Return Home

Crime and Penitence

Back to Episode

Eastern State Penitentiary (Albert Vecerka, 2001)

Immorality, criminality, that is the stuff of the outside world. Well, that's what some people thought, like the Philadelphia Society for Alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons, back in the 1820's. So they opened up the Eastern State Penitentiary, an experiment in correcting criminal behavior through solitary confinement. Advocates for the system believed that if left alone for long enough, away from the dirty outside world, a criminal's innate morality would prevail and, sort of, straighten them out.

The experiment failed. Nonetheless, producer Josh Braun takes us to Eastern State and ponders why. To do so, he willingly locks himself in an isolation cell, as recorded by Sally Herships (a radio producer and the artist also known as SoHo Sally). It's a grey day. The stone walls encase a chilling silence. The tiny, circular sky-light stares down from above just as the nineteenth century architects intended: like an "Eye of God." You'll feel as if you're there too, with nothing but your own inside self to figure out if solitary confinement breeds penitence or insanity.

Comments [8]


It is very essential to have robux generator
to generator unlimited robux which could be veryuseful for us if we are looking to have more prestige on Roblox platform.

Jan. 16 2016 02:25 AM
instagram from

Instagram followers

Oct. 23 2015 12:37 AM
Dave Murphy from USA

The tiny, circular sky-light stares down from above just as the nineteenth century architects intended.

buy soundcloud plays

Sep. 09 2015 11:33 PM
Makoa from Santa Barbara, Ca

There is a NY Times article called the Moral Life of Babies that suggests infants, younger than mentioned on this podcast have some moral sense.

Cheers, hope this helps!

Aug. 31 2012 08:32 AM

The segment on the Philadelphia Penitentiary's experiment with solitary confinement seemed incomplete without reference to the much more draconian forms of solitary used today in our maximum security prisons where prisoners' sanity is often destroyed.

Aug. 25 2012 04:03 PM
AZ detectives

Phoenix private investigator providing investigations throughout the Phoenix area and the State of Arizona.

Jan. 27 2011 05:05 AM
Gabriel Valdes

Great show! I love all of them. I was wondering if there's a way to get the music you guys use in between each segment, I particularly like the one that starts about 51:12 (before the last segment)



Oct. 11 2007 07:50 PM
Brad Sachs from Columbia, MD

Is it possible to get a written transcript of any RadioLab programs?

I'm particularly interested in the one on Morality.

Thank you.


Jul. 30 2007 03:54 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.