Solitary confinement is punishment’s punishment.1 It is where the mind is worn out by pacing the same floor, viewing the same walls, tuning in to the same sounds without relief. Extreme isolation2 has devastating psychological and physical consequences, collectively described as “SHU syndrome.”3 And at the heart of legal challenges and legislative reforms is a growing body of research into the harmfulness of prolonged human isolation.4
Solitary confinement has been described in various ways often reflecting the nature and purpose of the isolation: 23/7, administrative close supervision, administrative confinement, administrative maximum, administrative segregation (AdSeg), behavior modification, “the bing”, “the block”, “the box”, central punitive segregation unit, cellular, close management, close supervision, closed cell restriction, communications management unit, control unit, “the cooler”, departmental segregation, disciplinary housing unit, disciplinary segregation, enhanced supervision housing (ESH), extended control unit (ECU), extended lockdown, “the gray box,” high security, “the hole”, “the hotbox”, inmate segregation, intensive management unit, isolation, isolation unit, lockdown, locked unit, maximum control unit, penal isolation, “the pound”, protective custody, punitive isolation, restricted (restrictive) housing unit (RHU), security control, security housing unit, segregated (segregative) housing unit, segregation, separation, special handling unit, special housing unit (SHU), special management unit (SMU), solitary, solitary confinement unit (SCU), super-maximum security confinement (Supermax), and therapeutic quiet.5
The common penal rationales for segregated confinement include protection, discipline and administration.6 But extreme isolation has also been used for coercion, interrogation, retaliation, and torture.7 Notwithstanding the purpose, the potential for mental and bodily harm is embedded in the conditions of confinement.8 And based on research and precedent, courts are now in a position to take judicial notice of the cognitive and physical effects of institutionalized isolation.9
Finally, some have suggested that curtailment of solitary confinement should be founded on the constitutional principle of “dignity.”10 And so preservation of “basic human needs,” the first prong of an Eighth Amendment analysis, might encompass the cognitive human needs of social and psychological well-being.11
This article surveys notable legal developments, new scholarship, and recent scientific research concerning the administration and effects of solitary confinement.
Coming Out of Concrete Closets: A Report on Black & Pink’s National LGBTQ Prisoner Survey (Black & Pink 2015)
“During the latter months of 2014, Black & Pink, conducted a survey of our prisoner membership. Nearly 1,200 prisoners responded to our 133-question survey, producing the largest ever dataset available on the experiences of LGBTQ prisoners in the country. The intent of this survey was to get some truth out from behind prison walls about the experiences of LBGTQ prisoners in the United States. Our report aims to share that truth by elevating prisoner voices, stories, and leadership to inspire immediate collective action. This is just PART 1 of our incredible report project. From here we will be sharing the data and report with Black & Pink’s incarcerated membership, getting their feedback, and creating a PART 2 report (hopefully by summer 2016) with a collection of reflections from LGBTQ prisoner members of Black & Pink.” See also 85% of LGBTQ People Behind Bars Report Spending Time in Solitary, Solitary Watch, Oct. 26, 2015.
Elusive Data on Supermax Confinement, 88 Prison J. 69 (2008)
“This exploratory research examines supermax confinement in the United States. An examination of counts of supermax institutions and inmates from 2001-2004 produced by the American Correctional Association and an examination of Criminal Justice Institute data found that different procedures made it difficult to compare numbers across states. Certain states produced incorrect figures about the number of supermax prisons and inmates because of reporting and/or recording errors. This study found, in short, that disagreements about definitions, changing policies and court decisions, reporting and recording errors, and different counting procedures have led to a lack of reliable and valid data on supermax issues. These findings indicate that researchers attempting to examine, or collect data on, supermax issues on the macrolevel (e.g., across states) face important difficulties. This article accounts for this confusion, discusses policy implications that may result from this confusion, and concludes with suggestions for future research.”
How Many Prisoners Are in Solitary Confinement in the United States?, Solitary Watch, Feb. 1, 2012
“The number of inmates held in solitary confinement in the United States has been notoriously difficult to determine. Most states do not publish the relevant data, and many do not even collect it. Attempts to come up with a figure have been denounced as imperfect, based on state-by-state variances and shortcomings in data-gathering and in conceptions of what constitutes solitary confinement. A widely accepted 2005 study found that some 25,000 prisoners were being held in supermax prisons around the country. And in the last year, that figure seems to dominate in the mainstream press. The Washington Post, in a recent front page article on solitary confinement in Virginia, noted that “44 states…use solitary confinement,” and cited an “estimated 25,000 people in solitary in the nation’s state and federal prisons.” The problem here is that the 25,000 figure (as well as the 44) applies to supermax prisons only. It does not claim to account for the tens of thousands of additional prisoners held in the Secure Housing Units, Restricted Housing Units, Special Management Units and other isolation cells in prisons and jails around the country. Yet it is being cited as a total for the nation’s overall use of solitary confinement. An alternative figure does, however, exist–and while it may not be perfect, we believe it more accurately reflects the total number of prisoners held in isolated confinement on any given day. A census of state and federal prisoners is conducted every five years by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. The most recent census for which data are available is 2005. It found 81,622 inmates were being held in “restricted housing.” This number was recently cited by the Vera Institute of Justice‘s Segregation Reduction Project. The 80,000 figure has also been used by National Geographic and The New Yorker, among others.” See also FAQ: How Many People Are Held in Solitary Confinement? How Long Do People Spend in Solitary Confinement? (Solitary Watch).
Maps: Solitary Confinement, State by State, Mother Jones, Nov./Dec. 2012
“An exclusive review of how state prisons use isolation to discipline inmates and weed out gang members. In his investigation of solitary confinement in California prisons, Shane Bauer describes a system in which inmates are held in near-total isolation for years, often due to their alleged status as members or affiliates of prison gangs. But when we started looking for details of other states’ solitary confinement policies, the information was impossible to find. Not surprisingly, prisons guard facts about their inner workings almost as intensely as they guard their inmates. To get a more complete picture, we contacted every state prison department in the country and asked about their gang and solitary confinement policies. The maps below are based on the replies we received; you’ll see that some information is fairly detailed while some is vague or nonexistent. All text in quotes is taken directly from prison press officers’ responses or from policies they cited.
Solitary Confinement in Prisons: Key Data and Research Findings (Journalist’s Resource 2014)
“America’s prison population is the largest in the world, and currently stands at around 2.2 million persons incarcerated across federal, state and local levels — representing a four-fold increase since 1973. A 2014 U.S. National Research Council report notes that in 2012 roughly one quarter of the world’s entire prison population was housed in the United States; about 1 in every 100 American adults are in prison. One correctional facility practice that has come under scrutiny in recent years is the separation of prisoners into special quarters for the purposes of safety or additional punishment. Known variously as “solitary confinement,” “isolation,” “segregation,” “special management” or “restricted housing,” the practice frequently involves putting prisoners in small, confined spaces for months, even years. Curbing this practice has become a central focus of prison reform and has spurred the “Stop Solitary” movement, which argues that it constitutes inhumane treatment and makes things considerably worse for the sizable mentally ill population now in U.S. prisons. Meanwhile, journalists continue to investigate and make more visible issues relating to the psychology of isolation, the day-to-day realities of extreme confinement and activism by prisoners.”
Thousands of American Prisoners Spend 23 Hours a Day in Solitary Confinement, Johns Hopkins Mag., Spr. 2015
“For the better part of the 20th century, stays in solitary confinement were relatively short—days or weeks at a time. That changed in the 1980s and early 1990s when the U.S. prison population began to swell and so-called “supermax” prisons were built, facilities where thousands of inmates now spend years locked in small cells. America’s prison population is the largest in the world and currently stands at around 2.3 million people—about one in every 100 American adults—incarcerated across federal, state, and local levels. The number denotes a fourfold increase from 1973. The tally of inmates held in some form of segregated housing is harder to come by because the definition varies from state to state and figures are often underreported. A 2005 report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics used a figure of 25,000 in isolation, but that only applied to those in supermax prisons. The real number, [Gabriel Baron] Eber and others assert, is likely closer to 81,000.”
Use of Restrictive Housing in U.S. Prisons and Jails, 2011–12 (BJS 2015)
“Presents data on the use of restrictive housing in U.S. prisons and jails, based on inmate self-reports of time spent in disciplinary or administrative segregation or solitary confinement. The report provides the percentage of prison and jail inmates who were currently held in restrictive housing, those who had spent any time in restrictive housing in the last 12 months or since coming to the facility if shorter, and the total time spent in restrictive housing. It provides prevalence rates for inmates by selected demographic characteristics, criminal justice status and history, current and past mental health status, and indicators of misconduct while in the facility. It also describes the relationship between the use of restrictive housing and facility-level characteristics, including measures of facility disorder and facility composition. Data are from the National Inmate Survey (NIS), 2011–12, conducted in 233 state and federal prisons and 358 local jails, with a sample of 91,177 inmates nationwide.”
SUPREME COURT CASES
Brown v. Plata, 131 S.Ct. 1910 (2011)
“This shortfall of resources relative to demand contributes to significant delays in treatment. Mentally ill prisoners are housed in administrative segregation while awaiting transfer to scarce mental health treatment beds for appropriate care. One correctional officer indicated that he had kept mentally ill prisoners in segregation for “‘6 months or more.'” App. 594. Other prisoners awaiting care are held in tiny, phone-booth sized cages. The record documents instances of prisoners committing suicide while awaiting treatment.”
Davis v. Ayala, 135 S.Ct. 2187 (2015)(Kennedy, J. concurring)
“Yet despite scholarly discussion and some commentary from other sources, the condition in which prisoners [death row inmates]13 are kept simply has not been a matter of sufficient public inquiry or interest. To be sure, cases on prison procedures and conditions do reach the courts. See, e.g., Brown v. Plata, 563 U.S. ___ (2011); Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S. 678, 685 (1978) (“Confinement in a prison or in an isolation cell is a form of punishment subject to scrutiny under the Eighth Amendment”); Weems v. United States, 217 U.S. 349, 365-367 (1910). Sentencing judges, moreover, devote considerable time and thought to their task. There is no accepted mechanism, however, for them to take into account, when sentencing a defendant, whether the time in prison will or should be served in solitary. So in many cases, it is as if a judge had no choice but to say: “In imposing this capital sentence, the court is well aware that during the many years you will serve in prison before your execution, the penal system has a solitary confinement regime that will bring you to the edge of madness, perhaps to madness itself.” Even if the law were to condone or permit this added punishment, so stark an outcome ought not to be the result of society’s simple unawareness or indifference.”
Glossip v. Gross, 135 S. Ct. 2726, 2765 (2015) (Breyer, J. dissenting)
“Turning to the first constitutional difficulty, nearly all death penalty States keep death row inmates in isolation for 22 or more hours per day. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), A Death Before Dying: Solitary Confinement on Death Row 5 (July 2013) (ACLU Report). This occurs even though the ABA has suggested that death row inmates be housed in conditions similar to the general population, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has called for a global ban on solitary confinement longer than 15 days. See id., at 2, 4; ABA Standards for Criminal Justice: Treatment of Prisoners 6 (3d ed. 2011). And it is well documented that such prolonged solitary confinement produces numerous deleterious harms. See, e.g., Haney, Mental Health Issues in Long-Term Solitary and “Supermax” Confinement, 49 Crime & Delinquency 124, 130 (2003) (cataloguing studies finding that solitary confinement can cause prisoners to experience “anxiety, panic, rage, loss of control, paranoia, hallucinations, and self-mutilations,” among many other symptoms); Grassian, Psychiatric Effects of Solitary Confinement, 22 Wash U. J. L. & Policy 325, 331 (2006) (“[E]ven a few days of solitary confinement will predictably shift the [brain’s] electroencephalogram (EEG) pattern toward an abnormal pattern characteristic of stupor and delirium”); accord, In re Medley, 134 U. S. 160, 167-168 (1890); see also Davis v. Ayala, ante, at 1-4 (KENNEDY, J., concurring). The dehumanizing effect of solitary confinement is aggravated by uncertainty as to whether a death sentence will in fact be carried out. In 1890, this Court recognized that, “when a prisoner sentenced by a court to death is confined in the penitentiary awaiting the execution of the sentence, one of the most horrible feelings to which he can be subjected during that time is the uncertainty during the whole of it.” Medley, supra, at 172. The Court was there describing a delay of a mere four weeks. In the past century and a quarter, little has changed in this respect— except for duration.”
In re Medley, 134 U.S. 160 (1890)
“Solitary confinement as a punishment for crime has a very interesting history of its own, in almost all countries where imprisonment is one of the means of punishment. In a very exhaustive article on this subject in the American Cyclopaedia, Volume XIII, under the word “Prison” this history is given. In that article it is said that the first plan adopted when public attention was called to the evils of congregating persons in masses without employment, was the solitary prison connected with the Hospital San Michele at Rome, in 1703, but little known prior to the experiment in Walnut Street Penitentiary in Philadelphia in 1787. The peculiarities of this system were the complete isolation of the prisoner from all human society, and his confinement in a cell of considerable size, so arranged that he had no direct intercourse with or sight of any human being, and no employment or instruction. Other prisons on the same plan, which were less liberal in the size of their cells and the perfection of their appliances, were erected in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Maryland and some of the other States. But experience demonstrated that there were serious objections to it. A considerable number of the prisoners fell, after even a short confinement, into a semi-fatuous condition, from which it was next to impossible to arouse them, and others became violently insane; others, still, committed suicide; while those who stood the ordeal better were not generally reformed, and in most cases did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community. It became evident that some changes must be made in the system, and the separate system was originated by the Philadelphia Society for Ameliorating the Miseries of Public Prisons, founded in 1787.”
Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86 (1958)
“The exact scope of the constitutional phrase “cruel and unusual” has not been detailed by this Court. But the basic policy reflected in these words is firmly established in the Anglo-American tradition of criminal justice. The phrase in our Constitution was taken directly from the English Declaration of Rights of 1688, and the principle it represents can be traced back to the Magna Carta. The basic concept underlying the Eighth Amendment is nothing less than the dignity of man. While the State has the power to punish, the Amendment stands to assure that this power be exercised within the limits of civilized standards. Fines, imprisonment and even execution may be imposed depending upon the enormity of the crime, but any technique outside the bounds of these traditional penalties is constitutionally suspect. This Court has had little occasion to give precise content to the Eighth Amendment, and, in an enlightened democracy such as ours, this is not surprising. But when the Court was confronted with a punishment of 12 years in irons at hard and painful labor imposed for the crime of falsifying public records, it did not hesitate to declare that the penalty was cruel in its excessiveness and unusual in its character. Weems v. United States, 217 U.S. 349. The Court recognized in that case that the words of the Amendment are not precise, and that their scope is not static. The Amendment must draw its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society.”
Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209 (2005)
“This case involves the process by which Ohio classifies prisoners for placement at its highest security prison, known as a “Supermax” facility. Supermax facilities are maximum-security prisons with highly restrictive conditions, designed to segregate the most dangerous prisoners from the general prison population. We must consider what process the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution requires Ohio to afford to inmates before assigning them to Supermax. We hold that the procedures Ohio has adopted provide sufficient procedural protection to comply with due process requirements.”
Covino v. Vermont Dep’t of Corrections, 933 F.2d 128 (2nd Cir. 1991)
“Plaintiff-appellant Robert H. Covino was a pre-trial detainee at the Northwest State Correctional Facility (“NWSCF”) in Swanton, Vermont. He brought this action for damages and injunctive relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. S 1983, alleging that defendants-appellees Vermont Department of Corrections, its Commissioner, Joseph Patrissi, NWSCF’s Superintendent Heinz Arenz and various turnkeys at NWSCF harassed Covino in violation of various rights secured by the fourteenth amendment. Specifically, Covino complains that on April 4, 1989, he was ordered to move from his single cell in the F-wing, a general population wing at NWSCF, to a double cell at the facility; he was told that the move was necessary to accommodate a handicapped prisoner. Covino claims that he asked the turnkeys not to place him in a double cell, but to place him in any other single cell at NWSCF. Taking him literally, the officials placed Covino in a single cell in NWSCF’s D-wing, which allegedly is the facility’s isolation wing. Covino remained in the D-wing for nine months. The record does not disclose whether Covino was tried and convicted of any crime . . . . We agree with the general proposition that “the transfer of an inmate to less amenable and more restrictive quarters for nonpunitive reasons” is not a right protected by the due process clause itself. See Hewitt, 459 U.S. at 468, 103 S.Ct. at 869. However, where the state by statute or regulation prescribes mandatory procedures that govern administrative segregation, it thereby creates a liberty interest in remaining in the general prison population. See Russell v. Coughlin, 910 F.2d 75, 77 (2d Cir.1990) (citing Hewitt).”
Davenport v. DeRobertis, 844 F.2d 1310 (7th Cir. 1988)
“This class action on behalf of prisoners confined in the segregation unit at Stateville, the State of Illinois’ maximum-security prison, charges that living conditions in the unit are so substandard as to be a form of cruel and unusual punishment within the meaning of the Eighth Amendment, made applicable to the states by interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment. (The average number of prisoners confined in segregation at Stateville is 225, but this suit is limited to those confined there for more than ninety consecutive days.) A jury agreed, and awarded nominal damages to the class. The district judge set aside the award of damages on the ground that the defendants (Illinois correctional officials) were immune from liability for damages, but he entered an injunction which requires the defendants to provide “every Stateville segregation inmate who has been confined in segregation for 90 or more consecutive days the opportunity to shower at least three times each week and to exercise outside of his cell at least five hours each week.” However, if the “inmate violates prison rules during his exercise or shower period, he may be denied the exercise or shower rights provided herein for a reasonable period of time pursuant to regulation approved by this court.” 653 F.Supp. 649 (N.D.Ill.1987). . . .
Our conclusion that the district judge was authorized to establish a five-hour minimum for exercise is bolstered by other judicial decisions on prisoners’ exercise rights. The decisions are fact-specific; not surprisingly, the federal courts have not attempted to specify detailed guidelines for the administration of state prisons. Nevertheless we are impressed by the number of decisions that hold or suggest that a failure to provide inmates (confined for more than a very short period — a qualification that distinguishes such cases as Harris v. Fleming, 839 F.2d 1232, 1236-37 (7th Cir.1988), and Shelby County Jail Inmates v. Westlake, supra, 798 F.2d at 1089) with the opportunity for at least five hours a week of exercise outside the cell raises serious constitutional questions. See, e.g., French v. Owens, 777 F.2d 1250, 1255-56 (7th Cir.1985); Ruiz v. Estelle, 679 F.2d 1115, 1151-52 (5th Cir.1982); Campbell v. Cauthron, 623 F.2d 503, 507 (8th Cir.1980) (pretrial detainees); Spain v. Procunier, 600 F.2d 189, 199-200 (9th Cir.1979); Sweet v. South Carolina Dept. of Corrections, 529 F.2d 854, 865-66 (4th Cir.1975); Frazier v. Ward, 426 F.Supp. 1354, 1367-69 (N.D.N.Y.1977); cf. Caldwell v. Miller, 790 F.2d 589, 601 (7th Cir.1986). We do not suggest that this is always and everywhere the constitutional minimum; much less may suffice when the period of incarceration is brief. But a judge who, on an adequate record, requires this level of exercise opportunity has not exceeded the outer bounds of permissible interpretation of the Eighth Amendment.”
Grenning v. Miller-Stout, 739 F.3d 1235 (9th Cir. 2014)
“Neil Grenning appeals a grant of summary judgment in favor of defendant prison officials. Grenning contends that continuous twenty-four-hour illumination of his cell violated the Eighth Amendment. We reverse and remand for further proceedings. Neil Grenning is a Washington State inmate at Airway Heights Corrections Center (“Airway Heights”). Prison staff placed Grenning in the Special Management Unit (“SMU”) of Airway Heights “pending investigation” into a fight “that he was allegedly involved in.” Grenning was kept in the SMU for about thirteen days. The SMU is an administrative segregation unit with single-inmate cells that are continuously illuminated for twenty-four hours a day. Each cell in the SMU has three four-foot-long fluorescent lighting tubes in a mounted light fixture. A cell occupant can use a switch inside the cell to turn off two of the tubes. However, the center tube is always on. The center tube is covered by a blue light-diffusing sleeve.”
Incumaa v. Stirling, 791 F.3d 517 (4th Cir. 2015)
“Lumumba Kenyatta Incumaa (“Appellant”) is a member of the Nation of Gods and Earths (“NOGE”), a group whose adherents are also known as “Five Percenters.” In 1988, Appellant began serving a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in a prison operated by the South Carolina Department of Corrections (the “Department” or “Appellee”). Following his participation in a 1995 prison riot with other Five Percenters, he was placed in solitary confinement security detention. He has remained in solitary confinement for 20 years, despite not having committed a single disciplinary infraction during that time.
