Equality 7-2521 is unable to write for thirty days after his decision to bring his invention to the World Council of Scholars because he is caught. He is absorbed in his thoughts that he forgets to watch the time and return to the City Theatre. He hastens to the Theatre, but it is too late, and he returns to the Home of the Street Sweepers.
When he speaks to the Council of the Home, he thinks of his glass box and of its light and refuses to tell them of his whereabouts. The oldest member of the Council is incurious and in a bored voice has the youngest members send Equality 7-2521 to the Palace of Corrective Detention for interrogation. Equality 7-2521 goes to the windowless Stone Room of the Palace of Corrective Detention, where he sees an iron post and two men who wear only leather aprons and hoods.
The Councilmember escorts leave Equality 7-2521 to the two Judges in the corner of the room. The Judges, who are "small, thin men, grey and bent," have the hooded men take off Equality 7-2521's clothes and tie his hands to the iron post. Kneeling, Equality 7-2521 does not cry out, although the numerous lashes on his back are extremely painful, and he stares at the door's iron grill while thinking of the square stones on the wall and the squares of lacerations on his back.
The Judge asks him of his whereabouts, but he again refuses to speak, and after some more lashes, he loses consciousness. He occasionally wakes to the sound of the Judges repeatedly questioning him, and his only response is a repetition of the phrase "the light." He again faints.
When Equality 7-2521 again wakes, he finds himself on the brick floor of a cell. He cannot move his hands but is glad that he did not betray his invention. For almost a month, the door of the cell opens twice a day, once for food and water and once for the Judges. The Judges come in order of increasing importance and ask if he will speak, but he refuses, and they leave.
The day before the meeting of the World Council of Scholars, Equality 7-2521 knows that he must escape. The Palace of Corrective Detention has old locks and no guards because men never defy the Councils and escape from the Palace. His body is healthy and strong, despite his ordeal, and he breaks down the door, sneaking outside and back to his tunnel.
Upon entering the tunnel, he lights a candle and sees that the tunnel has not been found or touched. When he sees the glass box, he ceases to care about the scars on his back. Tomorrow, he plans to take his box to the Home of the Scholars and hand them his journal as a confession. He then plans to join them in working to discover new things about his power of the sky "for the glory of mankind," and he blesses his brothers, knowing that starting tomorrow, he will rejoin society and no longer be an outcast.
The episode at the Palace of Corrective Detention interrupts Equality 7-2521's previous optimism, showing that despite his private experimentation with a potentially life-changing invention, the world around him has failed to change. Although the authorities know nothing about his glass box, they still identify him as a threat and punish him for his lack of obedience and his integrity. For all of their claims to serve their brothers, their questioning of Equality 7-2521 suggests that they are more interested in maintaining control than in loving all humans. The Judges are glorified torturers, although they allow the hooded men to do the physical act of beating their prisoner. The word "Judges" suggests justice and a search for the truth, but these Judges do not truly represent either.
Equality 7-2521's ordeal juxtaposes the reprehensible behavior of the collectivists with the protagonist's honor and vigor. Whereas Equality 7-2521 keeps his secret because of his conviction and need to protect his creation, the members of the Home Council show a lack of any powerful emotions. The oldest member of the Council states the command sending Equality 7-2521 to the Palace of Corrective Detention in a bored tone, suggesting the apathy engendered by collectivism. The evil authority figures in the Palace are either hidden under leather hoods or shown in a weak, bent body, and none have names or powerful descriptions. By contrast, the individualist Equality 7-2521 has a name and a distinct physical presence. His narrative emphasizes his interaction with and observation of his body, and he recovers quickly from the torture, indicating his physical and, by analogy, his mental strength.
A second contrast between Equality 7-2521 and the collectivists lies in their approach to guarding important areas. Equality 7-2521 pays a great deal of attention to the protection of his tunnel and his light, and he undergoes the Palace of Corrective Detention without revealing them. This approach is unfathomable to the authorities, who do not bother to guard their prisoners or repair their locks, a fact which also illustrates the technological regression of the collectivist era. Equality 7-2521 views the glass box as an extension of his own body, and he acts as he does because of his pride in his body, while the authorities have no sense of pride and remain careless.
The Judges have Equality 7-2521 tied to an iron post so that the men in leather aprons can whip him. The image parallels the execution of the Transgressor, or Saint of the Pyre, in an earlier section of the novel. Like the Transgressor, Equality 7-2521 is tied to a stake-like object, and he describes the iron grill of the door as "a flaming grill," while mistaking his blood for "burning coal dust." Both images bear a close connection to the flames that killed the Saint of the pyre, and both scenarios have a feeling of martyrdom. The two men willingly suffer in their bodies for the sake of an idea.
Several aspects of Equality 7-2521's imprisonment hint at the brainwashed nature of his society. The narrator escapes because no one else would have the originality necessary to even think of escape. Furthermore, although his transgression of omitting attendance at the City Theatre does not seem particularly heinous, few enough people commit any crimes that his case becomes one of paramount importance, leading eventually to questioning from "the most honored Judges of the City." Even Equality 7-2521, oddly, does not think to lie to the Judges, and he still does not wish to be a lonely outcast, retaining hope that he will be able to rejoin his community after he speaks with the World Council of Scholars. He believes that the men who he had once idolized will be greater and more enlightened than the others, but the reader may rightly remain worried that his stint at the Palace of Corrective Detention will foreshadow his reception at the World Council.