In the mid 21st century, an ever-increasing prison population has brought the United States political establishment to its knees. After rising to the country’s highest office in a landslide election, President Edwina Locke rallied Congress into tackling the problem. Congress, acknowledging society’s failure to reform inmates and the growing financial burden those inmates represented, reshaped the laws and adjusted their understanding of the Constitution to replace prisons with hibernation stations run by a private corporation: Hypnos Inc.
Science had abandoned Cryogenics at the turn of the century because freezing a subject to thaw it at a future date was proven to cause irreparable cellular damage. Hypnos had experimented and matured the science behind hibernation, discovering that subjects experienced slowed metabolism and cellular division. Then they capitalized on this procedure, offering it to private citizens with terminal diseases who opted to remain in hibernation until science discovers a cure for their illnesses.
The all-powerful Department of Homeland Security entrusted Hypnos to replace multiple detention centers with a single hibernation station in each state: white featureless buildings people soon dubbed ‘the sugar cubes’. In these stations, inmates were implanted with a capsule in their necks to monitor their vital statistics and spent their sentences suspended in fluids at 5º C. After the full term of imprisonment, a medical team ended the coma, a procedure causing severe pain and discomfort. Within a decade, crime dwindled to a tenth of its former level and the system became a resounding success. By 2060, Hypnos ran hibernation stations in 86 countries.
Backed by a powerful lobby, the DHS soon made the organization and its records opaque to citizens, Congress and even the president, to hide a covert practice of illegally and permanently hibernating political dissidents.
In The Prisoner, Eliot Russo, a public activist, accuses the government of using the hibernation system to warehouse dissidents without trial and demands they release their confidential records according to the Freedom of Information Act. Not long after, he’s reported to have died in a car crash. Several years after Russo’s reported death, Jerome Palmer, an aging senator, discovers Russo is in hibernation in the sugar cube facility in Washington. He rallies a group of activists into drafting a plan to spring Russo out to testify before the U.S. Senate.