With this suit, Appellant challenges his confinement on two grounds. Appellant’s first cause of action arises under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. S 2000cc-1, which prohibits a state from imposing a substantial burden on an inmate’s religious exercise unless it proves that the restriction furthers compelling interests by the least restrictive means. In this regard, Appellant argues that Department policy required him to renounce his affiliation with the NOGE, which he alleges is a religion, before the Department will release him from solitary confinement. On the second ground, Appellant claims that Appellee violated his right to procedural due process.
The district court granted Appellee’s motion for summary judgment. We affirm the portion of the district court order discarding Appellant’s RLUIPA claim, which, we agree, was not sufficient to go before a jury. However, we reverse the grant of summary judgment as it relates to Appellant’s due process claim. Appellant’s 20-year period of solitary confinement, we hold, amounts to atypical and significant hardship in relation to the general population and implicates a liberty interest in avoiding security detention. Furthermore, there is a triable dispute as to whether the Department’s process for determining which inmates are fit for release from security detention meets the minimum requirements of procedural due process.”
Prieto v. Clarke, 780 F.3d 245 (4th Cir. 2015), cert. den. as moot, Prieto v. Clarke, 2015 U.S. LEXIS 6388 (U.S. Oct. 13, 2015)
“The district court held that the procedural Due Process rights of a capital prisoner were violated by a state policy requiring his confinement, prior to execution, in a single cell with minimal visitation and recreation opportunities. The court ordered state officials either to alter the policy or to improve these conditions. The officials appeal and, for the reasons that follow, we reverse.” See also Prieto v. Clarke (Civ. Rts. Litig. Clearinghouse) and Supreme Court Docket.
Proctor v. LeClaire, 715 F.3d 402 (2nd Cir. 2013)
“Plaintiff Patrick Proctor, a New York State prisoner who has been administratively confined since 2003 in a Special Housing Unit (or “SHU”) at the Great Meadow Correctional Facility (“Great Meadow”) or at the Clinton Correctional Facility, subject to reviews every 60 days, appeals from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, Gary L. Sharpe, then-Judge, now Chief Judge, dismissing Proctor’s amended complaint (“Complaint” or “2010 Complaint”) brought under 42 U.S.C. S 1983 alleging that his due process rights have been violated because the decisions to continue his confinement in SHU have been based on evidence that should have been expunged from his record, the periodic reviews have been perfunctory and meaningless, and the reasons given for his continued confinement have been false or misleading. The district court granted the motion of defendant Lucien J. LeClaire, Jr., Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Department of Correctional Services (“DOCS”), to dismiss the 2010 Complaint on the grounds that, because Proctor had previously lost a similar suit, see Proctor v. Kelly, No. 05-cv-0692, 2008 WL 5243925 (N.D.N.Y. Dec. 16, 2008) (“Proctor I”), the present action was barred by principles of res judicata and collateral estoppel, see Proctor v. LeClaire, No. 09-cv-1114, 2011 WL 2976911 (N.D.N.Y. July 21, 2011) (“Proctor II”). Challenging the district court’s decision in the present action, Proctor contends principally that neither claim preclusion nor issue preclusion is applicable because his 2010 Complaint includes material allegations of new facts, asserting a cause of action that was not previously litigated or decided. To an extent, we agree, and we therefore vacate the judgment and remand for further proceedings.”
Silverstein v. Fed. Bureau of Prisons, 559 Fed. Appx. 739 (10th Cir. 2014)
“Appellant Thomas Silverstein appeals the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Appellees (hereafter also collectively referred to as BOP). Mr. Silverstein alleges the duration of his thirty years in solitary confinement constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. In support, he contends the district court impermissibly ignored the first twenty-two years of his confinement on statute of limitations grounds and improperly resolved a factual dispute on whether isolation from social contact and environmental stimulation harmed him mentally or psychologically and places him at a substantial risk of future harm. As part of his declarative and injunctive request for relief, Mr. Silverstein suggests his “isolation [be] lessened.” Exercising our jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. S 1291, we affirm.”
Woodfox v. Cain, 789 F.3d 565 (5th Cir. 2015)
“In 2013, the district court a quo granted Albert Woodfox’s petition for writ of habeas corpus on the ground of racial discrimination in the selection of the foreperson of the grand jury. This court affirmed and, on remand, the district court, on June 8, 2015, entered an unconditional writ releasing Woodfox and prohibiting retrial, and it declined to stay its order. The state moves for an emergency stay of the release pending appeal. We granted a three-day stay to receive briefing and to consider the matter fully. We now grant the motion for stay of the order for the duration of the appeal on the merits. . . .
Although, as the district court observed, the parties did not “present any jurisprudence to show what circumstances are sufficient required [sic] to justify the issuance of an unconditional writ barring retrial,” Woodfox, 2015 WL 3549787, at *4, the order was based on “Mr. Woodfox’s age and poor health, his limited ability to present a defense at a third trial in light of the unavailability of witnesses, this Court’s lack of confidence in the State to provide a fair third trial, the prejudice done onto Mr. Woodfox by spending over forty-years in solitary confinement, and finally the very fact that Mr. Woodfox has already been tried twice and would otherwise face his third trial for a crime that occurred over forty years ago.” Id. at *15. The court gave “little weight” to “[t]he fact that Mr. Woodfox has not served the maximum possible sentence [of life imprisonment] and the fact that the underlying constitutional violation could be corrected upon retrial”; it opined that the “evidence of guilt is [not] ‘overwhelming.'” Id. . . .
 . . . . To the extent that Woodfox claims that his extended solitary confinement is an exceptional circumstance, he is really seeking an unconditional writ as punishment for conditions of confinement, which is not a proper subject of inquiry in this habeas corpus proceeding. ”
Young v. Martin, 2015 U.S. App. LEXIS 15922 (3rd Cir. 2015)
“Leonard G. Young, Jr., a Pennsylvania prisoner with a long history of mental illness, filed suit alleging that Appellees-Defendants violated his Eighth Amendment rights by securing him in a four-point restraint chair, naked, for fourteen hours, although he did not pose a threat to himself or others. Because we agree with Young that the District Court erred as a matter of law in granting summary judgment against him, we will vacate the judgment and remand for further proceedings.
For over six years, Young has been held in solitary confinement, housed in either the Restrictive Housing Unit (“RHU”) or the mental health unit of different Pennsylvania prisons because of his extensive disciplinary history and history of mental illness. Since childhood, Young has been diagnosed with various forms of mental illness, including bipolar disorder and schizoaffective disorder. However, since his detention over these past several years in solitary confinement, consisting of isolation for 23 hours per day and one hour of recreation time in a solitary pen on weekdays, Young’s symptoms of mental illness have intensified, including visual and auditory hallucinations, paranoid thoughts, throwing and smearing his own feces, episodes of self-harm, and suicidal impulses. Indeed, since living in these conditions of prolonged isolation, his numerous suicide attempts have included efforts to hang himself and to break his own neck by banging his head against the wall. . . .
The main issue presented on appeal is whether the District Court erred by granting summary judgment in favor of the Defendants by concluding that they did not violate Young’s Eighth Amendment rights when they strapped him in a restraint chair, naked, for fourteen hours, in the absence of any imminent threat of bodily harm to himself or others. Young argues that his placement in the restraint chair constituted use of “excessive force,” relying on the Supreme Court’s decision in Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730 (2002). Appellant’s Br. 31. The Defendants argue that we should analyze this as a “conditions of confinement” case under Fuentes v. Wagner, 206 F.3d 335 (3d Cir. 2000). For the reasons set forth below, we conclude that the District Court erred in granting summary judgment because it did not analyze the case under Hope and failed to draw all reasonable inferences from the facts in Young’s favor.”
FEDERAL DISTRICT COURTS
Ashker v. Brown, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 75347 (N.D. Cal. June 2, 2014)
“Plaintiffs, a group of Pelican Bay State Prison inmates, move for class certification to pursue claims under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. Defendants, the Governor of the State of California, Secretary of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), Chief of CDCR’s Office of Correctional Safety, and Warden of Pelican Bay State Prison, oppose the motion. After considering the parties’ submissions and oral argument, the Court grants the motion in part and denies it in part. In addition, the Court denies the California Correctional Peace Officers Association’s (CCPOA) motion to intervene.”
DeLeon v. Rockland County Corr. Facility, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 41472 at 1, 19-20 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 22, 2013)
“The evidence before this Court does not establish as a matter of law that Plaintiff was kept in solitary confinement for 199 days because he was a danger to himself or others, or because he was a threat to maintaining order at RCCF [Rockland County Correctional Facility]. There are issues of material fact about whether Plaintiff consistently refused to take his medication during this 199-day period, and about whether he was making sexual advances to other inmates. Moreover, Defendants have not cited any authority demonstrating that solitary confinement is a reasonable response to a pre-trial detainee with mental problems who refuses to take medication. See United States v. Bout, 860 F.Supp.2d 303, 308 (S.D.N.Y. 2012) (“[I]t is well documented that long periods of solitary confinement can have devastating effects on the mental well-being of a detainee.”).”
Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services Comm. v. Commissioner, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 182974 (S.D. Ind. Dec. 31, 2012)
“A bench trial commenced in this case on July 25, 2011 and concluded on July 29, 2011.Plaintiffs, Indiana Protection and Advocacy Services Commission (“IPAS”), Joshua Harrison, Greggory Sims, and James Panozzo (collectively the “Plaintiffs”), filed an action against the Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”) claiming that the continual confinement of seriously mentally ill prisoners in segregation violates their right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. The parties were present by their counsel of record. Evidence was submitted and thereafter, the parties submitted supplemental records as part of the evidence, and the Court, accompanied by counsel, toured portions of two of the prisons discussed during the trial. Given the volume of evidence, 29 volumes and a five volume transcript, post-trial briefs were then filed. This Entry shall constitute the Court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 52.1. The Court hereby renders its final decision regarding the matters presented at trial and finds Plaintiffs have prevailed as to their Eighth Amendment claim.”
Jones ‘El v. Berge, 164 F.Supp.2d 1096 (W.D. Wis. 2001)
“Inmates on Level One at the State of Wisconsin’s Supermax Correctional Institution in Boscobel, Wisconsin spend all but four hours a week confined to a cell. The “boxcar” style door on the cell is solid except for a shutter and a trap door that opens into the dead space of a vestibule through which a guard may transfer items to the inmate without interacting with him. The cells are illuminated 24 hours a day. Inmates receive no outdoor exercise. Their personal possessions are severely restricted: one religious text, one box of legal materials and 25 personal letters. They are permitted no clocks, radios, watches, cassette players or televisions. The temperature fluctuates wildly, reaching extremely high and low temperatures depending on the season. A video camera rather than a human eye monitors the inmate’s movements. Visits other than with lawyers are conducted through video screens.
Most inmates have a difficult time handling these conditions of extreme social isolation and sensory deprivation, but for seriously mentally ill inmates, the conditions can be devastating. Lacking physical and social points of reference to ground them in reality, seriously mentally ill inmates run a high risk of breaking down and attempting suicide.
Plaintiffs are challenging the conditions at Supermax on behalf of all inmates in this civil action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. S 1983. The case is before the court now on plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction focusing exclusively on the seriously mentally ill inmates. Plaintiffs contend that the conditions of confinement constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment. They seek a court order requiring defendants to (1) transfer six seriously mentally ill inmates from the institution to an inpatient psychiatric facility and (2) have an independent psychiatrist evaluate every Supermax inmate whom plaintiffs’ expert psychiatrist has not already evaluated to determine whether the inmate is suffering from a serious mental illness and, if so, to transfer him to an inpatient psychiatric facility. A hearing was held on this motion on September 20, 2001. Because plaintiffs succeeded in demonstrating that they have more than a negligible chance of success on the merits and that the balance of harms weighs in their favor, I will grant their request for a preliminary injunction.”
Madrid v. Gomez, 889 F.Supp. 1146 (N.D. Cal. 1995)
“With respect to the SHU [Security Housing Unit], defendants cross the constitutional line when they force certain subgroups of the prison population, including the mentally ill, to endure the conditions in the SHU, despite knowing that the likely consequence for such inmates is serious injury to their mental health, and despite the fact that certain conditions in the SHU have a relationship to legitimate security interests that is tangential at best.
As to the above matters, defendants have subjected plaintiffs to “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain” in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. We observe that while this simple phrase articulates the legal standard, dry words on paper can not adequately capture the senseless suffering and sometimes wretched misery that defendants’ unconstitutional practices leave in their wake. The anguish of descending into serious mental illness, the pain of physical abuse, or the torment of having serious medical needs that simply go unmet is profoundly difficult, if not impossible, to fully fathom, no matter how long or detailed the trial record may be.
The record does not, however, sustain other allegations advanced by plaintiffs. Conditions in the SHU may well hover on the edge of what is humanly tolerable for those with normal resilience, particularly when endured for extended periods of time. They do not, however, violate exacting Eighth Amendment standards, except for the specific population subgroups identified in this opinion. We have also found for defendants with respect to plaintiffs’ allegations regarding the use of force between inmates. Finally, with the exception of one issue, we have rejected plaintiffs’ challenges to the procedures governing the assignment of prison gang members to the SHU for indeterminate terms.”
Ruiz v. Johnson, 37 F.Supp.2d 855 (S.D. Tex. 1999)
“It is determined that TDCJ’s [Texas Department of Corrections’] medical and psychiatric care systems, while at times plagued by negligent and inadequate treatment of members of the plaintiff class, are not so deliberately indifferent to inmates’ physical and mental health needs as to be unconstitutional. The extreme deprivations and repressive conditions of confinement of Texas’ administrative segregation units, however, have been found to violate the Constitution of the United States’ prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, both as to the plaintiff class generally and to the subclass of mentally ill inmates housed in such confinement. Furthermore, members of the plaintiff class still live under conditions allowing a substantial risk of physical and sexual abuse from other inmates, as well as malicious and sadistic use of force by correctional officers. Despite its institutional awareness of these conditions, TDCJ has failed to take reasonable measures to protect vulnerable inmates from other, predatory prisoners and overzealous, physically aggressive state employees.”
United States v. Bout, 860 F.Supp.2d 303 (S.D.N.Y. 2012), remanded on other grounds, United States v. Bout, 731 F.3d 233 (2d Cir. 2013)
“After fifteen months in solitary confinement with extremely minimal human contact and mobility, Viktor Bout requests that he be transferred to general population. The Supreme Court has noted that “[p]rison walls do not form a barrier separating prison inmates from the protections of the Constitution” and that “‘[w]hen a prison … practice offends a fundamental constitutional guarantee, federal courts will discharge their duty to protect constitutional rights.'” Because I [Scheindlen, J.] “cannot simply defer to the Warden and abandon my duty to uphold the constitution,” I must grant Bout’s request.”
United States v. Corozzo, 256 F.R.D. 398 (E.D.N.Y. 2009)
“In the sentencing of this sixty-nine year old captain and killer for the mafia, the government requests that severe conditions be imposed by the court on his imprisonment and supervised release, limiting his right to interact with: 1) relatives who were or are criminals; and 2) members or associates of organized crime families. Even if modified, the restrictions sought would probably result in long-term solitary confinement, onerous segregation, and alienation from natural family. The request is considered from chambers high in the new federal courthouse for the Eastern District of New York, with grave historical memories sunk into its foundations and rising into surrounding atmosphere. On these sanctified grounds, cruelty to American prisoners was first practiced on a mass scale. . . .
So, when the government seeks to impose terms that make life in prison and on supervised release harsher than necessary, the United States District Court for this district cannot ignore history and this country’s aspiration to provide justice for all. It must seriously consider whether it would be justified in granting the government’s motion to impose cruel prison conditions. ”
Wilkerson v. Stadler, 639 F.Supp.2d 654, 679 (M.D. La. 2007)
“In this case, the plaintiffs have been in lockdown not for one year, five years, or ten years—they have been in lockdown for 28 to 35 years, based on actions that occurred 35 years ago. The plaintiffs have introduced evidence that they have not had any serious disciplinary infractions for decades, and that the only reason the plaintiffs have been given as a reason for their continued confinement in lockdown is the “nature of original reason for lockdown.” The plaintiffs have also introduced evidence that Warden Cain directly stated that “[Wallace’s] record . . . doesn’t really matter a lot. The original sentence, that’s why he’s there, that’s why he’s there and that’s why he’s going to stay there . . . [H]e’s in there because of what he did way back when.” The LSP [Louisiana State Penitentiary] mental health records indicate that the plaintiffs pose no threat to themselves or others, and the plaintiffs have each spent time in the general prison populations at other facilities without incident. The plaintiffs also have introduced evidence that they were and are being held in lockdown as punishment because of their, at least at one time, association with the Black Panther Party, because of their personalities as leaders, and in the case of Woodfox and Wallace, because of who they were convicted of killing—a popular prison guard. Although the defendants have produced conclusory statements that they consider the plaintiffs to present a threat to the safety of the institution, taking the plaintiffs’ evidence as true and resolving all inferences in plaintiffs’ favor for purposes of the pending motion, not only have the defendants failed to meet their burden, but the court finds that the plaintiffs have introduced evidence sufficient to allow a reasonable finder of fact to find that the defendant prison officials have been deliberately indifferent to the health and safety of the plaintiffs in continuing to impose the condition of extended confinement in lockdown. It will be for the jury to make the necessary credibility determinations.”
LITIGATION, SETTLEMENTS AND CONSENT DECREES
Ashker v. Brown, No. 09-cv-05796 (N.D. Cal. 2012)
“Ashker v. Brown is a federal class action lawsuit on behalf of prisoners held in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison who have spent a decade or more in solitary confinement. The case charges that prolonged solitary confinement violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, and that the absence of meaningful review for SHU placement violates the prisoners’ rights to due process. The legal action is part of a larger movement to reform conditions in SHUs in California’s prisons that was sparked by hunger strikes by thousands of SHU prisoners in 2011 and 2013; the named plaintiffs in Ashker include several leaders and participants from the hunger strikes. The case is part of CCR’s [Center for Constitutional Rights] broader efforts to challenge mass incarceration, discrimination, and abusive prison policies.” Mar. 13, 2015: “CCR and cocounsel submit 10 reports authored by experts in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, medicine, prison classification, prison security, international law, and international corrections. The reports provide an unprecedented and holistic analysis of the impact of prolonged solitary confinement, and document severe physical and psychological harm among California SHU prisoners as a result of their isolation.” See Settlement Agreement in Ashker v. Brown, No. 09-cv-05796 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 31, 2015) and Ashker v. Brown (Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse); California Agrees to Overhaul Use of Solitary Confinement, NY Times, Sept. 2, 2015, at A14; California to End Unlimited Isolation for Most Gang Leaders, Assoc. Press, Sept. 1, 2015; State Agrees to Deal to Move Nearly 2,000 Inmates from Solitary Confinement, Sacramento Bee, Sept. 1, 2015. See also Expert Reports in Ashker v. Brown (CCR).
Nunez v. City of New York, No. 11-cv-05845 (S.D.N.Y. July 1, 2015)
“The DOC [New York City Department of Corrections] agreed to no longer put prisoners under 18 in any punitive isolation. Prisons housing youth are required to have certain staffing levels and routine examination of the premises to ensure security and safety of the prisoners. The DOC also agreed to begin searching for an alternative location, off Rikers Island, for prisoners under 18.” See also Rikers to Ban Isolation for Inmates 21 and Younger, NY Times, Jan. 14, 2015, at A1
Peoples v. Fischer, No. 11-cv-2694 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 19, 2014)(Stipulation for a Stay with Conditions)
“Whereas, the parties in good faith have negotiated the terms of this Stipulation providing for a further stay of the litigation to establish a process for expert evaluation and consultation and to permit the implementation and evaluation of initial changes with regard to DOCCS’ [N.Y.S. Department of Corrections and Community Supervision] disciplinary system and SHU conditions with the goals of (i) removing certain vulnerable populations from SHU confinement to alternative programs, (ii) increasing systemwide oversight to promote consistent prison disciplinary practices and confinement sanctions that are appropriate and necessary to protect the safety of both staff and inmates, (iii) implementing guidelines for all confinement sanctions to promote transparency and consistency of disciplinary confinement sanctions, (iv) improving SHU conditions as provided in this Stipulation, and (v) reaching a final comprehensive settlement agreement;” See also Lawsuit Secures New Limits on Solitary Confinement in New York’s Prisons, Solitary Watch, Feb. 21, 2014; NYCLU Lawsuit Secures Historic Reforms to Solitary Confinement, NYCLU Press Release, Feb. 19, 2014.
Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act (NY A4401-2015; S2659-2015)
“Restricts the use of segregated confinement and creates alternative therapeutic and rehabilitative confinement options; limits the length of time a person may be in segregated confinement and excludes certain persons from being placed in segregated confinement.” See also Legislation in Think Outside the Box (NY Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement); Legislation Limiting Solitary Confinement in New York Gains Momentum, Solitary Watch, Apr. 29, 2015
Reassessing Solitary Confinement I: The Human Rights, Fiscal, and Public Safety Consequences, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, June 19, 2012
“We are here today to consider another critical issue: What do America’s prisons say about our Nation and its values? What does the number of people we have in prison say? What does it say when we consider how we treat the people who are in prison? This is the first-ever congressional hearing on solitary confinement. The practice it is called many different things: supermax, segregation, isolation, among other names.” [Hon. Richard J. Durbin, U.S. Senator Ill.]. See also Panel: No Solitary Confinement for Minors, Mentally Ill, USA Today, Feb. 25, 2014.
Reassessing Solitary Confinement II: The Human Rights, Fiscal, and Public Safety Consequences, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, Feb. 25, 2014
“More must be done. That’s why today I’m calling for all federal and state facilities to end the use of solitary confinement for juveniles, pregnant women, and individuals with serious and persistent mental illness, except in exceptional circumstances. By reforming our solitary confinement practices, the United States can protect human rights, improve public safety, and be more fiscally responsible. It is the right and smart thing to do, and the American people deserve no less.” [Hon. Richard J. Durbin, U.S. Senator Ill.].
Shifting Away from Solitary, The Marshall Project, Dec. 23, 2014
“In 2014 one of the most controversial practices in criminal justice, solitary confinement, faced unprecedented challenges. As a result of legislation or lawsuits, ten states adopted 14 measures aimed at curtailing the use of solitary, abolishing solitary for juveniles or the mentally ill, improving conditions in segregated units, or gradually easing isolated inmates back into the general population. In January, the correctional officers’ union in Texas even called for doing away with solitary confinement on death row, stating in a letter to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice that if inmates are stripped of all privileges they become harder to manage and more dangerous to corrections officers. A number of events pushed solitary confinement onto the agenda, said Jean Casella of the advocacy group Solitary Watch, including a seminal New Yorker article describing solitary as a form of torture, the ACLU taking up the issue in 2011 and a 2013 anti-solitary hunger strike in the Pelican Bay State Prison in California. Below, a closer look at every solitary reform measure implemented in the United States. The list does not include pending legislation, such as the three solitary reform bills that were introduced in Congress in the span of five months this year, and New Jersey’s much-discussed solitary reform legislation, which was introduced this month.”
Review of the Use of Segregation for ICE Detainees (ICE 2013)
“Placement of detainees in segregated housing is a serious step that requires careful consideration of alternatives. Placement in segregation should occur only when necessary and in compliance with applicable detention standards. In particular, placement in administrative segregation due to a special vulnerability should be used only as a last resort and when no other viable housing options exist.
ICE shall ensure the safety, health, and welfare of detainees in segregated housing in its immigration detention facilities. Consistent with the agency’s detention standards and relevant special housing policies, ICE shall take additional steps to ensure appropriate review and oversight of decisions to retain detainees in segregated housing for over 14 days, or placements in segregation for any length of time in the case of detainees for whom heightened concerns exist based on known special vulnerabilities and other factors related to the detainee’s health or the risk of victimization. The security and safety office employees, facility staff members, detainees, and the public remains the first consideration in the exercise of the procedures and requirements of this Directive.”
Standards on Treatment of Prisoners (ABA 3rd ed. 2011)
Standard 23-3.8 Segregated Housing
“(b) Conditions of extreme isolation should not be allowed regardless of the reasons for a prisoner’s separation from the general population. Conditions of extreme isolation generally include a combination of sensory deprivation, lack of contact with other persons, enforced idleness, minimal out-of-cell time, and lack of outdoor recreation.”
United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules) (UN 2015)
“At their core, the rules stress the overriding principle that all prisoners shall be treated with respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings. “Most importantly”, Mr. [Yury] Fedotov [head of UNODC] went on, “the rules stress that prisoners will be protected from torture and other cruel or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This means the rules probably represent one of the most significant human rights advances in recent years. “The revision focussed on nine thematic areas, including health care in prisons, investigations of deaths in custody, disciplinary measures including strict limitations on the use of solitary confinement, professionalization of prison staff and independent inspections, among other topics.” See also “Mandela Rules” Passed, Standards on the Treatment of Prisoners Enhanced for the 21st Century, UNODC Press Release, May 22, 2015
Position Statement on Segregation of Prisoners with Mental Illness (APA 2012)
“Prolonged segregation of adult inmates with serious mental illness, with rare exceptions, should be avoided due to the potential for harm to such inmates. If an inmate with serious mental illness is placed in segregation, out-of-cell structured therapeutic activities (i.e., mental health/psychiatric treatment) in appropriate programming space and adequate unstructured out-of-cell time should be permitted. Correctional mental health authorities should work closely with administrative custody staff to maximize access to clinically indicated programming and recreation for these individuals.”
Remarks by the President at the NAACP Conference, Penn. Convention Center, Philadelphia, PA, July 14, 2015
“I’ve asked my Attorney General to start a review of the overuse of solitary confinement across American prisons. The social science shows that an environment like that is often more likely to make inmates more alienated, more hostile, potentially more violent. Do we really think it makes sense to lock so many people alone in tiny cells for 23 hours a day, sometimes for months or even years at a time? That is not going to make us safer. That’s not going to make us stronger. And if those individuals are ultimately released, how are they ever going to adapt? It’s not smart.”
Solitary Confinement of Juvenile Offenders (American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 2012)
“The United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty establish minimum standards for the protection of juveniles in correctional facilities. The UN resolution was approved by the General Assembly in December, 1990, and supported by the US. They specifically prohibit the solitary confinement of juvenile offenders. Section 67 of the Rules states: “All disciplinary measures constituting cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment shall be strictly prohibited, including corporal punishment, placement in a dark cell, closed or solitary confinement or any other punishment that may compromise the physical or mental health of the juvenile concerned.” In this situation, cruel and unusual punishment would be considered an 8th Amendment violation of our constitution. Measurements to avoid confinement, including appropriate behavioral plans and other interventions should be implemented. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry concurs with the UN position and opposes the use of solitary confinement in correctional facilities for juveniles. In addition, any youth that is confined for more than 24 hours must be evaluated by a mental health professional, such as a child and adolescent psychiatrist when one is available.”
Statement of James H. Scully, Jr., M.D. Medical Director and CEO on Behalf of the American Psychiatric Association for the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights, June 19, 2012
“The practice of segregating prisoners for disciplinary or safety reasons has grown in the United States, and the prevalence of the practice remains unique among developed nations. The exact number of segregated prisoners nationwide is not known; however, Solitary Watch has recently estimated the number to be approximately 82,000. While the specific conditions of segregation vary between prison systems, a few generalizations can be made. Segregated prisoners spend 23 or more hours each day locked in isolation. There is limited allowance for solitary recreation, and virtually no opportunity for educational advancement, vocational pursuits, or social interaction. Furthermore, segregated prisoners receive healthcare services apart from the general prison population – often within segregated prison units. The APA acknowledges the research that suggests prolonged solitary confinement may be detrimental to persons with serious mental illness. The number of prisoners with serious mental illness has risen since 1980. Current estimates place the number of prisoners with psychiatric disorders between 8% and 19%, with an additional 15% to 20% of prisoners requiring some form of psychiatric intervention during incarceration. Furthermore, prisoners with serious mental illness often face greater challenges in adapting to prison life, and are consequently at higher risk for disciplinary action and segregation.”
Supermax Prisons (Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility (ADPSR) 2015)
“Ending Design of Solitary Confinement: Whatever the rationale advanced for solitary confinement, ADPSR does not believe that any reason is acceptable for torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. As prison authorities currently hold shockingly broad authority over prison conditions (no one is actually sentenced to solitary confinement: conditions of confinement are determined within the prison system after sentencing), they also have the responsibility to manage their facilities without engaging in human rights abuses. At least six U.S. states do not use long term solitary confinement; the other states and the Federal government should follow suit. When Mississippi closed its supermax prison, rates of violence dropped 70% in the rest of the prison system. ADPSR believes that by ending the design of spaces specifically intended for long term solitary confinement, AIA [American Institute of Architects] and the architectural profession can help our governments to implement these necessary reforms.”
BOOKS AND BOOK CHAPTERS
Chap. VII Philadelphia, and Its Solitary Prison in American Notes for General Circulation (Chapman & Hall, Ltd. 1913)[Charles Dickens, 1842]
“In the outskirts, stands a great prison, called the Eastern Penitentiary: conducted on a plan peculiar to the state of Pennsylvania. The system here, is rigid, strict, and hopeless solitary confinement. I believe it, in its effects, to be cruel and wrong. In its intention, I am well convinced that it is kind, humane, and meant for reformation; but I am persuaded that those who devised this system of Prison Discipline, and those benevolent gentlemen who carry it into execution, do not know what it is that they are doing. I believe that very few men are capable of estimating the immense amount of torture and agony which this dreadful punishment, prolonged for years, inflicts upon the sufferers; and in guessing at it myself, and in reasoning from what I have seen written upon their faces, and what to my certain knowledge they feel within, I am only the more convinced that there is a depth of terrible endurance in it which none but the sufferers themselves can fathom, and which no man has a right to inflict upon his fellow-creature. I hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the brain, to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body: and because its ghastly signs and tokens are not so palpable to the eye and sense of touch as scars upon the flesh; because its wounds are not upon the surface, and it extorts few cries that human ears can hear; therefore I the more denounce it, as a secret punishment which slumbering humanity is not roused up to stay. I hesitated once, debating with myself, whether, if I had the power of saying ‘Yes’ or ‘No,’ I would allow it to be tried in certain cases, where the terms of imprisonment were short; but now, I solemnly declare, that with no rewards or honours could I walk a happy man beneath the open sky by day, or lie me down upon my bed at night, with the consciousness that one human creature, for any length of time, no matter what, lay suffering this unknown punishment in his silent cell, and I the cause, or I consenting to it in the least degree.”
Lockdown on Rikers (St. Martin’s Press 2015)
“Mary Buser began her career at Rikers Island as a social work intern, brimming with ideas and eager to help incarcerated women find a better path. Her reassignment to a men’s jail coincided with the dawn of the city’s “stop-and-frisk” policy, a flood of unprecedented arrests, and the biggest jailhouse build-up in New York City history. Committed to the possibility of growth for the scarred and tattooed masses who filed into her session booth, Buser was suddenly faced with black eyes, punched-out teeth, and frantic whispers of beatings by officers. Recognizing the greater danger of pointing a finger at one’s captors, Buser attempted to help them, while also keeping them as well as herself, safe. Following her promotion to assistant chief, she was transferred to different jails, working in the Mental Health Center, and finally, at Rikers’s notorious “jail within jail,” the dreaded solitary confinement unit, where she saw horrors she’d never imagined. Finally, it became too much to bear, forcing Buser to flee Rikers and never look back – until now. Lockdown on Rikers shines a light into the deepest and most horrific recesses of the criminal justice system, and shows how far it has really drifted from the ideals we espouse.”
Most Restrictive Alternative: A Litigation History of Solitary Confinement, in U.S. Prisons, 1960–2006 in 57 Studies in Law, Politics, and Society 71 (Austin Sarat ed., 2012)
“Supermaxes across the United States detain thousands in long-term solitary confinement, under conditions of extreme sensory deprivation. Almost every state built a supermax between the late 1980s and the late 1990s. This chapter examines the role of federal prisoners’ rights litigation in the 1960s and 1970s in shaping the prisons, especially supermaxes, built in the 1980s and 1990s in the United States. This chapter uses a systematic analysis of federal court case law, as well as archival research and oral history interviews with key informants, including lawyers, experts, and correctional administrators, to explore the relationship between federal court litigation and prison building and designing. This chapter argues that federal conditions of confinement litigation in the 1960s and 1970s (1) had a direct role in shaping the supermax institutions built in the subsequent decades and (2) contributed to the resistance of these institutions to constitutional challenges. The history of litigation around supermaxes is an important and as-yet-unexplored aspect of the development of Eighth Amendment jurisprudence in the United States over the last half century.”
Social Deprivation and Criminal Justice in Rethinking Criminal Law Theory (Hart Pub. 2012)
“This paper challenges the use of social deprivation in lawful punishment. In this context, ‘social deprivation’ refers not to poverty and its associated social ills, but to genuine social deprivation. Social deprivation is a persisting inadequacy of access to minimally supportive social inclusion. The paper draws on the idea of a general human right against social deprivation to show that there is a specific human right against socially privative punishments such as solitary confinement.”
Solitary Confinement: Social Death and Its Afterlives (U. Minn. Press 2013)
“Prolonged solitary confinement has become a widespread and standard practice in U.S. prisons—even though it consistently drives healthy prisoners insane, makes the mentally ill sicker, and, according to the testimony of prisoners, threatens to reduce life to a living death. In this profoundly important and original book, Lisa Guenther examines the death-in-life experience of solitary confinement in America from the early nineteenth century to today’s supermax prisons. Documenting how solitary confinement undermines prisoners’ sense of identity and their ability to understand the world, Guenther demonstrates the real effects of forcibly isolating a person for weeks, months, or years. Drawing on the testimony of prisoners and the work of philosophers and social activists from Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty to Frantz Fanon and Angela Davis, the author defines solitary confinement as a kind of social death. It argues that isolation exposes the relational structure of being by showing what happens when that structure is abused—when prisoners are deprived of the concrete relations with others on which our existence as sense-making creatures depends. Solitary confinement is beyond a form of racial or political violence; it is an assault on being. A searing and unforgettable indictment, Solitary Confinement reveals what the devastation wrought by the torture of solitary confinement tells us about what it means to be human—and why humanity is so often destroyed when we separate prisoners from all other people.”
Sourcebook on Solitary Confinement (Mannheim Centre for Criminology 2008)
“This comprehensive sourcebook brings together the accumulated knowledge and standards relating to solitary confinement and its harmful consequences. It identifies how solitary confinement may be misused and the protections that should be put in place. It is a valuable resource for prison staff and policy makers in the effort to promote the respect and protection of the rights and wellbeing of prisoners and detainees. Let us not forget that persons deprived of liberty are among the most vulnerable human beings in every society.”
Survivors Manual: How to Survive in Solitary Confinement (AFSC 5th ed. 2012)
“A manual written by and for people living in control units Solitary confinement, characterized by 23-hour a day lockout with minimal exercise and lack of human contact, affects an estimated 100,000 prisoners in federal and state prisons in almost every state. Thus the need for “Survivors Manual,” which was first issued in 1998, is even more vital. This is the fifth edition, released in 2012. “The isolation of solitary confinement is torture according to the United Nations Convention Against Torture. The extended use of solitary severely affects all prisoners’ mental health, making re-entry to society all the more difficult. For those with pre-existing mental conditions, such consequences are even worse,” says Bonnie Kerness, Prison Watch Coordinator for AFSC.”
Against Solitary Confinement: Jonah’s Redemption and Our Need for Mercy, 16 Rutgers J. Law & Relig. 345 (2015)
“This is an exercise in biblical interpretation undertaken by someone more professionally accustomed to constitutional interpretation, for the “People of the Book” symposium on Judaism and legal scholarship. In it, I [Margo Schlanger] examine the Book of Jonah for insight into the modern practice of solitary confinement. After all, Jonah, imprisoned inside the whale for three nights and three days, is perhaps the most famous solitary prisoner of all time. Could the Book of Jonah have anything to say about the best response to current demands by prisoners and others to reform solitary confinement? At first blush it might seem that Jonah’s (short) stay in solitary inside the whale was pretty good for him. But on careful analysis, even Jonah didn’t find redemption in solitary confinement. Rather, Jonah’s redemption occurs later, when God engages Jonah’s humanity to explain to him the ineffable value of mercy, and when Jonah understands that just like a child who doesn’t know right from left, good from evil — just like all of us, including our prisoners — he, too, depends on mercy.”
Banishing Solitary: Litigating an End to the Solitary Confinement of Children in Jails and Prisons, SSRN (2015)
“The solitary confinement of children is remarkably commonplace in the United States, with the best available government data suggesting that thousands of children across the country are subjected to the practice each year. Physical and social isolation of 22 to 24 hours per day for one day or more, the generally accepted definition of solitary confinement, is used by juvenile detention facilities as well as adult jails and prisons to protect, punish and manage children held there. The practice is neither explicitly banned nor directly regulated by federal law. Yet there is a broad consensus that the practice places children at great risk of permanent physical and mental harm and even death, and that it violates international human rights law. Policymakers and judges in the U.S. are beginning to reevaluate the treatment of children in the adult criminal justice system, drawing from new insights and old intuitions about the developmental differences between children and adults. This welcome trend has only recently begun to translate into any systematic change to the practice of subjecting children to solitary confinement in adult jails or prisons, with significant reform in New York City at the leading edge. Despite the beginnings of a trend, there have been few legal challenges to the solitary confinement of children and there is a consequent dearth of jurisprudence to guide advocates and attorneys seeking to protect children in adult facilities from its attendant harms through litigation – or policymakers seeking to prevent or eliminate unconstitutional conduct. This article helps bridge this significant gap. It contributes the first comprehensive account of the application of federal constitutional and statutory frameworks to the solitary confinement of children in adult jails and prisons, with reference to relevant international law as well as medical and correctional standards. In doing so, this article seeks to lay the groundwork for litigation promoting an end to this practice.”
Banning the Bing: Why Extreme Solitary Confinement Is Cruel and Far Too Usual Punishment, 90 Ind. L.J. 741 (2015)
“The United States engages in extreme practices of solitary confinement that maximize isolation and sensory deprivation of prisoners. The length is often indefinite and can stretch for weeks, months, years, or decades. Under these conditions, both healthy prisoners and those with pre-existing mental health issues often severely deteriorate both mentally and physically. New science and data provide increased insight into why and how human beings (and other social animals) deteriorate and suffer in such environments. The science establishes that meaningful social contacts and some level of opportunity for sensory enrichment are minimum human necessities. When those necessities are denied, the high risks of serious harm apply to all prisoners, no matter how seemingly resilient beforehand. Given these facts, this Article argues that solitary confinement, as commonly practiced in the United States, is cruel and unusual punishment — whether analyzed under current Supreme Court standards or an improved framework. Furthermore, recently released data on states implementing reforms shows that extreme solitary confinement tactics are counterproductive to numerous policy interests, including public safety, institutional safety, prisoner welfare, and cost efficiency. Both the scientific and policy data suggest possible avenues for effective reform.”
Beyond Supermax Administrative Segregation: Mississippi’s Experience Rethinking Prison Classification and Creating Alternative Mental Health Programs, 36 Crim. Just. & Behav. 1037 (2009)
“Litigation in Mississippi required the Department of Corrections to ameliorate substandard conditions at the supermaximum Unit 32 of Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman, remove prisoners with serious mental illness from administrative segregation and provide them with adequate treatment, and reexamine the entire classification system. Pursuant to two federal consent decrees, the Department of Corrections greatly reduced the population in administrative segregation and established a step-down mental health treatment unit for the prisoners excluded from administrative segregation. This article describes and discusses not only the process of enacting the changes but also the outcomes, including the large reductions in rates of misconduct, violence, and use of force.”
Children in Isolation: The Solitary Confinement of Youth, 50 Wake Forest L. Rev. 1 (2015)
“Every day in prison settings around the world, young people are held in solitary confinement. They are alone for up to twenty-three hours a day in unfurnished cells. They do not see, have physical contact with, or speak to other people. The cells are small, often no larger than a horse’s stable, and are illuminated by artificial light. Food is passed through narrow openings in heavy metal doors. These adolescents are denied education, counseling, and other services that are necessary for their growth, rehabilitation and well-being. If a parent were to confine her child under similar conditions, it would be abuse; yet when the government does so, often for weeks and months without due process, it is condoned.
The paradox of solitary confinement is that it is not reserved only for the most culpable offenders. Juvenile and immigration detention centers as well as adult jails and prisons place adolescents in isolation to protect them — arguably — from each other or from adults; when they are perceived to be a threat; and to punish them for misconduct and rule-breaking. These rationales for the solitary confinement of youth fail to recognize, however, that prolonged isolation harms young people in ways that are often more profound than its impact on adults.
