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CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR WRITINGS
W. J. Sidis
[Various mimeographed handouts, total 20p, presumedly unpublished, most archived in the Eichel Collection, Swarthmore Univ., some found in Helena Sidis's files, 1977.]
How about my getting up a statement (mentioning no names) about my own experience in being railroaded into a sanatorium in 1919 as a precedent for declaring CO's insane?
[signed] W. J. Sidis
"RAILROADING" IN THE PAST
Lest anyone acquire the impression that sending conscientious objectors to asylums is a new trick, it might be of interest to note that the trick was known in the last war.
A conscientious objector who was too young to be called on to register till late in 1918, and who thereby escaped any actual draft call up to the time of the Armistice, was hauled into court on a trumped-up charge in May, 1919. The sentence was appealed (such procedure is normal in Massachusetts district courts); but, before the appeal could come to trial, he was kidnapped by his parents, by arrangement with the district attorney, and was taken to a sanatorium operated by them. He was kept there a full year―from October, 1919 to October, 1920―and kept under various kinds of mental torture, consisting of being scolded and nagged at (everything that did or did not happen was grounds for a tongue-lashing protracted over many hours) for an average of six to eight hours a day; sometimes this scolding was administered while he was loaded with sleeping medicine, or after being waked up out of a sound sleep. And the threat of being transferred to a regular insane asylum was held up in front of him constantly, with detailed descriptions of the tortures practiced there, as well as of the simple legal process by which he could be committed to such a place. He was unlawfully in this sanatorium, but could not escape while watch was being kept, for the criminal case was kept pending against him, and it was on the court records that he had jumped bail (being kidnapped, he could not appear for trial, or even know that trial had been called).
In October, 1920, he was taken to California, to prevent his communicating somehow with friends in his home city sixty miles away. He made his escape from there in September, 1921, by which time he appeared to be scared of his own shadow. The attempt to get him back to the old tortures was never given up, the parents resorting, from time to time, to various efforts to track him down and to persuade his friends to turn him over for "protection," especially when any misfortune is known to come his way. A particular effort to bring him under control of relatives was made about a year ago, but was highly unsuccessful.
Since, in most states, any two physicians can commit a man, without giving him a chance to defend himself, into a sanatorium or asylum, where he can be held incommunicado indefinitely, the danger of railroading of that sort is still very much alive, in any case where the prosecution is able to command the services of two doctors. The victim would then simply disappear without leaving any traces.