; his descriptions closely paralleled the observations at Walpole:
The motor effects ranged from occasional tense pacing, restlessness and sense of inner tension with noise making, yelling, banging and assaultiveness at one extreme, to a kind of regressed, dissociated, withdrawn, hypnoid and reverie-like state at the other. . . .. . . [T]he sense of self, the ego and ego boundary phenomena are profoundly affected by the isolation.
In the same symposium Dr. John Lilly of the National Institute of Mental Health noted that despite the importance of other factors which tended to “weaken personalities and make them more susceptible to [forced indoctrination]”—such as semi-starvation, physical pain and injury, and sleep deprivation—social and sensory isolation was still the central pathogenic factor in such confinement.