This Article is the first to provide a comprehensive comparative analysis of the solitary confinement of youth in the United States and across the globe. The Introduction describes a typical scenario under which an adolescent may be subjected to isolation and explores why the practice persists today despite widespread condemnation. Part I reviews the literature detailing the varieties of harm that young people suffer as a result of solitary confinement. Part II discusses the rationales that correctional facilities use to justify solitary confinement and the prevalence of the practice internationally. Part III analyzes the history of solitary confinement and the legal response within the U.S. and the international community. Part IV addresses strategies for reform, including legislation, federal regulations, and litigation; the adoption of best practice standards; and the role of the juvenile defender and other advocates for incarcerated youth. The Appendix presents the author’s original research documenting the current practices of the fifty-seven countries that legally condone or employ the solitary confinement of youth.”
Chronic Failure to Control Prisoner Isolation in U.S. and Canadian Law, 40 Queen’s L.J. 483 (2015)
“The decision to place a prisoner in isolation can profoundly intensify the severity of a legal sanction of imprisonment. While the Canadian legislative regime offers some protections, prison officials are empowered with broad discretion to make this decision with no judicial input. Strikingly, prisoners can be placed in isolation for indefinite periods of time, which has invited critical scrutiny. Litigation under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms could challenge the current Canadian scheme, but the U.S. experience of litigating solitary confinement warns of the limits of some forms of judicial intervention as a means to generate effective controls over this practice. In response to extreme forms of solitary confinement, American courts have only articulated minimal constraints and narrow individual exemptions — no court has found the basic practice of indefinite isolation to be constitutionally barred, and it is currently used on a widespread basis. The American example sheds light on the possibilities of litigation as a method of penal reform and reveals a judicial tendency to police only peripheral issues without addressing fundamental flaws in prevailing penal practices. Canadian prison legislation already includes many of the same protections that have been extracted from U.S. courts, but essential protections remain absent in both countries. Law reform efforts should aim for a judicial declaration that prohibits isolation for indefinite and excessive terms, and mandates external oversight over all forms of isolation.”
Dignity and the Eighth Amendment: A New Approach to Challenging Solitary Confinement, Issue Brief (Amer. Const. Soc’y), Sept. 2015
“While the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment appears to provide mechanisms to challenge the use of long-term solitary confinement, the way the federal courts have interpreted the amendment in the past two decades has rendered judicial review virtually meaningless, resulting in an unprecedented number of people being held in conditions of extreme solitary confinement. Part I of this Issue Brief examines the nature of solitary confinement and how it developed in the U.S. Part II discusses (in broad outlines) the current jurisprudence of Eighth Amendment solitary confinement litigation. Finally, Part III offers some reasons for optimism going forward and one promising path to achieving meaningful reforms through constitutional challenges to the practice.”
Disabled by Solitude: The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and Its Impact on the Use of Supermax Solitary Confinement, 66 U. Miami L. Rev. 523 (2012)
“As the first human rights treaty of the twenty-first century, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) aims to protect the world’s largest minority — some 650 million people in the world living with a disability. While the major concern of the CRPD is to protect the rights and development of people with disabilities, this article argues that the use of supermax facilities is inconsistent with the CRPD because it produces a mental disability in prisoners. Part I of this article describes the procedural history of the CRPD. Part II discusses the background of the CRPD and the concept of disablement. Part III presents the history and current use of solitary confinement in the United States. Part IV discusses the medical and psychological effects of supermax solitary confinement and the implications of those effects in reference to the CRPD. Following that, Part V explains an additional avenue of relief for inmates under Article 15 of the CRPD. Lastly, Part VI analyzes possible reservations, understandings, and other procedural mechanisms that the United States might employ in order to limit the effect of a possible ratification of the CRPD.”
Effects of Solitary Confinement on Prison Inmates: A Brief History and Review of the Literature, 34 Crime & Just. 441 (2006)
“The effects of solitary confinement have been debated since at least the middle of the nineteenth century when both Americans and Europeans began to question the then‐widespread use of solitary confinement of convicted offenders. A sizable and impressively sophisticated literature, now largely forgotten, accumulated for more than a half century and documented significant damage to prisoners. More recently the development of supermax prisons in the United States and human rights objections to pretrial solitary confinement in Scandinavia revived interest in the topic and controversy over the findings. The weight of the modern evidence concurs with the findings of earlier research: whether and how isolation damages people depends on duration and circumstances and is mediated by prisoners’ individual characteristics; but for many prisoners, the adverse effects are substantial.”
Exploring the Effect of Exposure to Short-Term Solitary Confinement Among Violent Prison Inmates, J. Quant. Criminol., Jan. 2015, at 1
“Objectives: This study tracked the behavior of male inmates housed in the general inmate populations of 70 different prison units from a large southern state. Each of the inmates studied engaged in violent misconduct at least once during the first 2 years of incarceration (n = 3,808). The goal of the study was to isolate the effect of exposure to short-term solitary confinement (SC) as a punishment for their initial act of violent behavior on the occurrence and timing of subsequent misconduct. Methods: This study relied upon archival longitudinal data and employed a multilevel counterfactual research design (propensity score matching) that involved tests for group differences, event history analyses, and trajectory analyses. Results: The results suggest that exposure to short-term solitary confinement as a punishment for an initial violence does not appear to play a role in increasing or decreasing the probability, timing, or development future misconduct for this particular group on inmates. Conclusions: Upon validation, these findings call for continued research and perhaps a dialog regarding the utility of solitary confinement policies under certain contexts. This unique study sets the stage for further research to more fully understand how solitary impacts post-exposure behavior.”
Extending Hope into “The Hole”: Applying Graham v. Florida to Supermax Prisons, 20 Wm. & Mary Bill Rts. J. 217 (2011)
“A recent Supreme Court decision may show a constitutional route through this judicial roadblock, however, and potentially bring relief to inmates undeservedly housed in supermax prisons. In Graham v. Florida, the Supreme Court noted that “cases addressing the proportionality of sentences fall within two general classifications,” with the latter constituting rulings that impose “categorical restrictions on the death penalty.” In Graham, however, the Court addressed a lawsuit seeking a categorical restriction on a mere term-of-years sentence, which the Court admitted was “an issue not considered previously.” The Court ultimately ruled in favor of the petitioner and created a categorical restriction prohibiting life sentences without parole for juvenile offenders convicted of crimes other than homicide. This Note proposes a similar categorical restriction challenge for inmates assigned to supermax prisons that would prohibit prolonged solitary confinement as cruel and unusual punishment for individuals either below the age of majority and/or convicted of a nonviolent crime. The narrow scope of the argument acknowledges the extremely small likelihood that the Supreme Court will come anywhere close to declaring prolonged solitary confinement facially unconstitutional as long as the more severe alternative of capital punishment remains legal. The proposed new route addresses the more immediate problem of over-classification-the assignment of prisoners to supermax prisons who neither require nor deserve the brutal conditions of solitary confinement and thus attempts to inject more proportionality into the United States’ system of incarceration and imprisonment. The new route has the added benefit of a closer alignment with international laws concerning torture and prisoner treatment, with which the United States’ practice of solitary confinement is increasingly out of line.”
From the Asylum to Solitary: Transinstitutionalization, 77 Albany L. Rev. 915 (2014)
“Currently, there are approximately 57,000 inmates incarcerated in New York State correctional facilities, and of those, about 15% receive mental health care from OMH [N.Y.S. Office of Mental Health]. Approximately 4% of the total inmates in these correctional facilities are diagnosed with a serious mental illness, totaling about 2,280 inmates. Even with the passage of the SHU Exclusion Law, there are still approximately six hundred mentally ill inmates in the SHU [Secure Housing Unit] because their diagnoses do not fit the hard line definition of a ―serious mental illness. This also includes inmates diagnosed with ASD [Autism Spectrum Disorder]. There is an overwhelming need to broaden the definition of a ―serious mental illness, not only to ensure the safety of the correctional facilities in general, but also to ensure the safety of mentally ill inmates who are not acting out intentionally in a fit of rage, but are acting out uncontrollably because they do not understand the reasons for the conditions they are in. The proper and only conscionable way to deal with these types of inmates is to give them the treatment and help they so desperately need and deserve. This will not only guarantee that the prison system functions more smoothly and efficiently, but it will help to rehabilitate these individuals and prepare them to reenter society. Without broadening the definition of a seriously mentally ill inmate, the prison system will never fully flourish. There will continue to be inmates uncontrollably acting out due to their illness, which, if the definition were broadened, would not happen.”
Hey, I Think We’re Unconstitutionally Alone Now: The Eighth Amendment Protects Social Interaction as a Basic Human Need, 14 J. Gender Race & Just. 265 (2010)
“In the 1980s, American prisons began to use solitary confinement more frequently and for longer periods of time than ever before. Simultaneously, technological advancements in prison construction and surveillance made some solitary confinement conditions unprecedentedly isolative. Whether prison officials should be able to subject prisoners to these conditions presents a difficult constitutional question, which courts are beginning to address. Does extreme isolation deprive prisoners of a basic human need? If so, is the deprivation severe enough to violate the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment? Evidence suggests, and courts should find, that social interaction is a basic human need of which some current solitary conditions entirely deprive prisoners. Some courts have found, accordingly, that these conditions may violate the Eighth Amendment, and other courts should follow their lead.
This Note will briefly overview solitary confinement use in America, the recent technological developments in solitary confinement conditions, and the development of case law that sheds light on whether depriving prisoners of social interaction in these conditions violates the Eighth Amendment. To that end, it will present social science and hard science literature assessing social isolation’s impact on humans. This Note concludes that evidence supports a finding that social interaction is a basic human need, that technological advancements have increased the degree of isolation in super-maximum (or “supermax”) facilities, and that these factors, in combination, create a cognizable Eighth Amendment claim that supermax confinement deprives prisoners of the basic human need for social interaction and subjects them to cruel and unusual punishment.”
“I Am Opposed to This Procedure”: How Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony” Illuminates the Current Debate About Solitary Confinement and Oversight of American Prisons, 93 Or. L. Rev. 571 (2015)
“This is the 100th anniversary of Franz Kafka’s In the Penal Colony. The story brilliantly imagines a gruesome killing machine at the epicenter of a mythical prison’s operations. The torture caused by this apparatus comes to an end only after the “Traveler,” an outsider invited to the penal colony by the new leader of the prison, condemns it. In the unfolding of the tale, Kafka vividly portrays how, even with the best of intentions, the mental and physical well-being of inmates will be jeopardized when total control is given to people who run the prisons with no independent oversight.
At the core of America’s vast prison system is the pervasive practice of solitary confinement, a practice that in many ways is analogous to the penal colony machine. Like the machine, it inflicts great psychological and often physical pain on people subjected to it. It, like the machine, is used to punish people for trivial offenses without due process. Like the machine, it is seen as essential to the operation of this closed prison system. Many of the new leaders of American prisons want to reform solitary confinement practices, but like the new Commandant in Kafka’s tale, without oversight, these leaders operate in the dark, unable to effectuate meaningful change by themselves.
Kafka knew what he was talking about. The historic record, reviewed in this Article, demonstrates that Kafka had a notable legal career as an attorney at the Workers’ Accident Insurance Institute for the Kingdom of Bohemia in Prague. In that job he worked on behalf of industrial workers to open closed worksites to oversight, thereby improving worker safety and preventing needless accidents. These experiences gave Kafka a realistic understanding of what can happen in closed, unregulated institutions such as prisons.
Despite the relevance of In the Penal Colony, Kafka’s voice has not yet been heard in this debate. This Article is intended to fill that void and to reveal how Kafka’s profound insights, so artfully crafted in the powerfully beautiful prose of In the Penal Colony, help us understand why we must open prison doors to outside scrutiny and put an end to the gruesome practice that is solitary confinement.”
In the Cellars of the Hollow Men: Use of Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons and its Implications Under International Laws Against Torture, 18 Pace Int’l L. Rev. 1 (2006)
“In light of the psychological and physical harm inflicted on inmates placed in solitary confinement, this Note analyzes the extent to which use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons violates international laws against torture. Part I of this Note discusses the current use of solitary confinement in the United States and examines the conditions of confinement in which inmates are placed. Part II discusses the lack of strong federal and state guidelines on the use of solitary confinement and examines the relevant international standards on torture and the humane treatment of inmates. The Note concludes with a series of recommendations to bring use of solitary confinement in the U.S. in line with applicable international law.”
Legality of Solitary Confinement Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), 8 Intersect: Stan. J. Sci., Tech. & and Soc’y 1 (2014)
“Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, individuals with “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities,” (ADA Sec. 12102), are to be protected from discrimination and offered reasonable alternatives to navigate their spaces. Mentally ill prisoners are under the protection of the ADA, making the use of solitary confinement as a punitive tool for this population a blatant defiance of the law. Solitary confinement is capable of shattering any healthy mind, and is associated with higher rates of self harm. In addition, the use of solitary confinement denies the prisoners several benefits given to the prison population, ranging from access to emergency services to proper therapy and treatment. This paper examines the history of solitary confinement in the United States, the illegality of imposing it on the mentally ill and presents alternatives for addressing mentally ill prisoners within the United States, focusing on the New York and Pennsylvania prison systems.”
Mental Health Issues in Long-Term Solitary and “Supermax” Confinement, 49 Crime & Delinquency 124 (2003)
“This article discusses the recent increase in the use of solitary-like confinement, especially the rise of so-called supermax prisons and the special mental health issues and challenges they pose. After briefly discussing the nature of these specialized and increasingly widespread units and the forces that have given rise to them, the article reviews some of the unique mental-health-related issues they present, including the large literature that exists on the negative psychological effects of isolation and the unusually high percentage of mentally ill prisoners who are confined there. It ends with a brief discussion of recent caselaw that addresses some of these mental health issues and suggests that the courts, though in some ways appropriately solicitous of the plight of mentally ill supermax prisoners, have overlooked some of the broader psychological problems these units create.”
Psychiatric Effects of Solitary Confinement, 22 Wash. U. J. L. & Pol’y 325 (2006)
“Dr. Grassian is a Board Certified Psychiatrist who was on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School for over twenty-five years. He has had extensive experience in evaluating the psychiatric effects of solitary confinement, and in the course of his professional involvement, has been involved as an expert regarding the psychiatric impact of federal and state segregation and disciplinary units in many settings. His observations and conclusions regarding this issue have been cited in a number of federal court decisions. The following statement is largely a redacted, non-institution and non-inmate specific, version of a declaration which was submitted in September 1993 in Madrid v. Gomez. To enhance the readability of this statement, much of the supporting medical literature is described in the appendices to the statement.”
Psychological Effects of Solitary Confinement on Prisoners in Supermax Units: Reviewing What We Know and Recommending What Should Change, 52 Int’l J. of Offender Therapy & Comp. Criminology 622 (2008)
“This article examines the psychological consequences of short- and long-term solitary confinement for prisoners in the United States subjected to administrative or disciplinary segregation. Particular attention is paid to the use of secure housing units, alternatively known as control units or supermax units. These correctional entities allow for the isolation of convicts under conditions that offer little sensory stimulation and minimal opportunities for interaction with other people. The circumstances typically found in these units and the heightened potential for the abuse of prisoners are described. The connections between internment and mental illness—as well as isolation and race, gender, and class—are explored. A set of recommendations for the reform of secure housing is presented.”
Psychology of Cruelty: Recognizing Grave Mental Harm in American Prisons, 128 Harv. L. Rev. 1250 (2015)
“Solitary confinement — the confinement of a prisoner in isolation with limited chance for social interaction or environmental stimulus — has existed in America for centuries, but until the late twentieth century, it was rarely used. In the 1970s and 1980s, the use of solitary confinement began to expand, as prisons started to employ it not only for discipline and safety, but also, in America’s supermax prisons, as a method of long-term imprisonment. Supermax prisons — prisons that house inmates in perpetual conditions of solitary confinement — have continued to spread across the country since the first one opened in 1983. Today, about forty states have at least one supermax prison, and nearly sixty total facilities are in operation around the country. Though estimates vary, most conclude that about 25,000 inmates are currently incarcerated in supermax facilities, with another 55,000 in solitary confinement outside the supermax setting.
Although there has been no shortage of Eighth Amendment challenges to solitary confinement, they have only rarely succeeded. This is because a condition of confinement must deprive a prisoner of a “single, identifiable human need” to be unconstitutional and all but a handful of courts have restricted those needs to things that a person cannot be deprived of without suffering grave physical harm — for the purposes of this Note, “physical needs.” Substantial psychological and neuroscientific research shows that the deprivation of social interaction results in grave harm, but that harm is mental, not physical — meaning social interaction would be a “mental need” — and this difference has proven largely insurmountable. Lower courts have only rarely recognized grave mental harm in the conditions of confinement context, and the Supreme Court has never done so. In the past fifteen years, though, the Court has relied on recent psychological and neuroscientific evidence to inform its application of another Eighth Amendment test, the proportionality inquiry. The conditions of confinement assessment would similarly become more comprehensive and robust if the Court used psychological and neuroscientific research as a basis for identifying grave mental harm and the unconstitutional mental deprivations that cause it. By equipping itself with this information, the Court would more fully ensure that it carries out its constitutional duty to prevent cruelty, no matter its form.
This Note proceeds in four parts. Part I lays out the doctrinal frameworks of the proportionality and conditions of confinement inquiries and examines the Court’s past use of psychological and neuroscientific research to inform the two tests. Part II first describes how the Court’s use of psychological and neuroscientific research regarding juvenile culpability strengthened the proportionality assessment. It then contends that the Court would similarly improve the conditions of confinement inquiry were it to use scientific research to identify mental needs. This Part focuses specifically on psychological and neuroscientific research regarding social interaction. Part III considers and rejects arguments against judicial use of psychological and neuroscientific research to identify mental needs. Part IV concludes.”
Punishments in Penal Institutions: (Dis)-Proportionality in Isolation, 21 Hum. Rts. Br. 24 (2014)
“This article addresses whether the lack of standards associated with the use of punitive solitary confinement constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the U.S. Constitution. It begins by discussing the nature, purpose, and effect of solitary confinement. The article then evaluates the use of solitary confinement under both U.S. law and international human rights standards. It argues that the absence of adequate regulation and oversight of solitary confinement risks arbitrary and excessive use and results in punishments that are grossly disproportionate to the underlying offense in violation of the Eighth Amendment. Finally, this article concludes that stricter standards prohibiting punitive solitary confinement – or at least limiting its use to certain enumerated, violent violations – would prevent solitary confinement from being used as a disciplinary measure of first resort and would help alleviate some of its constitutional infirmities.”
Reassessment of Common Law Protections for ‘Idiots’, 124 Yale L.J. 2746 (2015)
“When the Eighth Amendment was ratified, common law protections categorically prohibited the execution of “idiots.” On two occasions, the Supreme Court considered whether these protections proscribe executing people with intellectual disabilities; however, the Court concluded that idiocy protections shielded only the “profoundly or severely mentally retarded.” This Note argues that the Court’s historical analysis of idiocy protections was unduly narrow. It then proceeds to reassess common law insanity protections for idiots and finds strong evidence that these protections included people with a relatively wide range of intellectual disabilities. Based on this new historical account, this Note argues that there are people with intellectual disabilities on death row today who likely would have been protected from execution in 1791.”
Regulating Prisons of the Future: A Psychological Analysis of Supermax and Solitary Confinement, 23 N.Y.U. Rev. L. & Soc. Change 477 (1997)
“In this Article, we [Craig Haney and Mona Lynch] provide a comprehensive review of the existing literature on the effects of solitary confinement and punitive segregation and a discussion of the recent U.S. case law limiting its use in state and federal prisons. We address the psychological question of whether solitary confinement represents a distinct and distinctly worse form of incarceration than maximum security imprisonment generally. After providing a brief history of solitary confinement as legal punishment, we look in detail at its psychological effects and focus especially on the threat it poses for the mental health of prisoners. We will suggest that the scholarly literature on this question is clear and that there is sufficient empirical justification to regard solitary confinement as a unique correctional environment that warrants special legal status. We turn next to a discussion of the way in which the courts have treated this issue, both historically and through the lens of contemporary legal doctrine. We will argue that constitutional doctrines currently governing solitary confinement fail to recognize the nature and magnitude of the psychological trauma that can be inflicted by this form of punishment and, therefore, that they fail to adequately regulate its use by properly limiting the nature and duration of prisoners’ exposure to such confinement. We conclude by proposing a series of remedies to these legal shortcomings in the form of model regulations for the use of solitary confinement and punitive isolation.”
Safety and Solidarity Across Gender Lines: Rethinking Segregation of Transgender People in Detention, 18 Temp. Pol. & Civ. Rts. L. Rev. 515 (2009)
“Transgender, intersex, and gender nonconforming (TIGNC) people, particularly people of color, are disproportionately incarcerated because of societal discrimination, widespread poverty, immigration policies, police profiling, and bias in court proceedings. Once incarcerated, TIGNC people, particularly transgender women placed in men’s facilities, experience exceedingly high levels of sexual and other physical violence. Officials in detention systems often place TIGNC people against their will in isolating segregated settings as a form of protection, punishment, or prevention. At times advocates seem to assume that such placements are appropriate settings to protect TIGNC people from violence in detention. However, the premise that such placements are “protective” relies on at least two assumptions. The first is that isolation and control, rather than relationships and freedom, reduce violence. The second is that other prisoners, rather than facility staff, are the primary perpetrators of violence from whom TIGNC people need protection within detention systems.
