After writing (or perhaps, "collecting" or "curating") his work, "The Gulag Archipelago", Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn received a Nobel Prize: the book revealed a 20th century horror that claimed many people's lives.

In Part II, Chapter 5, he says that the Gulag prison-labor system was visited by New York State Supreme Court Judge Leibowitz, who allegedly wrote in Life Magazine:

...what an intelligent, farsighted humane administration from top to bottom...in serving out his term of punishment the prisoner retains a feeling of dignity.

Is this a true anecdote? Was there a Judge Leibowitz and a Life article that fits this description?

Did the judge believe (as Solzhenitsyn implies) that system provided this dignity... and the dignity was not instead a reflection on prisoners like Solzhenitsyn himself who retained their dignity in spite of the system?

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    So, not an answer, but help in getting there, the Life article in question would have been "The Two Faces of Justice in Russia," Life magazine, 8 June 1959, p. 154. I'm pulling that out of Wikipedia, but if someone can somehow hit the Life magazine archives, that would be where to find it.
    – Ben Barden
    Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 21:11
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    It's out of context. Who is "the prisoner"? There are people who would retain a feeling of dignity in many horrid circumstances. Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 21:46
  • As a separate note, what New York calls "supreme court" is not what most people expect. Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 4:47
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    "The Court is radically different from its counterparts in nearly all other states in two important ways. First, the Supreme Court is a trial court and is not the highest court in the state. The highest court of the State of New York is the Court of Appeals. Second, although it is a trial court, the Supreme Court sits as a "single great tribunal of general state-wide jurisdiction, rather than an aggregation of separate courts sitting in the several counties or judicial districts of the state." There is a branch of the Supreme Court in each of New York's 62 counties." wikipedia
    – user11643
    Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 14:55
  • @DanielRHicks - I'd guess that it's not a specific prisoner as much as a hypothetical/generalized prisoner, who would feel more human doing "productive" labor/work. Commented Oct 29, 2018 at 21:28

2 Answers 2


Roger has found the article in question by Leibowitz. I think the passage that Solzhenitsyn is referring to is on the top of page 160:

The prisoners at Krukovd [the prison which Leibowitz visited] are not a burden to the government, as they are in our country, because in Russia they earn and pay for their own keep. [...] The result of this whole program is that while a man is serving his time, he is also usefully employed and is getting in-job training for a trade. He is still supporting his family and is building a nest egg so that he can start a new life upon his release. This means that he preserves his self-respect while serving his sentence. When he finally leaves prison he is prepared financially, educationally and psychologically to become a useful citizen.

The bolded sentence seems to be what Solzhenitsyn is paraphrasing.

This also gives some context to the quote. Leibowitz is making a general statement about prisoners at the specific prison where he visited, or possibly about Russian prisoners more broadly; it's not in reference to any specific individual, as Daniel Hicks wondered in his comment. The pronoun "he" is used generically.

However, the passage is specifically about the Russian system of paid work within prisons and its effects. It might be a bit over-broad to interpret it as a statement about overall dignity or self-respect among Russian prisoners.


"The Two Faces of Justice in Russia," Life magazine, 8 June 1959, is available online (with many thanks to @BenBarden for providing both the article name and the issue date. )

As the title of the article implies, the author, judge Samuel S. Leibowitz, has both good things and bad things to say about the Russian justice system.

I did not find the verbatim quote about dignity.

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    On page 160: "This means that he preserves his self-respect while serving his sentence". (In context, "he" refers generically to prisoners at the specific prison that Leibowitz visited.) Solzhenitsyn's wording seems like a pretty good paraphrase. Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 23:47
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    It also sounds like the sentence might have been translated to Russian and back to English. Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 3:55

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