Ezra Heywood and prison vaccinations

“An American Experience,” The Vaccination Inquirer and Health Review, 1 (April, 1879), 12.


MR. EZRA H. HEYWOOD, a fellow labourer with W. Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Francis Jackson, and Parker Pillsbury, for the abolition of slavery in the United States, has recently suffered imprisonment for the same cause as Mr. Truelove in England, but was liberated by President Hayes. He is turning his prison experiences to account in public lectures, showing how adverse to good are prison influences and regulations. ” I have no personal grievances to vent,” he says. ” I was in a liberal jail. Judge Clifford allowed me to choose the one to which I should be taken. Prison life implies social, financial, and physical death. When I stepped over the threshold of Dedham jail, I stepped from the civilisation of the nineteenth century into the barbarism of the tenth.”

Among the outrages practised on prisoners is compulsory vaccination. If a convict refuses he is knocked down, handcuffed, and operated upon—a lesson in sweetness and light. Mr. Heywood managed to escape pollution once, but the doctor was too much for him, and insisted on his submission ; but, as soon as the doctor had gone, Mr. Heywood energetically rubbed the virus off his arm, and only escaped punishment because there was no rule to apply to the offence.

Consistently with this trust in vaccination, is the indifference displayed towards cleanliness. The prisoners are allowed to bathe but once a week, and then only three minutes are allowed for their ablutions ; and when prisoners are unwell they go for weeks without bathing and without change of clothing.

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