While courts have generally accepted these assumptions without question, neither is well-supported when viewed the context of the experiences of imprisoned TIGNC people. Rather, involuntary segregation disrupts opportunities for non-violent and anti-violent relationships among TIGNC and other prisoners and often exposes TIGNC people to greater systemic, staff-perpetrated, and psychological violence. Justifications for involuntary segregation of TIGNC people can also draw on racist stereotypes of all imprisoned men of color as violent rapists and undermine important opportunities for collaboration among movements. The importance of community-building and self-determination in creating safety must remain central in consideration of measures to reduce the violence against TIGNC people in detention.”
“Shameful Wall of Exclusion”: How Solitary Confinement for Inmates With Mental Illness Violates the Americans With Disabilities Act, 90 Wash. L. Rev. 893 (2015)
“Although solitary confinement is conventionally challenged under the “cruel and unusual” standard of the Eighth Amendment, this approach presents several intractable legal hurdles to successful claims. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C.SS12101 et seq., and its precursor, the Rehabilitation Act, provide innovative and non-constitutional causes of action for inmates with mental illness to challenge their solitary confinement. It is estimated that at least thirty percent of inmates in solitary confinement are mentally ill, a high percentage that is due to both the disproportionate number of mentally ill inmates who are isolated from the general prison population as well as the negative psychological impacts of this isolation. Under Title II, Section 12132 of the ADA, prisoners with mental illness cannot “be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities of a public entity, or be subjected to discrimination by any such entity.” As recognized by U.S. Supreme Court precedent and interpreted by the Department of Justice, the ADA protects mentally ill inmates from discrimination on the basis of their disability. This Comment will argue that prison facilities discriminate under the ADA when they (1) isolate mentally ill inmates on the basis of their disability, (2) prolong inmates’ solitary confinement due to their preexisting or manifesting mental illness, or (3) fail to provide access to aids, benefits, or services to inmates with mental illness who need to be isolated for safety reasons.”
Social Psychology of Isolation: Why Solitary Confinement is Psychologically Harmful, 181 Prison Service J. 12 (2009)
“As everywhere else in society, social context matters a great deal in prison. However, even the best correctional environments are inherently problematic places; they are extremely difficult for staff to operate humanely and for prisoners to survive unscathed. They are also highly improbable places-ones where large numbers of people must be involuntarily confined under conditions of severe restriction, deprivation and dependency. In this brief article, I [Craig Haney] review some of psychological effects of living in a particular kind of prison environment where the inherent problems and improbabilities are made much worse-solitary confinement.”
Solitary Confinement and Mental Illness in U.S. Prisons: A Challenge for Medical Ethics, 38 J. Am. Acad. Psych. L. 104 (2010)
“In recent years, prison officials have increasingly turned to solitary confinement as a way to manage difficult or dangerous prisoners. Many of the prisoners subjected to isolation, which can extend for years, have serious mental illness, and the conditions of solitary confinement can exacerbate their symptoms or provoke recurrence. Prison rules for isolated prisoners, however, greatly restrict the nature and quantity of mental health services that they can receive. In this article, we [Jeffrey L. Metzner and Jamie Fellner] describe the use of isolation (called segregation by prison officials) to confine prisoners with serious mental illness, the psychological consequences of such confinement, and the response of U.S. courts and human rights experts. We then address the challenges and human rights responsibilities of physicians confronting this prison practice. We conclude by urging professional organizations to adopt formal positions against the prolonged isolation of prisoners with serious mental illness.”
Solitary Confinement and Risk of Self-Harm Among Jail Inmates, 104 Am. J. of Pub. Health 442 (2014)
“Results: In 1303 (0.05%) of these incarcerations, 2182 acts of self-harm were committed, (103 potentially fatal and 7 fatal). Although only 7.3% of admissions included any solitary confinement, 53.3% of acts of self-harm and 45.0% of acts of potentially fatal self-harm occurred within this group. After we controlled for gender, age, race/ethnicity, serious mental illness, and length of stay, we found self-harm to be associated significantly with being in solitary confinement at least once, serious mental illness, being aged 18 years or younger, and being Latino or White, regardless of gender. Conclusions: These self-harm predictors are consistent with our clinical impressions as jail health service managers. Because of this concern, the New York City jail system has modified its practices to direct inmates with mental illness who violate jail rules to more clinical settings and eliminate solitary confinement for those with serious mental illness.”
Solitary Confinement and Supermax Prisons: A Human Rights and Ethical Analysis, 11 J. Forensic Psychol. & Prac. 151 (2011)
“This article examines how the prolonged solitary confinement and additional deprivations in supermax prisons measure up against legal protections afforded to those deprived of their liberty. It suggests that if the prohibition against cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment were to be taken at face value, supermax confinement would meet the definition of what constitutes such treatment, and urges the courts to re-examine their position regarding supermax confinement. It also suggests that health professionals are well placed, and ethically bound, to play a more active part in efforts to curtail the use of prolonged solitary confinement in all places of detention.”
Solitary Confinement: Can the Courts Get Inmates Out of the Hole?, 11 Stan. J. C.R. & C.L. 331 (2015)
“In the last several years, solitary confinement has leapt to the attention of lawmakers, prisoner rights advocates, and the media. Disturbing accounts of inmates who have been in solitary confinement for ten, twenty, even thirty years in California prisons have begun to emerge and demand the public’s attention. With the judicial, legislative, and executive branches all beleaguered by cases, bills, reforms, and proposals for amending the State’s solitary confinement practices, California stands on the precipice of a major reform movement. But the type of reform that California should aspire to achieve is not that often produced by the courts. Historically, in cases challenging solitary confinement practices, the courts have tailored their remedies narrowly to address the specific injury that violates the plaintiffs’ constitutional rights. Rather than slowly chipping away at problematic solitary confinement practices through endless litigation in the courts, structural reform should be pursued primarily through the legislative and executive branches of government. By learning lessons from other states such as Maine, New York, and Colorado that have successfully reformed their solitary confinement practices, California can become a leader in the humane and fair treatment of its prison population.”
Special Volume on Human Rights and Solitary Confinement, 4:1 Can. J. Hum. Rts. (2015)
Ending the Isolation: An Introduction to the Special Volume on Human Rights and Solitary Confinement, 4:1 Can. J. Hum. Rts. vii (2015): “Prisoners and their advocates in Canada and around the world have been calling attention to the harms and impact of solitary confinement for some time. What is significant about the current moment is that these calls seem to be achieving some traction, even as the use of solitary confinement grows across jurisdictions. This short piece introduces a special volume of the Canadian Journal of Human Rights which collects the writing of advocates and scholars from a range of disciplines (criminology, law, philosophy) who bring a variety of perspectives and methodologies to bear on the opaque correctional systems that hold human beings in isolation for prolonged periods of time. The work in this special volume examines experiences of solitary and prisoner resistance to it. Attending to points of continuity, as well as specificity of this practice across jurisdictions, contributors discuss and critique the persistence of solitary confinement in the face of reform efforts. In considering the potential for change through litigation, law reform, social movements, and acts of resistance, they envision a future without solitary confinement.”
Symposium: Life in the Box: Youth in Solitary Confinement, Cardozo J.L. & Gender (2014)
Keynote Address: Five Mualimmak, 20 Cardozo J.L. & Gender 719 (2014)
“Mr. Mualimmak spent 2,054 days in solitary confinement in Rikers Island. Listen to Mr. Mualimmak give a firsthand account of his time in solitary and discuss the physical, psychological and emotional impacts solitary had on him.” Panel 1: Growing Up in Solitary 2014, 20 Cardozo J.L. & Gender 662 (2014) “This panel will provide the facts and justifications for placing youth in solitary confinement in New York’s prisons. The speakers will examine the psychological, physical and developmental effects of extreme isolation on youth; identify groups that are disproportionately represented in solitary; and discuss the potential for reform in New York.” Panel 2: Juveniles in Solitary Confinement: Rehabilitation or Torture?, 20 Cardozo J.L. & Gender 689 (2014) “The second panel will explore the uses of solitary confinement and the potential human rights violations associated with this practice. Panelists will discuss the international law and human rights violations, as well as consider testimony that has been presented before the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Inter American–Commission on Human Rights and the U.S. Senate on the topic of solitary confinement in the U.S.”
Torture and Ill-Treatment in Health Care Settings: Lessons from the United Nations, 20 J.L. & Med. 712 (2013)
“A recent report submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, raises a number of issues related to health care practice across all countries. The report analyses the nexus between the prevention of torture, the right to health, and the framework of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Particular attention is paid to involuntary detention for medical conditions, reproductive rights violations, denial of pain treatment, the involuntary treatment of persons with psychosocial disabilities, and marginalised groups. Overall, the report seeks to highlight how certain types of mistreatment in the health care context might be addressed through a torture and ill-treatment framework when these violations can be seen to extend beyond the scope of the right to health. This column summarises some of the findings of the report and considers certain issues raised following its submission to the Human Rights Council.”
Toward a More Constitutional Approach to Solitary Confinement: The Case for Reform, 52 Harv. J. on Legis. 1 (2015)
“The past forty years have brought significant growth in the use of segregation in penal settings. Prison officials maintain that segregation is an effective tool to manage dangerous or vulnerable prisoners, but research has demonstrated that it is being utilized more and more as a commonplace disciplinary tool, deployed and withdrawn at the discretion of prison and jail management. Researchers have demonstrated that there are very real human and fiscal costs related to the segregation of prisoners in isolated settings. The Supreme Court has yet to conclude that the use of solitary confinement for prolonged periods is unconstitutional, but evidence suggests that under certain conditions prisoners may experience such extreme anguish and injury so as to pose a serious inquiry as to whether cruel and unusual punishment has taken place. Policymakers need to act to promote more uniform standards for solitary confinement that more closely comply with the U.S. Constitution. Congress will have a role in promoting reforms to the use of segregation practices in the federal prison system, administered by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Prisons. A comprehensive, top down approach is likely unworkable due to federalism implications, but the federal government is uniquely positioned to work with stakeholders in the states to reform practices in local prison systems.”
Toward a Standard of Meaningful Review: Examining the Actual Protections Afforded to Prisoners in Long-Term Solitary Confinement, 163 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1159 (2015)
“This Comment considers the actual procedural due process protections afforded to prisoners placed in segregated housing for nondisciplinary reasons. Part I examines the procedural protections afforded to inmates generally and prisoners placed in administrative segregation in particular. In addition, Part I explores the doctrinal limitations on due process challenges relating to administrative segregation. Part II chronicles recent developments in inmate litigation, in which litigants have alleged due process violations despite these limitations. Part II also evaluates the state of the doctrine through an analysis of recent litigation strategies, highlighting Ashker v. Brown as a model. Finally, Part III recommends changes to the Court’s approach to administrative segregation due process challenges.”
Unlocking the Courthouse Door: Removing the Barrier of the PLRA’s Physical Injury Requirement to Permit Meaningful Judicial Oversight of Abuses in Supermax Prisons and Isolation Units, 24 Fed. Sent’g Rep. 268 (2012)
“In recent years the number of inmates held in isolation in American prisons has increased dramatically. At the same serious abuses have occurred in these isolation units. These abuses, which include subjecting inmates to degrading, humiliating and unnecessary suffering, often do not cause physical injury. Even though constitutional rights are violated by these acts, federal courts have often failed to provide relief to victims of these abuses. The reason is that the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) deprives federal courts of the ability to provide relief from degrading and even torturous behavior if there is not physical injury. This article calls for the repeal or reform of the physical injury requirement of the PLRA so that the ability of federal courts to provide meaningful remedies for violations of the United States Constitution can be restored.”
What (Precisely) Is Wrong With Prolonged Solitary Confinement?, 64 Syracuse L. Rev. 297 (2014)
“In one form or another, solitary confinement is a well-established feature of the American penal justice system. Several rationales have been offered for our continuing recourse, in one context or another, and to one degree of severity or another, to even prolonged solitary confinement. The focus of this Article, however, will be neither on the rationales for prolonged criminal solitary confinement, nor on whether or when solitary confinement practices can be constitutionally or morally justified, all things considered. Instead, the focus herein will be on some important and very basic prima facie reasons not to impose prolonged solitary confinement. And even here, the focus will be selective rather than comprehensive. The main thesis is that, ultimately, the most important possible costs of prolonged solitary confinement are not obvious and require some degree of analysis. Briefly and more specifically put, the possible dignitary costs of prolonged solitary confinement might, in some cases, weigh more heavily against prolonged solitary confinement than even the best documented psychological harms of that confinement. The case against prolonged solitary confinement should, therefore, not be based crucially on mental suffering or any kind of basically subjective or psychological harm.”
What to Do With the Survivors? Coping With the Long-Term Effects of Isolated Confinement, 35 (8) Crim. Just. & Behav. 1005 (2008)
“As a growing number of individuals suffering from serious mental illness are consigned to prison and selectively relegated to long-term isolated confinement, there is a newly expanded subpopulation of prisoners approaching their release from prison while exhibiting signs of mental illness and repeatedly violating rules. An attribution error and various forms of obfuscation divert attention from a cycle of longer stints in isolation and more rule-breaking behavior, until the time arrives to release the “disturbed/disruptive” prisoner. Since this subpopulation of prisoners is deemed dangerous, there is a crisis in the criminal justice system. There are attempts to solve the crisis by convicting the prisoner of additional crimes to extend prison tenure or by activating post incarceration civil commitment to a psychiatric hospital. These trends are examined, and the question is raised whether they address the core problems in the criminal justice system that result in more prisoners nearing their release dates essentially out of control behaviorally.”
Administrative Segregation, Degrees of Isolation, and Incarceration: A National Overview of State and Federal Correctional Policies (Liman Public Interest Program at Yale Law School 2013)
“This report provides an overview of state and federal policies related to long-term isolation of inmates, a practice common in the United States and one that has drawn attention in recent years from many sectors. All jurisdictions in the United States provide for some form of separation of inmates from the general population. Prison administrators see the ability to separate inmates as central to protecting the safety of both inmates and staff. Yet many correctional systems are reviewing their use of segregated confinement; as controversy surrounds this form of control, its duration, and its effects.”
Alone and Afraid: Children Held in Solitary Confinement and Isolation in Juvenile Detention and Correctional Facilities (ACLU 2013)
“The solitary confinement of children is child abuse, plain and simple. And still, on any given day in this country, juvenile justice facilities routinely subject the 70,000 kids in their care to solitary confinement. Solitary can cause extreme psychological, physical, and developmental harm. For adults, the effects can be persistent mental health problems, or worse, suicide. And for children, who are still developing and more vulnerable to irreparable harm, the risks of solitary are magnified – particularly for kids with disabilities or histories of trauma and abuse. This toolkit provides advocates with comprehensive resources to end the solitary confinement of kids.”
Boxed In: The True Cost of Extreme Isolation in New York’s Prisons (NYCLU 2012)
“Section I, The Box, provides an introduction to extreme isolation, explains why the NYCLU undertook its investigation of extreme isolation in New York prisons and describes the report’s methodology. Section II, Building the Box, recounts New York’s history with extreme isolation and the factors that drove and enabled its modern resurgence. Section III, Box Hits, describes DOCCS’ process for placing prisoners in extreme isolation and provides a demographic and statistical overview of who serves time in extreme isolation, for what reasons, and for how long. Section IV, Life in the Box, provides first-hand accounts of prisoners, corrections staff and family members regarding their respective experiences living, working and supporting loved ones in extreme isolation. Section V, Thinking Outside the Box, outlines the NYCLU’s findings, discusses recent reforms in other states, describes an emerging consensus among international human rights bodies and legal scholars critiquing extreme isolation and advocates for evidence based practices that would end the use of extreme isolation in New York prisons.”
Buried Alive: Solitary Confinement in Arizona’s Prisons and Jails (AFSC 2010)
“Published as part of AFSC’s [American Friends Service Committee] campaign to end long-term solitary confinement, this report is the culmination of an extensive research project examining three diverse correctional institutions in Arizona: the Arizona Department of Corrections, the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, and the Maricopa County Fourth Avenue Jail. This report summarizes our findings and offers a series of recommendations for improvements in these systems.”
Buried Alive: Solitary Confinement in Arizona’s Prisons and Jails (AFSC 2007)
“StopMax is a national campaign spearheaded by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) that seeks to end the use of long-term solitary confinement in prisons and jails. This report represents the launch of the StopMax Arizona campaign. It is the culmination of an extensive research project examining three diverse correctional institutions in the state: the Arizona Department of Corrections, the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections, and the Maricopa County Fourth Avenue Jail. This report summarizes our findings and offers a series of recommendations for improvements in these systems. This report is the first of its kind in Arizona. To our knowledge, these units have never been extensively catalogued or investigated. The findings are deeply troubling. Arizona has chosen to employ long-term isolation not only for sentenced adult felons but also for juveniles under 18 years of age and for persons detained in jail prior to being found guilty of the criminal charges pending against them. The implications of these practices are far reaching and potentially damaging to Arizona families and communities.”
Buried Alive: Solitary Confinement in the U.S. Detention System (Physicians for Human Rts 2013)
“Solitary confinement is a generic term used to describe a form of segregation or isolation in which people are held in total or near-total isolation. People in solitary confinement are generally held in small cells for 23 hours a day and rarely have contact with other people. Solitary confinement has historically been used to control and discipline detainees in a variety of settings, including federal and state prisons, local jails, and immigration and national security detention facilities. Unlike incarcerated prisoners, immigration and national security detainees are held not as punishment for a crime but as a preventive measure. Indeed, it is unlikely that these detainees will ever be charged with a crime.
For these people, solitary confinement then becomes entirely punitive, with dire consequences for their mental and physical health. Immigration and national security detainees are particularly likely to be held in isolation for prolonged periods because their precarious legal status makes them less able to challenge their conditions of confinement, including placement in isolation.
A review of the medical literature on solitary confinement provides convincing evidence that isolation has severe psychological and physical effects. These effects are exacerbated if the person has previously been subject to torture and abuse, as is often the case with many immigration and national security detainees.
Even relatively short periods in solitary confinement can cause severe and lasting physiological and psychological harm. Moreover, in many cases, the resulting harm rises to the level of torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, in violation of domestic and international law. The unequivocal position of Physicians for Human Rights is that solitary confinement should not be used at all in immigration and national security detention.”
Change Is Possible: A Case Study of Solitary Confinement Reform in Maine (ACLU 2013)
“Solitary confinement destroys lives. Over the past four decades, prisons across the country have increasingly relied on solitary confinement—isolating prisoners in small poorly-lit cells for 23-24 hours per day—as a disciplinary tool for prisoners who are difficult to manage in the general population. But research has shown that these conditions cause serious mental deterioration and illness. When these prisoners are eventually released from solitary confinement, they have difficulties integrating into the general prison population into life on the outside. Because of this, human rights advocates across the country are engaged in a campaign to reduce the use of solitary confinement and to improve conditions in solitary units and facilities. Maine has been one of the success stories of this effort. This report documents those efforts in hopes of inspiring other prison reform advocates with Maine’s example.
Confronting Confinement: A Report the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons (Vera Institute of Justice 2006)
“Part I, Chapter 3. Limit Segregation: Separating dangerous or vulnerable individuals from the general prison population is a necessary part of running a safe correctional facility. In some systems around the country, however, the drive for safety, coupled with public demand for tough punishment, has had perverse effects: Prisoners who should be housed at safe distances from particular individuals or groups of prisoners end up locked in their cells 23 hours a day, every day, with little opportunity to engage in programming to prepare them for release. People who pose no real threat to anyone and also the mentally ill are languishing for months or years in high-security units and supermax prisons. And in some places, the environment in segregation is so severe that people end up completely isolated, living in what can only be described as torturous conditions. There is also troubling evidence that the distress of living and working in this environment actually causes violence between staff and prisoners (see “Diminishing Returns in Safety,” p. 54). . . . The overreliance on and inappropriate use of segregation hurts individual prisoners and officers. But the consequences are broader than that: The misuse of segregation works against the process of rehabilitating people and threatens public safety. Both the problems and their consequences trouble experts like Fred Cohen as well as many corrections administrators. Based on their views and experiences, this chapter presents the Commission’s recommendations for placing greater limits on the use of segregation in America’s prisons and jails.”
