Eugene V. Debs starts his prison sentence in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, for speaking out against the World War I draft. Debs has made a number of popular speeches against war, against the unchecked power of industrial leaders, and against the administration of Woodrow Wilson.
For that, Wilson has called Debs a "traitor to his country." It's a common sentiment about not just Eugene V. Debs, but all who speak out against war and militarism.
Debs had appealed his case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but while he had taken great care in how he phrased things in order to avoid violating the Espionage Act, the Court decided that his intention was to obstruct the draft. Thus, in a sense, Eugene V. Debs is imprisoned for 10 years and loses the right to vote for life because he intended something contrary to the law, even if he didn't actually violate the law.
On the day of his sentencing, Debs said:
"Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free."
Eugene V. Debs will has his sentenced commuted to time served by President Harding in 1921 and he will die in 1926.