Dangerous Overuse of Solitary Confinement in the United States (ACLU 2014)
“Over the last two decades, corrections systems have increasingly relied on solitary confinement, even building entire “supermax” prisons, where prisoners are held in extreme isolation, often for years or even decades. Although supermax prisons were rare in the United States before the 1990s, today forty four states and the federal government have supermax units or facilities, housing at least 25,000 people nationwide. But this figure does not reflect the total number of prisoners held in solitary confinement in the United States on any given day. Using data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, researchers estimated in 2011 that over 80,000 prisoners are held in “restricted housing,” including administrative segregation, disciplinary segregation and protective custody—all forms of housing involving substantial social isolation. The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), the largest prison system in the United States, reported in 2011 that it held about 7% of its population in solitary confinement.
This massive increase in the use of solitary confinement has led many to question whether it is an effective or humane use of public resources. Legal and medical professionals criticize solitary confinement and supermax prisons as unconstitutional and inhumane, pointing to the well-known harms associated with placing people in isolation and the rejection of its use in American prisons decades earlier. . . .
Other critics point to the expense of solitary confinement. Supermax prisons typically cost two or three times more to build and operate than even traditional maximum-security prisons. Yet there is little evidence to suggest that solitary confinement makes prisons safer. Indeed, research suggests that supermax prisons actually have a negative effect on public safety. Despite these concerns, states and the federal government continue to invest taxpayer dollars in constructing supermax prisons and enforcing solitary confinement conditions. As new fiscal realities force state and federal cuts to essential public services like health and education, it is time to ask whether we should continue to use solitary confinement despite its high fiscal and human costs.”
Death Before Dying: Solitary Confinement on Death Row (ACLU 2013)
“For many, a death sentence means a double punishment. People on death row can spend decades locked alone in a tiny, cement room before they are ever strapped to an execution gurney. We know that the death penalty system is broken. Racial bias, junk science, underfunded public defense, and other serious breakdowns in our legal system can mean that people – sometimes innocent people – will languish on death rows for years while pursuing appeals. Spending these years in extreme isolation can erode mental health to the point that some will “volunteer” to die rather than continue to live under such conditions. Many prisoners die a slow and painful psychological death before the state ever executes them. Using the results of an ACLU survey of death row conditions nationwide, this briefing paper offers the first comprehensive review of the legal and human implications of subjecting death row prisoners to solitary confinement for years.”
Edge of Endurance: Prison Conditions in California’s Security Housing Units (Amnesty International 2012)
“Amnesty International does not seek to minimize the challenges faced by prison administrators in dealing with prison gangs and individuals who are a threat to institutional security and recognizes that it may sometimes be necessary to segregate prisoners for disciplinary or security purposes. However, all measures must be consistent with states’ obligation under international law and standards to treat all prisoners humanely. In recognition of the negative effects of such treatment, international and regional human rights bodies and experts have called on states to limit their use of solitary confinement, so that it is imposed only in exceptional circumstances for as short a period as possible. As described below, Amnesty International considers that the conditions of isolation and other deprivations imposed on prisoners in California’s SHU units breach international standards on humane treatment. The cumulative effects of such conditions, particularly when imposed for prolonged or indefinite periods, and the severe environmental deprivation in Pelican Bay SHU, in particular, amounts to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, in violation of international law.”
Entombed: Isolation in the U.S. Federal Prison System (Amnesty International 2014)
“As discussed in this report, Amnesty International believes that the conditions at ADX [United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum] are unacceptably harsh and that in-cell programmes cannot compensate for the lack of meaningful social interaction which many prisoners endure for years on end. The poverty of the exercise facilities at ADX is also disturbing, particularly given the long periods in which prisoners are otherwise confined to cells. Failure to provide suitable, daily outdoor exercise falls short of the United Nations (UN) Standard Minimum Rules (SMR) for the Treatment of Prisoners. Amnesty International recognizes that the authorities have an obligation to ensure the safety of staff and inmates and that it may be necessary at times to segregate prisoners. However all measures must be consistent with the USA’s obligation to treat all prisoners humanely, without exception. . . .
This report will detail how conditions in ADX breach international standards for the humane treatment of prisoners. By doing so, it seeks to oppose any replication of the ADX regime as currently proposed by the BOP in the newly acquired Thomson facility. The prison, due to open within the next years has been designated as a maximum high security prison with ADX and SMU cells. This report will also show how in the period of time since ADX was built, conditions have become increasingly restrictive with prisoners held in more severe conditions of isolation for longer periods. As conditions have become more restrictive, so has access to the facility for human rights groups, experts and the press. In detailing how the original purpose of the prison- to provide a route out of isolation within a defined period – has eroded over the years, the organization seeks to underscore the increased need for external scrutiny including access to the facility for the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.”
Federal Bureau of Prisons: Special Housing Unit Review and Assessment (CNA Institute for Public Research 2014)
“This report provides an independent, comprehensive review of the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ operation of restrictive housing and identifies potential operational and policy improvements. Specifically, it provides a comprehensive, detailed evaluation of the Bureau’s use of restrictive housing, including the following key areas: national trends and best practices in the management of restrictive housing units; profile of the Bureau’s segregation population; Bureau policies and procedures governing the management of restrictive housing; unit operations and conditions of confinement; mental health assessment and treatment within restrictive housing units; application of inmate due-process rights; reentry programming; and the impact of the use of restrictive housing on system safety and security. The report also evaluates the impact of the restrictive housing program on the federal prison system and places the Bureau’s use of segregation in context with professional standards and best practices found in other correctional systems. The findings and recommendations contained in this report are based on the information and data collected while conducting site visits to the Bureaus restrictive housing units and facilities from November 2013 through May 2014. Any operational changes or new written policies implemented by the Bureau after completion of the site visits regarding their use of restrictive housing are not reflected in this report. Some such changes were in process or were scheduled for implementation after the completion of the site visits.”
Growing Up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States (ACLU 2012)
“Every day, in jails and prisons across the United States, young people under the age of 18 are held in solitary confinement. They spend 22 or more hours each day alone, usually in a small cell behind a solid steel door, completely isolated both physically and socially, often for days, weeks, or even months on end. Sometimes there is a window allowing natural light to enter or a view of the world outside cell walls. Sometimes it is possible to communicate by yelling to other inmates, with voices distorted, reverberating against concrete and metal. Occasionally, they get a book or bible, and if they are lucky, study materials. But inside this cramped space, few contours distinguish one hour, one day, week, or one month, from the next. A new report from the ACLU and Human Rights Watch, “Growing Up Locked Down: Youth in Solitary Confinement in Jails and Prisons Across the United States,” is based on interviews and correspondence with more than 125 young people in 19 states who spent time in solitary confinement while under age 18 as well as with jail and/or prison officials in 10 states.”
Improvements Needed in Bureau of Prisons’ Monitoring and Evaluation of Impact of Segregated Housing (GAO 2013)
“BOP confines about 7 percent of its 217,000 inmates in segregated housing units for about 23 hours a day. Inmates are held in SHUs, SMUs, and ADX. GAO was asked to review BOP’s segregated housing unit practices. This report addresses, among other things: (1) the trends in BOP’s segregated housing population, (2) the extent to which BOP centrally monitors how prisons apply segregated housing policies, and (3) the extent to which BOP assessed the impact of segregated housing on institutional safety and inmates. GAO analyzed BOP’s policies for compliance and analyzed population trends from fiscal year 2008 through February 2013. GAO visited six federal prisons selected for different segregated housing units and security levels, and reviewed 61 inmate case files and 45 monitoring reports. The results are not generalizable, but provide information on segregated housing units. GAO recommends that BOP (1) develop ADX-specific monitoring requirements; (2) develop a plan that clarifies how BOP will address documentation concerns GAO identified, through the new software program; (3) ensure that any current study to assess segregated housing also includes reviews of its impact on institutional safety; and (4) assess the impact of long-term segregation. BOP agreed with these recommendations and reported it would take actions to address them.”
Interim Report of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (U.N. Doc. A/66/268 2011)
“The Special Rapporteur draws the attention of the General Assembly to his assessment that solitary confinement is practised in a majority of States. He finds that where the physical conditions and the prison regime of solitary confinement cause severe mental and physical pain or suffering, when used as a punishment, during pre-trial detention, indefinitely, prolonged, on juveniles or persons with mental disabilities, it can amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and even torture. In addition, the use of solitary confinement increases the risk that acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment will go undetected and unchallenged. The report highlights a number of general principles to help to guide States tore-evaluate and minimize its use and, in certain cases, abolish the practice of solitary confinement. The practice should be used only in very exceptional circumstances, as a last resort, for as short a time as possible. He further emphasizes the need for minimum procedural safeguards, internal and external, to ensure that all persons deprived of their liberty are treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.” See also Report of the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (U.N. Doc. A/HRC/22/53 2013).
Invisible in Isolation: The Use of Segregation and Solitary Confinement in Immigration Detention (National Immigrant Justice Center 2012)
“Immigration detention is the fastest-growing incarceration system in the United States. While the system is not intended to be punitive, most immigration detention facilities are indistinguishable from jails: men and women are confined behind high walls lined with razor wire and have little freedom of movement or direct contact with family. Now, investigators have found that the detention centers and county jails that contract with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) often relegate immigration detainees to punitive and long-term solitary confinement without meaningful avenues for appeal. This report, the first of its kind, aims to examine the use of segregation and solitary confinement in the immigration detention system, share individual experiences, and provide concrete recommendations to eradicate the use of solitary confinement, a practice that has proven unnecessary, costly, and harmful to detainees’ physical and mental health.”
Lifetime Lockdown: How Isolation Conditions Impact Prisoner Reentry (AFSC 2012)
“This report represents the first effort to directly link conditions in Arizona’s supermax prisons with the state’s high recidivism rate. Because the statistical evidence of this link is already available, the basis of this report is qualitative research conducted by an anthropologist, Dr. Brackette F. Williams. Dr. Williams interviewed newly released individuals who had spent a significant portion of their time in prison in supermax facilities. This research demonstrates the “why” and “how” of this causal relationship, illustrating the impacts of long-term solitary confinement on actual re-entry experiences. The findings are a wake-up call to corrections officials, state leaders, and social service agencies, who are often completely unaware of the prison experiences of their clients or how to assist them in this transition. The American Friends Service Committee hopes that this research will add to the growing body of evidence that the practice of long-term solitary confinement in supermax units creates more problems than it is purported to solve and should be abolished.”
Living Death: Sentenced to Die Behind Bars for What? (ACLU 2013)
“Prisoners serving LWOP for nonviolent offenses reported being held in solitary confinement for periods ranging from a few days to 13 or 14 years at a time. In addition, they described being confined to six-by-eight-foot or six by-twelve-foot cells for months at a time due to lockdowns. Sixty-three percent of prisoners surveyed by the ACLU reported being held in solitary confinement while serving their LWOP sentences. Twenty-nine percent of the prisoners who reported being held in solitary confinement said that they have been held in isolation for longer than one year at a time. Seventy-three percent of the prisoners who had spent time in solitary confinement reported having been held in isolation for longer than one month at a time.” [p. 188]
Mental Health in the House of Corrections (Correctional Association of New York 2012)
“Because of the limited number of residential treatment programs, most inmates with mental illness are housed with general population inmates in maximum-security prisons, where mental health services are woefully insufficient. Correction officers and inmates we interviewed reported that inmates with mental illness are often isolated, stigmatized and easily victimized by other prisoners (extorted, “set up” or assaulted) in general population. Moreover, they receive little treatment beyond psychotropic medication. Equally disturbing, by the state’s own estimate, approximately one-fifth (821 inmates) of the 4,400 inmates in disciplinary lockdown system-wide are on the mental health caseload; OMH [N.Y.S. Office of Mental Health] reports that 480 of the inmates with mental illness in lockdown have been diagnosed with a major mental disorder—outside experts familiar with New York prison mental health care say this is likely a significantly underestimated figure. The prisoners are locked in a cell 23 hours a day with little natural light, minimal human contact, and few activities to occupy their time. Only on an extremely limited basis are mental health services available to them. Because New York places no limit on the amount of time a person can be sentenced to disciplinary lockdown, inmates with serious mental illness can spend years in social isolation. If their prison sentences expire while they are in lockdown, they are released directly to society.”
Report of the Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (U.N. Doc. A/HRC/22/53 2013)
“The present report focuses on certain forms of abuses in health-care settings that may cross a threshold of mistreatment that is tantamount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. It identifies the policies that promote these practices and existing protection gaps. By illustrating some of these abusive practices in health-care settings, the report sheds light on often undetected forms of abusive practices that occur under the auspices of health-care policies, and emphasizes how certain treatments run afoul of the prohibition on torture and ill-treatment. It identifies the scope of State’s obligations to regulate, control and supervise health-care practices with a view to preventing mistreatment under any pretext. The Special Rapporteur examines a number of the abusive practices commonly reported in health-care settings and describes how the torture and ill-treatment framework applies in this context. The examples of torture and ill-treatment in health settings discussed likely represent a small fraction of this global problem.” See also Interim Report of the Special Rapporteur of the Human Rights Council on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (U.N. Doc. A/66/268 2011).
Report to the New York City Board of Correction (2013)
“The New York City Board of Correction (BOC) requested that we [James Gilligan and Bandy Lee] assess whether the City is in compliance with several sections of the Mental Health Minimum Standards, and, if not, in what respects. We also were asked what would need to change in order to bring the City into compliance.”
Solitary Confinement as Torture (UNC Sch. of L. Immigration/Human Rights Clinic 2014)
“The Immigration/Human Rights Policy Clinic (I/HRP) (now the Human Rights Policy Seminar) at the University of North Carolina School of Law is committed to exposing violations of the basic human rights of both citizens and visitors of this state and nation. This policy report seeks to contribute to a growing national advocacy movement that has identified solitary confinement as cruel, inhuman, and degrading form of punishment that is—or at the very least approximates—torture and a severe form of human rights violation and seeks to bring about the end of its use.”
Solitary Confinement in New York State (NYSBA 2013)
“Resolved, that the New York State Bar Association hereby approves the report and recommendations of the Committee on Civil Rights. Further Resolved, that the New York State Bar Association calls upon all governmental officials charged with the operation of prisons and jails throughout New York State to profoundly restrict the use of long-term solitary confinement, by adopting clear and objective standards to ensure that prisoners are separated from the general prison population only in very limited and very legitimate circumstances and only for the briefest period and under the least restrictive conditions practicable. Further Resolved, that the New York State Bar Association calls upon such officials to adopt stringent criteria, protocols and safeguards for separating violent or vulnerable prisoners, including clear and objective standards to ensure that prisoners are placed in solitary confinement only in limited and legitimate circumstances for the briefest period and under the least restrictive conditions practicable; and auditing the current population in extreme isolation to identify people who should not be in the Special Housing Unit, transitioning them back to the general prison population, and reducing the number of Special Housing Unit beds accordingly. Further Resolved, that the New York State Bar Association urges that the imposition of long-term solitary confinement on persons in custody beyond 15 days be proscribed. Further Resolved, that the New York State Bar Association calls upon the State Legislature to hold public hearings to inquire into the harmful effects of long-term solitary confinement and to solicit both professional and academic commentary on the matter and comments from persons who have been placed in long-term solitary confinement, and to otherwise conduct these hearings in a manner that will best inform lawmakers and the public at large regarding the effects of long-term isolation and to adopt appropriate legislation to address the use of solitary confinement in New York facilities. Further Resolved, that the officers of the Association are hereby empowered to take such other and further action as may be required to implement this resolution.”
Solitary Confinement: Common Misconceptions and Emerging Safe Alternatives (Vera Institute of Justice 2015)
“This report shines a bright light on the use/abuse of solitary confinement and pushes us to recognize the critical connection between what happens to people inside penal institutions and the success of their return to community. It is my sincere hope that it fosters both debate and change, which balance respect for human dignity and safety and security concerns, as these are not—nor need not be viewed as—mutually exclusive. Humane and effective management of our nation’s prisons and jails requires nothing less.”
State Reforms to Limit Use of Solitary Confinement (ACLU 2013)
“Over the past few decades, the United States has seen a massive increase in the use of solitary confinement, most noticeably in the building of entire “supermax” prisons designed to hold prisoners in isolation. This practice, in which prisoners are placed alone in cells for 22-24 hours per day with little or no human interaction or outside stimulus, can cause negative psychological reactions in all prisoners subjected to it, and is known to be especially devastating for mentally ill prisoners who are disproportionately represented in solitary confinement. Many prisoners are confined in solitary for months, years, and even decades. Solitary confinement is also extremely costly, and studies have shown that it neither deters violent behavior in prisons nor prevents recidivism. The devastating human impacts of solitary confinement, scarcity of public dollars, and concerns for public safety demand that we take a second look at the practice of solitary confinement and explore more effective, humane, and less expensive alternatives.”
Still Buried Alive: Arizona Prisoner Testimonies on Isolation in Maximum Security (AFSC 2014)
“AFSC’s Arizona office has released a critical follow-up report to Buried Alive (2007) and Lifetime Lockdown (2012) on solitary confinement in Arizona prisons. This new report, Still Buried Alive: Arizona Prisoner Testimonies on Isolation in Maximum Security (2014), highlights the voices of maximum-security prisoners and catalogues their testimonies describing those experiences. It was released on the same day that the Arizona Department of Corrections (ADC) opened 500 newly constructed maximum-security prison beds in ASPC Lewis in Buckeye, Arizona. No one knows what life is like in solitary confinement better than those men and women who have endured years in isolation conditions. And as ADC Director Ryan and Gov. Jan Brewer have decided to double down on their commitment to long-term prisoner isolation with these 500 new max beds, AFSC decided to ask the men and women who have already been in similar conditions what they thought. Still Buried Alive is the product of their poignant and powerful answers. Forty-one prisoners responded to AFSC’s call for testimony, with a combined total of more than 367 years in solitary confinement. Their responses are poignant as they are chilling, and offer a clear roadmap toward decreased in-cell time for maximum-security prisoners. ADC Director Ryan and Gov. Brewer need to heed their call.”
Supermax Confinement in U.S. Prisons (NYCBA Comm. Internat’l Human Rts 2011)
“This Report first describes supermax confinement in the United States, then surveys the surprisingly limited role of courts in reviewing that practice and concludes with a number of recommendations that suggest the outlines of the reforms we believe are needed. These reforms should encompass not just the administration of supermax confinement in state and federal prisons, but also the legal framework within which this practice is reviewed by courts.”
Supermax Prisons: Overview and General Considerations (NIC 1999)
“Units and programs for the management of dangerous and disruptive inmates have been a source of controversy in the field of corrections for many years. Although correctional approaches such as concentration, dispersal, and isolation are not new, the development of “supermax” prisons is a relatively recent trend. More than 30 states are operating one or more units or facilities created specifically for their corrections systems’ most threatening inmates. This document discusses issues that are germane to planning and operating supermax units. The author has more than 30 years of correctional experience, including planning and operating high security prisons, and has served as director of two state departments of corrections. We hope the document will contribute to the development of some common definitions where there is now broad divergence, enhance understanding of the myriad issues related to the management of violent and disruptive inmates, and provide benchmarks by which corrections systems may examine their need for specialized prisons or units for high-risk inmates.”
Three Adolescents with Mental Illness in Punitive Segregation at Rikers Island (City of NY Board of Correction 2013)
“This report describes the life and jail experience of three mentally ill adolescents who were each sentenced to more than 200 days in punitive segregation at Rikers Island. Mentally ill adolescents in punitive segregation unit merit special attention because they are the most vulnerable people in custody.”
Time-in-Cell: The Liman-ASCA 2014 National Survey of Administrative Segregation in Prison (Liman Public Interest Program at Yale Law School and Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) 2015)
“The core goal of this Report is to understand, through survey responses from the directors of prison systems around the United States, the number of people held in restricted housing, the “usual pattern” for individuals in administrative segregation in terms of the conditions and duration of confinement, and how that pattern can be changed. By way of introduction, we outline the forms of restrictive housing, summarize the criteria used in different jurisdictions for placement in administrative segregation, and sketch the current critiques of expansive reliance on restricted confinement of individuals.”
USA: The Edge of Endurance: Prison Conditions in California’s Security Housing Units (Amnesty International 2012)
“Amnesty International’s report focuses mainly on conditions in the SHUs [Security Housing Unit] at Pelican Bay and Corcoran, the two facilities which house most of the state’s SHU population which is overwhelmingly male. Fifty-eight women were housed in the Valley State Prison SHU at the time of Amnesty International’s visit. However, the unit has since closed and female SHU prisoners transferred to the California Institution to Women. Only a few women in California are serving indeterminate SHU terms for alleged gang associations; most are reportedly serving fixed terms for disciplinary infractions. Apart from some specific gender-based issues relating to the role of male staff and privacy in women’s security housing, its recommendations on conditions apply to all SHU prisoners.”
Use of Prolonged Solitary Confinement in United States Prisons, Jails, and Detention Centers (Center for Constitutional Rights 2014)
“Shadow Report Submission to the Committee on the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment: This report is submitted by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC), and California Prison Focus (CPF). Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization that is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. LSPC organizes communities impacted by the criminal justice system and advocates to release incarcerated people, to restore human and civil rights, and to reunify families and communities through legal support, trainings, advocacy, public education, grassroots mobilization and developing community partnerships. CPF works to abolish the California prison system in its present condition. We investigate and expose human rights abuses with the goal of ending long term isolation, medical neglect, and all forms of discrimination. CCR, LSPC, and CPF are currently litigating Ashker et al. v. Governor of California et al., 09‐cv‐5796 (N.D. Cal.) (Wilken, J.), a federal class action lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of prolonged solitary confinement at California’s Pelican Bay Security Housing Unit (SHU). In Ashker, we represent hundreds of prisoners who have been held in solitary confinement for a decade or more, and who have been placed into indefinite SHU confinement as a result of their validation as so-called gang members or associates.”
Voices from the Box Solitary Confinement at Rikers Island (Bronx Defenders 2014)
“The Bronx Defenders Solitary Confinement Project was launched in the summer of 2013 to document the experiences of Bronx Defenders clients currently or formerly held in solitary confinement and to develop strategies for effective advocacy on their behalf.”
Worse Than Second-Class: Solitary Confinement of Women in the United States (ACLU 2014)
“More than 200,000 women are locked in jails and prisons in the United States. These prisoners are routinely subjected to solitary confinement, spending at least 22 hours a day without human interaction for days, weeks, or months at a time. And yet, the solitary confinement of women is often overlooked.”
After 20 Hours in Solitary, Colorado’s Prisons Chief Wins Praise, NY Times, Mar. 16, 2015, at A16
“The cells where inmates are kept in solitary confinement at the state penitentiary here are 7-by-13-foot boxes arranged in semicircular tiers. When the warden, Travis Trani, heard that Rick Raemisch, Colorado’s new chief of corrections, intended to spend a night in one of them, he had two reactions. “I thought he was crazy,” Mr. Trani recalled. “But I also admired him for wanting to have the experience.””
All NYC Inmates Ages 18 to 21 to Be Housed in Single Jail , Associated Press, Sept. 4, 2015
“The new young adult housing plan, to be detailed publicly before the jail oversight board Tuesday, was born in part out of a series of mandated reforms by city jail watchdogs and federal prosecutors, who this summer reached a settlement agreement with corrections officials after suing over pervasive violence in the jails. That deal, combined with a change in state law, requires, among other things, separating 18-year-old inmates from 16- and 17-year-olds. [Correction Commissioner Joseph] Ponte said he included inmates ages 19 to 21 in the housing plan because neuroscientists say that the brain isn’t fully formed until age 25, and that subjecting young adult inmates to 23-hour isolation to punish bad behavior is harmful. About 50 young adult inmates are now in solitary confinement, down from 162 when Ponte was appointed last spring, officials said.”
American Gulag: Descending into Madness at Supermax, The Atlantic, June 18, 2012
“This is the first in a three-part series about the new class-action lawsuit filed Monday against the Bureau of Prison and the officials who run ADX-Florence, the so-called “Supermax” facility that houses some of the nation’s most dangerous criminals. The second part will focus on the plaintiffs named in the lawsuit. The third part will focus upon some of the many legal issues involved in the litigation.” See also An American Gulag: A Continuing Series on the Nation’s Prisons, The Atlantic, June, 20, 2012.
America’s “Most Isolated Man” Sues the Bureau of Prisons, Solitary Watch, Jan. 22, 2010
“Tommy Silverstein has spent 26 years in federal supermax prisons under a “no human contact” order. Now, with the help of students at the University of Denver’s law school, he is one of a handful of prisoners who are challenging long-term solitary confinement on Constitutional grounds.” See Federal Appeals Court Considers Tommy Silverstein’s 30 Years in Extreme Solitary Confinement, Solitary Watch, Sept. 25, 2013; Federal Judge Rules 28 Years in Solitary Confinement Not “Extreme,” Dismisses Silverstein Case, Solitary Watch, Oct. 6, 2011; America’s Most Isolated Federal Prisoner Describes 10,220 Days in Extreme Solitary Confinement, Solitary Watch, May 5, 2011. See generally Fortresses of Solitude (Part 1): The Alcatraz of the Rockies and Fortresses of Solitude (Part 2): Showdown at the Colorado State Penitentiary (Solitary Watch).
Assembly Bill Would Reform Solitary Confinement Rules, Legis. Gazette, June 22, 2015
“As of today, there are an estimated 4,000 prisoners living in solitary confinement in New York state prisons, according to Think Outside the Box, a coalition of prisoners, families, advocates and attorneys that lobbies against the practice. These inmates are kept in a 6-by-8-foot cell, around the size of a king size bed, for up to 23 hours a day, the group says. Last week, the Assembly passed legislation (A.1346-a [A.1346/S.5900]) that would reform New York’s solitary confinement laws by implementing recommendations made by the United Nations Committee Against Torture in a November 2014 report.”
Audit of Solitary Confinement in Federal Prisons: An Inside Job Reaches Foregone Conclusions, Solitary Watch, Mar. 2, 2015
“A long-awaited audit of the use of solitary and other forms of isolated confinement in the federal Bureau of Prison (BOP) recommends minor reforms while affirming the overall legitimacy and efficacy of a system that holds more than 10,000 people in extreme isolation. At 242 pages in length, the Federal Bureau of Prisons: Special Housing Unit Review and Assessment provides a wealth of detail (though relatively little quantitative data), and a number of obvious, highly circumscribed findings. It notes inadequacies in mental health care and “reentry preparedness” for people in isolated confinement, and criticizes the BOP for some inefficiencies and inconsistencies in its policies and practices. But as an overall critique of solitary in the federal system, it is vastly inferior to an earlier report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which found that the BOP did not know whether its use of “segregated housing” had any impact on prison safety, how it affected the individuals who endure it, or how much it all cost American taxpayers. ”
Brief Argues Against Mandatory Solitary on Death Row, Nat’l L.J., Aug. 12, 2015
“Sixteen former corrections leaders from across the country are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to use a Virginia case to end the automatic assignment of death row inmates to solitary confinement. In an amicus brief in Prieto v. Clarke, the officials, who ran prison systems in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia and other states, tell the justices, “There is no penological justification for imposing extreme isolation across the board on a population of inmates based only on their sentence, because the sentence is not predictive of how an inmate will behave in prison.” Virginia law requires the automatic isolation of death row prisoners. A divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit ruled in Mar. that death row inmate Alfredo Prieto had no due-process liberty interest in avoiding his mandatory assignment to solitary confinement.” See Prieto v. Clarke, 780 F.3d 245 (4th Cir. 2015), cert. den. as moot, Prieto v. Clarke, 2015 U.S. LEXIS 6388 (U.S. Oct. 13, 2015).
British Supreme Court Rules Against Unlawful Use of Prolonged Solitary Confinement, Solitary Watch, July 31, 2005
“Britain’s highest court has ruled that putting individuals in solitary confinement for an extended period of time without external review is unlawful. The appellants Kamel Bourgass and Tanvir Hussain were both wrongfully held in solitary for more than six months because the process lacked oversight, the UK Supreme Court ruled. “The decisions to continue the segregation of the two appellants were taken without lawful authority, and … their segregation beyond the initial 72 hours was therefore unlawful,” the court said in the unanimous ruling.” See Bourgass & Anor, R (on the application of) v. Secretary of State for Justice, (Rev 2)  UKSC 54 (29 July 2015).
California Agrees to Overhaul Use of Solitary Confinement, NY Times, Sept. 2, 2015, at A14
“California has agreed to an overhaul of the use of solitary confinement in its prisons, including strict limits on the prolonged isolation of inmates, as part of a landmark legal settlement filed in federal court on Tuesday. The settlement is expected to sharply reduce the number of inmates held in the state’s isolation units, where nearly 3,000 inmates are often kept alone for more than 22 hours a day in cells that sometimes have no windows, and cap the length of time prisoners can spend there. Prison reform advocates say they hope the settlement will serve as a model for other states.”
City Plans New Approach to Disciplining Mentally Ill Inmates, NY Times, May 13, 2013, at A18
“New York City will soon change the way mentally ill inmates are disciplined after breaking rules while in jail, creating alternatives to the more traditional approach of solitary confinement used for most inmates. Instead, the city Correction Department will transfer severely mentally ill inmates to an internal clinic where psychiatrists will administer treatment and medicine, and the less seriously mentally ill will go to counseling programs designed to help them change their future behavior. Inmates will not be released back into the regular jail setting until they complete treatment.”
Colorado Prison ‘A High-Tech Version of Hell’, Boston Globe, Apr. 26, 2015
“What distinguishes the ADX, as it’s known, from other federal prisons is that it was designed for solitary confinement. Many of the more than 400 prisoners are required to spend 23 hours a day alone in their 7-by-12-foot concrete cells, where they receive all their meals on trays slid through small holes in the steel doors, see limited natural light from a sliver of a window, and are permitted little contact with anyone other than guards and staff. When prisoners are allowed out of their cells, they are escorted by multiple guards and are required to wear leg irons, handcuffs, and belly chains. Their recreation hour is usually spent in a small outdoor cage, which is surrounded by high gray walls with a view of the sky etched by barbed wire. “The ADX is a far more stark environment than any other prison I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to all of the federal prisons,” said Robert Hood, who served as warden of the ADX between 2002 and 2005. “When I call it a clean version of hell, I mean that it’s squeaky clean and quiet, because everyone there is locked down. It’s a very abnormal environment.””
Colorado’s Prison Director Spent 20 Hours in Solitary—But That’s Not Enough, The Atlantic, Feb. 24, 2014
“Rick Raemisch, the new-ish director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, sure gives good sound, as we say in the electronic news business. Not only did he voluntarily spend a night in solitary confinement in one of his prisons last month but he then wrote an op-ed about his experience that appeared Thursday in The New York Times, a piece that highlighted his concerns about the use of solitary in a way that surely catapults him to national status as a different sort of prison reformer—an insider with both a mandate and a conscience. Raemisch lasted 20 hours in a cell—a “blink,” he candidly called it. If it were my call, every single corrections chief in every single state would have to spend not a single day but a week, or a month, in solitary confinement, without knowing when the confinement would end, to better understand what it does to a person’s heart and mind and soul and body. Only then would this odious and unconstitutional practice be swept away for good from our nation’s prisons. Read this piece, “The Science of Solitary Confinement,” published this week by the Smithsonian Magazine, and tell me otherwise.”
Colorado Proposes Bill Limiting the Use of Solitary Confinement for Mentally Ill, Pace Criminal Justice Blog, June 12, 2014
“Colorado isn’t the first state revising this long-established and controversial practice of placing inmates in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time. In 2013, Massachusetts introduced a Bill S.1133, An Act Relative to the Appropriate Use of Solitary Confinement, requiring that the decision to place an inmate in segregation be reviewed within 15 days of such placement and at 90 day intervals thereafter and that an inmate shall receive a written notice, a hearing at which inmate has the opportunity to dispute such placement, and a final written decision on the matter. In California, Senator L. Lee introduced SB Bill 970 that would limit the use of solitary confinement on minors at state and county juvenile correctional facilities.”
Critics of Solitary Confinement Are Buoyed as Obama Embraces Their Cause, NY Times, July 22, 2015, at A16
“An estimated 75,000 state and federal prisoners are held in solitary confinement in the United States, and for the first time in generations, leaders are rethinking the practice. President Obama last week ordered a Justice Department review of solitary confinement while Congress and more than a dozen states consider limits on it. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, in a Supreme Court ruling last month, all but invited a constitutional challenge. ”
Definitive Case for Ending Solitary Confinement, Slate, Feb. 26, 2014
“Clearly, spending weeks, months, or longer in solitary confinement causes psychological harm to the prisoners who must endure it. But at this point, the experiences of several states demonstrate much more: Solitary confinement is bad for everybody—taxpayers, communities, and corrections staff. Solitary increases the likelihood that a former prisoner, after release, will wind up back in prison. It is extremely expensive, costing as much as two or three times more to hold a prisoner in solitary confinement than in even a traditional maximum-security setting. And it exposes corrections systems to time-consuming and burdensome lawsuits. The commonplace reliance on solitary for prison discipline is a failed experiment, and it’s time for it to end.”
Doing “Bing Time”: Memories of a Mental Health Worker in Rikers Island’s Solitary Confinement Unit, Solitary Watch, Feb. 28, 2014
“The following post is a chapter from an unpublished book by Mary Buser, who worked in various capacities in the mental health system on Rikers Island. In Buser’s own words: “I worked in the Rikers Mental Health Department as a psychiatric social worker for five and a half years, leaving Rikers in 2000. I started off as a student intern in the island’s sole women’s jail…[and] returned to Rikers to work in a maximum security men’s jail…[then] was promoted to assistant chief of Mental Health in another jail, where I supervised treatment to the island’s most severely mentally ill inmates. From there, I was transferred to my fourth and final jail, which was connected to the “Central Punitive Segregation Unit,” aka, the Bing. Here, I supervised a mental health team in treating inmates held in solitary confinement–determining whether or not someone warranted a temporary reprieve based on the likelihood of a completed suicide. Although I had become disillusioned with the criminal justice system, the Bing was my Rikers undoing. The final section of my manuscript is focused on my daily trips to the Bing, the inmates who occupied these cells, and my struggle to justify doing this work.” Names have been changed to protect the privacy of the individuals involved in the episodes Buser describes.
As jails have come to replace psychiatric hospitals as repositories for people with mental illness, Rikers become one of the nation’s largest inpatient mental health centers (second only to the L.A. County Jail). A disproportionate number of these psychiatrically disabled individuals end up in solitary confinement, doing “Bing time” for rule infractions precipitated by their illness. Buser’s account of her time overseeing treatment in “the Bing” is of particular interest now, when years of activism by the Jails Action Coalition and two scathing reports commissioned by the New York City Board of Correction have finally spurred efforts to reduce the use of solitary and improve mental health treatment on Rikers. These efforts have thus far yielded at best mixed results. [James Ridgeway]”
Eight Principles for Reforming Solitary Confinement, American Prospect, Fall 2015
“Since 2010, efforts to reform solitary confinement have made headway in almost half the states. Federal class-action lawsuits have led to changes in ten states, and additional legislative and policy measures in 14 others. Some measures have been halting and piecemeal, others more thoroughgoing. In California, to take one example of a significant reform, Federal Judge Thelton Henderson banned the state from housing inmates with serious mental illness at the state supermax at Pelican Bay. Placing these inmates in solitary confinement, Henderson wrote, is “the mental equivalent of putting an asthmatic in a place with little air to breathe.” Eight reform principles are emerging from these efforts. These principles would limit who is subject to solitary and for how long, make the conditions of confinement more humane, and provide necessary oversight of the practice.”
Falling Behind: The Human Rights Implications of Solitary Confinement in the United States, ACLU News, Dec. 18, 2012
“Last week, the world celebrated International Human Rights Day, marking the 64th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The U.S. was a leader in developing the declaration, but has fallen behind in translating it into domestic laws and policies. This is especially true in the areas of racial discrimination, criminal justice, and economic justice. For example, when it comes to the punishment of criminals and the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty, the U.S. is an outlier, continuing to use practices that have become increasingly rare as the world moves towards compliance with human-rights norms. Last Monday, the ACLU highlighted some of these criminal justice-related violations in a submission to the U.N. Human Rights Committee, which next year will examine a United States compliance report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a key human rights treaty the United States ratified in 1992.”
Federal Judge Approves California Plan to Reduce Isolation of Mentally Ill Inmates, NY Times, Aug. 30, 2014, at A11
“Corrections officials in California will make significant changes in the use of solitary confinement for mentally ill prisoners, revising decades-old policies that have kept thousands of inmates who have psychiatric disorders in isolation. The revised policies, filed in Federal District Court on Friday by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, were drafted in response to an order issued by Judge Lawrence K. Karlton last April. When put in place, they should greatly reduce the number of mentally ill prisoners held in so-called Security Housing Units, where prisoners remain in their cells for 23 or more hours a day, and in several other types of isolation units throughout the state. The policies also provide for improvements in mental health treatment and suicide prevention.”
For a Few Minutes, New Yorkers Feel a Prisoner’s Pain on the Street, Fusion, Oct. 26, 2015
“Five Mualimm-ak knows firsthand the damage that solitary confinement can do to someone’s psyche. He spent over a decade in prison, five of those years in solitary. “You’re in this cell, just losing your mind,” he says. Now an activist, Mualimm-ak has made it his mission to bring awareness to the effects that punitive isolation can have on the human brain. He decided to show the public what it’s like to be in solitary by building a replica of a cell in front of New York City’s federal courthouse. Until recently, there were virtually no limits in New York on the use of solitary confinement on prisoners. But revulsion at its psychological and criminal effects has led officials in many states to seek boundaries on its use, particularly on impressionable minors, as detailed in Fusion’s investigative documentary, Prison Kids.”
Fortresses of Solitude: Even More Rare: Journalist Access to Prison Isolation Units, Colum. J. Rev., Mar. 1, 2013
“After three years of reporting on solitary confinement for Solitary Watch, a website I [James Ridgeway] co-founded, I’m convinced that much of what happens in these places constitutes torture. How is it possible that a human-rights crisis of this magnitude can carry on year after year, with impunity? I believe part of the answer has to do with how effectively the nature of these sites have been hidden from the press and, by extension, the public. With few exceptions, solitary confinement cells have been kept firmly off-limits to journalists—with the approval of the federal courts, who defer to corrections officials’ purported need to maintain “safety and security.” If the First Amendment ever manages to make it past the prison gates at all, it is stopped short at the door to the isolation unit.”
George Will: The Torture of Solitary Confinement, Washington Post, Feb. 20, 2013
“”Zero Dark Thirty,” a nominee for Sunday’s Oscar for Best Picture, reignited debate about whether the waterboarding of terrorism suspects was torture. This practice, which ended in 2003, was used on only three suspects. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of American prison inmates are kept in protracted solitary confinement that arguably constitutes torture and probably violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishments.” Noting that half of all prison suicides are committed by prisoners held in isolation, Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) has prompted an independent assessment of solitary confinement in federal prisons. State prisons are equally vulnerable to Eighth Amendment challenges concerning whether inmates are subjected to “substantial risk of serious harm.””
Hellhole: The United States Holds Tens of Thousands of Inmates in Long-Term Solitary Confinement. Is This Torture?, The New Yorker, Mar. 30, 2009, at 36
“Prolonged isolation was used sparingly, if at all, by most American prisons for almost a century. Our first supermax—our first institution specifically designed for mass solitary confinement—was not established until 1983, in Marion, Illinois. In 1995, a federal court reviewing California’s first supermax admitted that the conditions “hover on the edge of what is humanly tolerable for those with normal resilience.” But it did not rule them to be unconstitutionally cruel or unusual, except in cases of mental illness. The prison’s supermax conditions, the court stated, did not pose “a sufficiently high risk to all inmates of incurring a serious mental illness.” In other words, there could be no legal objection to its routine use, given that the isolation didn’t make everyone crazy. The ruling seemed to fit the public mood. By the end of the nineteen-nineties, some sixty supermax institutions had opened across the country. And new solitary-confinement units were established within nearly all of our ordinary maximum-security prisons.”
How Extreme Isolation Warps the Mind, BBC, May 14, 2014
“We all want to be alone from time to time, to escape the demands of our colleagues or the hassle of crowds. But not alone alone. For most people, prolonged social isolation is all bad, particularly mentally. We know this not only from reports by people like [Sarah] Shourd who have experienced it first-hand, but also from psychological experiments on the effects of isolation and sensory deprivation, some of which had to be called off due to the extreme and bizarre reactions of those involved. Why does the mind unravel so spectacularly when we’re truly on our own, and is there any way to stop it?”
How Solitary Confinement Became Hardwired in U.S. Prisons [Part I], NPR, Aug. 23, 2015
“Some inmates have been confined in solitary for 20, 30, even 40 years at a time. The practice is now such a standard disciplinary tool in the U.S. that even nonviolent inmates are often placed in isolation for months or years at a time. . . . In all, a dozen states are looking to reform the way they use solitary confinement. But here’s a sign of how hard it might be to shift away from long-term isolation in American prisons: As President Obama condemned the use solitary confinement last month, his administration is finishing construction of a new $200 million Supermax correctional facility in Illinois. Its hundreds of isolation cells are expected to begin holding inmates next year.” See Amid Backlash Against Isolating Inmates, New Mexico Moves Toward Change [Part II], NPR, Aug. 24, 2015; New York Begins to Question Solitary Confinement as Default [Part III], NPR, Aug. 25, 2015.
Immigrants Held in Solitary Cells, Often for Weeks, NY Times, Mar. 24, 2013, at A1
“On any given day, about 300 immigrants are held in solitary confinement at the 50 largest detention facilities that make up the sprawling patchwork of holding centers nationwide overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, according to new federal data. Nearly half are isolated for 15 days or more, the point at which psychiatric experts say they are at risk for severe mental harm, with about 35 detainees kept for more than 75 days. While the records do not indicate why immigrants were put in solitary, an adviser who helped the immigration agency review the numbers estimated that two-thirds of the cases involved disciplinary infractions like breaking rules, talking back to guards or getting into fights. Immigrants were also regularly isolated because they were viewed as a threat to other detainees or personnel or for protective purposes when the immigrant was gay or mentally ill.”
Inmate Held 41 Years in Solitary Dies Just Days After Court Orders His Release from Prison, ABA J, Oct. 7, 2013
“An inmate held in solitary confinement for 41 years for the murder of a Louisiana prison guard has died just a few days after he was released from prison because of a federal judge’s order.”
Inmate Held in Solitary for 20 Years May Sue, 4th Circuit Rules; Kennedy Raised Issue in June, ABA J, July 6, 2015
“An inmate placed in solitary confinement for 20 years after participating in a violent prison riot is entitled to sue for a due process violation, a federal appeals court has ruled. The court revived a suit filed by Lumumba Incumma, who has been left in solitary in a South Carolina prison though he hasn’t committed a single disciplinary infraction during those 20 years. How Appealing links to a story by the Associated Press and the opinion (PDF) by the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.”
Inmate Raped by Guard, Then Placed in Solitary, Gets $606,750, NYLJ, Oct. 17, 2012, at 1
“A psychologically brittle former prison inmate who was raped by a corrections officer and then placed, ostensibly for her protection, in solitary confinement, where she was deprived of medical treatment and counseling, has been awarded $606,750 by Court of Claims Judge Philip Patti.” See Anna O. v. State, 37 Misc.3d 1209(A) (NY Ct. Cl. 2012); Anna O. v. State, 34 Misc.3d 1206(A) (NY Ct. Cl. 2011).
Inside America’s Toughest Federal Prison (‘This Place Is Not Designed for Humanity’), NY Times Mag., Mar. 29, 2015, at MM37
“For years, conditions inside the United States’ only federal supermax facility [United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX) Florence, CO] were largely a mystery. But a landmark lawsuit is finally revealing the harsh world within.”
Inside the Landmark Court Case That Will End Indefinite Solitary Confinement in California, Mother Jones, Sept. 2, 2015
“On Tuesday, 10 California inmates succeeded in stopping the decades-long use of indefinite solitary confinement in the state’s prison system. In a landmark settlement to a class-action suit they filed in 2012 [Ashker v. Governor of California], California must now institute widespread reforms—which advocates hope will be a catalyst for change across the nation. As part of the settlement, prison officials can isolate an inmate only if he or she commits a serious or violent infraction. Any perceived rule violation must be then proven in a hearing. Even those who do end up housed in the so-called Secure Housing Unit (SHU) will have different living quarters. The “high-security but nonisolation environment” will allow prisoners movement without restraints, the same amount of time away from their cells as the general prison population, access to educational and recreational programs, and physical contact with their visitors. The settlement also bars the prison from housing inmates in these units for more than 10 years and will officially put an end to indeterminate stays. Instead, there will be a two-year program that provides incremental steps with increasing privileges to return to the general population. Most inmates currently serving time in solitary are expected to qualify for removal under the settlement agreement—including all who have served more than 10 years—and they will be transitioned out over the next year.”
Irish Court Blocks Suspect’s Extradition to U.S., Citing Risk of Solitary Confinement, Solitary Watch, July 6, 2015
“An Irish court has blocked a U.S. extradition request because of the conditions of solitary confinement the accused could face if sent to the United States. Ireland’s High Court determined there was a real risk that Irish citizen Ali Charaf Damache would be incarcerated at the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum (ADX) in Florence, Colorado, and that detention conditions at the prison breach Irish constitutional protections. “The institutionalisation of solitary confinement with its routine isolation from meaningful contact and communication with staff and other inmates, for a prolonged pre-determined period of at least 18 months and continuing almost certainly for many years, amounts to a breach of the constitutional requirement to protect persons from inhuman and degrading treatment and to respect the dignity of the human being,” Justice Aileen Donnelly wrote in her judgment delivered on May 21.””
Is the American Health Profession Ignoring a Human Rights Issue Hiding in Plain Sight?, PLOS (Public Library of Science), Jan. 30, 2014
“There are 2.3 million people in U.S. prisons in conditions that are often inhumane and at worst life threatening. An estimated 80,000 of U.S. prisoners are locked up in solitary confinement, which means in a 6 ft x 9 ft cell containing little more than a bunk bed, toilet, sink, shelf, and unmovable stool. Prisoners in solitary confinement are let out in leg irons, handcuffs and belly chains for ‘exercise’ two or three times a week in dog kennel-type runs. Bathing is sporadic and the food often miserable and insufficient. One third of prisoners in solitary confinement are thought to be mentally ill and half are placed in solitary for nonviolent crimes.”
Justice Department Finds Pennsylvania State Prison’s Use of Solitary Confinement Violates Rights of Prisoners Under the Constitution and Americans with Disabilities Act, Justice News (U.S. DOJ), May 31, 2013
“Today, the Justice Department issued a findings letter detailing the results of its investigation into the use of solitary confinement on prisoners with serious mental illness at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Cresson in Cambria County, Pa. The department found that Cresson’s use of long-term and extreme forms of solitary confinement on prisoners with serious mental illness, many of whom also have intellectual disabilities, violates their rights under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).”
Kalief Browder, Held at Rikers Island for 3 Years Without Trial, Commits Suicide, NY Times, June 9, 2015, at A20
“Kalief Browder was sent to Rikers Island when he was 16 years old, accused of stealing a backpack. Though he never stood trial or was found guilty of any crime, he spent three years at the New York City jail complex, nearly two of them in solitary confinement. In October 2014, after he was written about in The New Yorker, his case became a symbol of what many saw as a broken criminal justice system. Mayor Bill de Blasio cited the article this spring when he announced an effort to clear the backlogs in state courts and reduce the inmate population at Rikers. For a while, it appeared Mr. Browder was putting his life back together: He earned a high school equivalency diploma and started community college. But he continued to struggle with life after Rikers. On Saturday, he committed suicide at his parents’ home in the Bronx.”
Lawsuit Leads to New Limits on Solitary Confinement at Juvenile Prisons in Illinois, NY Times, May 5, 2015, at A11
“A settlement to a federal lawsuit will sharply limit the practice of solitary confinement in juvenile correctional facilities run by the state of Illinois, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois announced on Monday. The settlement, which resolved a lawsuit filed by the ACLU of Illinois against the state, requires that the juvenile inmates spend at least eight hours a day outside their cells, said Adam Schwartz, a lawyer for the ACLU of Illinois. The new policy also requires that the inmates in isolation continue to receive education and mental health services.”
Let the Press In, The Marshall Project, Oct. 5, 2015
“As commissioner of corrections for the State of Maine, Joseph Ponte allowed a team from PBS Frontline to embed itself in the notorious solitary confinement ward of a maximum-security prison. The resulting 2014 documentary, six weeks of access distilled into an excruciating hour of television, is hard to watch. Inmates cut themselves with razor blades and smear blood on the walls and tiny windows of their cells. They send eddies of human waste under the steel doors. The racket of wailing misery and catatonic fury is hellish. It is an in-your-face expose of conditions unworthy of a civilized society.”
Like Being “Buried Alive”: Charles Dickens on Solitary Confinement in America’s Prisons, American Prospect, Oct. 8, 2015
“More than 170 years before Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy denounced the “human toll” of solitary confinement practices in U.S. prisons in his concurring opinion in Davis v. Ayala this June (see “Eight Principles for Reforming Solitary Confinement” in the Fall 2015 issue of the Prospect), Charles Dickens had reached the same conclusion. The system of “rigid, strict, solitary confinement” is cruel and wrong,” he wrote in American Notes, his 1842 report on his travels in America that year.”
Literal Cost of Solitary Confinement, New Republic, Sept. 2015
“The United Nations has determined that solitary confinement may amount to torture: It can destroy the mind, sometimes the spirit. And yet many jails and prisons around the country have decided that this punishment alone is not harsh enough. It’s not widely known, but inmates who are determined to have committed a disciplinary infraction are regularly subjected to fines that can range into the hundreds of dollars on top of weeks or months-long solitary sentences. Both the psychological damage caused by extreme isolation and the financial burden of the jail debt can hang over these people once they’re released, often making re-entry into society nearly impossible.”
Living Death of Solitary Confinement, NY Times, Aug. 26, 2012
“There are many ways to destroy a person, but the simplest and most devastating might be solitary confinement. Deprived of meaningful human contact, otherwise healthy prisoners often come unhinged. They experience intense anxiety, paranoia, depression, memory loss, hallucinations and other perceptual distortions. Psychiatrists call this cluster of symptoms SHU syndrome, named after the Security Housing Units of many supermax prisons. Prisoners have more direct ways of naming their experience. They call it “living death,” the “gray box,” or “living in a black hole.””
Locked in Solitary at Age 14: The Risks of Juvenile Isolation, NY Times, Aug. 16, 2015, at A1
“Putting juveniles in solitary, though, brings its own complications. Solitary confinement is increasingly being questioned — by mental health officials, criminologists and, most recently, President Obama. But experts say its effects on juveniles can be particularly damaging because their minds and bodies are still developing, putting them at greater risk of psychological harm and leading to depression and other mental health problems. In 2012, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry called for an end to the practice.”
Locked Up in America, PBS (Frontline), Apr. 22 and 29, 2014
“Solitary Nation: With unprecedented access, Frontline uncovers the raw reality of solitary confinement. Prison State: An intimate look at the cycle of mass incarceration in American and one state’s effort to reverse the trend.”
Long-Term Solitary Confinement Produces ‘Social Death,’ Psychologist Finds, ABA J, Aug. 4, 2015
“A psychologist who studied inmates held in solitary confinement for most of their adult lives says the men have undergone a “social death” as a result of the experience. The New York Times obtained reports prepared by the psychologist, Craig Haney, for a lawsuit filed on behalf of prisoners in long-term solitary at Pelican Bay State Prison in California. The prisoners Haney interviewed had spent 10 to 28 years in solitary; most were placed there because of gang affiliations.”
Look at Solitary Confinement Policies in New England, MuckRock, July 13, 2015
“For a policy that breaks the prison population down to its most straightforward unit – one – solitary confinement and its use are notoriously slippery concepts to get straightforward facts on. The seemingly most enclosed system of state control over a citizen population, and the questions of “who, why, when, and for how long” almost never have a definite, down-to-the-human number for an answer.”
Mentally Ill, and Jailed in Isolation at Rikers Island, NY Times, Nov. 20, 2013, at A23
“From the annals of Rikers Island comes a document titled, “Three Adolescents with Mental Illness in Punitive Segregation at Rikers Island.” Punitive segregation means solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. Schoolwork, if it comes, is passed through a slot in the cell door. Toothpaste is available once a day. Rikers Island exists to make the rest of New York City seem blissful; there, troublemakers, troubled people and the unlucky are hidden behind a cloak of invisibility. It is a campus of jails for people arrested and awaiting trial, or others serving sentences of less than a year. Also, it is the basket into which society drops the disruptive mentally ill. More than most jail systems, New York City has made extensive use of “punitive segregation” in recent years. Of the people put into solitary confinement, a high percentage have mental illness. On July 23, for instance, 102 of the 140 teenagers in solitary were either seriously or moderately mentally ill, according to a consultant’s report prepared for the city’s Board of Correction.”
My Night in Solitary, NY Times, Feb. 21, 2014, A25
“Most states now agree that solitary confinement is overused, and many — like New York, which just agreed to a powerful set of reforms this week — are beginning to act. When I [Rick Raemisch, Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections] was appointed, Gov. John Hickenlooper charged me with three goals: limiting or eliminating the use of solitary confinement for mentally ill inmates; addressing the needs of those who have been in solitary for long periods; and reducing the number of offenders released directly from solitary back into their communities. If I was going to accomplish these, I needed a better sense of what solitary confinement was like, and what it did to the prisoners who were housed there, sometimes for years.”
New Directive May Curtail Use of Solitary Confinement in Immigrant Detention, Solitary Watch, Sept. 9, 2013
“U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement last week issued a new “directive” that appears aimed at limiting the use of solitary confinement on individuals held in immigrant detention. The directive is being cautiously celebrated by human rights, civil liberties, and immigrants’ rights groups, who at the same time warn that a great deal will depend upon how rigorously the new policies and practices are enforced.”
New Look at Solitary, Albany Times Union, Aug. 13, 2012
“A chorus of prison watchdog groups is describing New York’s solitary confinement practices as some of the worst in the nation. Reams of testimony were submitted earlier this summer for a U.S. Senate hearing on solitary confinement, an extreme form of isolation used in prisons and jails around the country — generally the most severe disciplinary measure in American correctional institutions. Inmates remain in a cell about the size of a bathroom for 23 hours a day with little to no human contact.”
New York Promised Help for Mentally Ill Inmates – But Still Sticks Many in Solitary, Pro Publica, Aug. 15, 2013
“Multiple studies have shown that isolation can damage inmates’ minds, particularly those already struggling with mental illness. In recent years, New York state has led the way in implementing policies to protect troubled inmates from the trauma of solitary confinement.
A 2007 federal court order required New York to provide inmates with “serious” mental illness more treatment while in solitary. And a follow-up law enacted in 2011 all but bans such inmates from being put there altogether. But something odd has happened: Since protections were first added, the number of inmates diagnosed with severe mental illness has dropped. The number of inmates diagnosed with “serious” mental illness is down 33 percent since 2007, compared to a 13 percent decrease in the state’s prison population. A larger portion of inmates flagged for mental issues are now being given more modest diagnoses, such as adjustment disorders or minor mood disorders.”
NJ Solitary Confinement: Extreme Cases of Life ‘In the Box’, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange News, Mar. 9, 2014
“Simkins first encountered Troy when he was 16, in September 2009, as his counsel as part of a 3 -year grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to provide post-disposition representation for juveniles in New Jersey, where such representation had been non-existent. She referred the cases of Troy, then held in the Juvenile Medium Security Facility (JMSF) in Bordentown, NJ, and another juvenile held in solitary confinement in the state, O’Neill S., to the non-profit, Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center. The JLC, with pro bono co-counsel Dechert LLP (of Philadelphia), filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the two boys, which led to a $400,000 settlement last November.”
No Peace Outside ‘The Box’, Albany Times Union, Apr. 25, 2013
“On any given day, about 4,500 inmates are in solitary confinement in New York’s prisons, according to the state Department of Corrections and Community Services. There are currently 8,197 mentally ill inmates out of a total prison population of 54,643. Three of the 14 prisoners who committed suicide in 2012 were in solitary confinement, according to DOCCS records. Prison suicides between 2001 and 2010 rose 186 percent to the highest level in 28 years, according to the Correctional Association of New York State, a watchdog group. Prisoners in solitary are confined to cells 6 feet by 8 feet, with almost no human contact. One hour per day, in newer prisons, a caged balcony is unlocked remotely so inmates can breathe fresh air. Lights and shower are controlled remotely. Meals are pushed through a slot in a reinforced cell door. Inmates experience intense sensory deprivation in these so-called Special Housing Units, or SHUs.”
No Way Out: A Special Report on Solitary Confinement by Former Hostage Shane Bauer, Mother Jones, Nov./Dec. 2012
“Shane Bauer was one of three American hikers locked up in Iran after being apprehended on the Iraqi border in 2009. He spent 26 months in Tehran’s Evin Prison, 4 of them in solitary. Seven months after his return to California, he began investigating solitary confinement in the U.S. His research was supported by a grant from the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute.”
Obama, in Criminal Justice Speech, Denounces the “Overuse of Solitary Confinement” in U.S. Prisons, Solitary Watch, July 14, 2015
“President Barack Obama said in a speech today that he has asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to “start a review of the overuse of solitary confinement across American prisons.” He went on to challenge the practice as counterproductive as well as inhumane.”
Obama, in Oklahoma, Takes Reform Message to the Prison Cell Block, NY Times, July 17, 2015, at A1
“In visiting the El Reno prison, Mr. Obama went where no president ever had before, both literally and perhaps even figuratively, hoping to build support for a bipartisan overhaul of America’s criminal justice system. While his predecessors worked to toughen life for criminals, Mr. Obama wants to make their conditions better.” See also Watch VICE’s Historic Conversation with President Obama, Vice, Sept. 21, 2015
One of the Darkest Periods in the History of American Prisons, The Atlantic, June 9, 2013
“It has been an extraordinary three weeks in the history of the American penal system, perhaps one of the darkest periods on record. In four states, from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes, the systemic abuse and neglect of inmates, and especially mentally ill inmates, has been investigated, chronicled and disclosed in grim detail to the world by lawyers, government investigators and one federal judge. The conclusions are inescapable: In our zeal to dehumanize criminals we have allowed our prisons to become medieval places of unspeakable cruelty so far beyond constitutional norms that they are barely recognizable.”
Opposing the Architecture of Isolation: Architects Against Solitary Confinement, Solitary Watch, Apr. 15, 2013
“When I [Raphael Sperry] say that I’m an architect researching criminal justice, many people think that I want to design “better” prisons. In fact, I want architects to stop designing supermax prisons altogether. As the incoming president of the small non-profit organization Architects/Designers/Planners for Social Responsibility, I have just launched a campaign asking my mainstream professional organization, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), to amend its code of ethics to ban the design of spaces intended for execution and prolonged solitary confinement. At its root, this is a human rights campaign. The human rights community agrees that the death penalty should be ended and that prolonged solitary confinement is a form of torture. AIA’s code of ethics already calls on architects to “uphold human rights in all their professional endeavors,” and so you might think that this would be a relatively simple amendment. But this ethics code is not currently enforceable; a new 500-bed solitary isolation prison is now out for design bids in Arizona and as recently as 2010, the State of California redesigned and rebuilt their death chamber. I am hopeful that AIA will do the right thing, but know that there is a fear of challenging government and general misconceptions about the public’s view of the death penalty and harsh treatment of prisoners. Many architects will need to more fully understand the issues before things can change.”
Oregon Prison’s ‘Blue Room’ Project Named to Time Magazine’s Top 25 Inventions of 2014, Oregonian, Dec. 10, 2014
“An innovative project inside the solitary confinement wing of Oregon’s biggest prison has been named one of Time magazine’s “25 Best Inventions of 2014,” the state prison system announced Tuesday. The “Blue Room” project, which The Oregonian revealed to readers last August, offers Oregon’s most incorrigible prisoners a chance to sit alone in a room where they can watch videos of nature scenes.” See also Oregon Prison Tackles Solitary Confinement With Blue Room Experiment, Oregonian, Aug. 23, 2014.
Prisoners’ Letters Offer a Window into Lives Spent Alone in Tiny Cells, NY Times, Oct. 2, 2012, at A25
“The handwritten letters arrived by the dozens, from men who described in flawed but poignant language what it was like to lose their minds. “I feel like I am developing some kind of skitsophrinia [sic] behaviors,” one man wrote. “I hear voices echoing as I try to fall asleep.” Another said his mind “rots” with “thoughts that are uncommon or unnatural and you wonder where the hell did that come from?” They are prisoners in New York’s state prison system, and they were convicted of a range of crimes, including selling drugs and murder. The men were ordered out of the general prison population and into solitary confinement — or, in their parlance, “the box” — where they lived in tiny, elevator-size cells cut off from almost all human contact. The reasons varied: fighting, smoking, testing positive for drugs; but often prisoners are sent into isolation for more serious crimes, like stabbing other inmates, trying to escape or attacking guards. Having been held captive to their imaginations for weeks, months or, occasionally, years on end, the men — many already struggling with mental illness — brought their paranoia, rage, anxiety and hope to life on the page, with descriptions that were sometimes literary and other times nearly impossible to decipher. More than anything, they conveyed a grisly awareness that their identities were unraveling, a feeling so disconcerting for some that they tried to take their own lives. The trove of letters from more than 100 inmates to the New York Civil Liberties Union, which corresponded with the men to bolster its attempts to curtail the practice of solitary confinement, gives new insight into a closed-off world usually viewed only one person at a time.”
Prisons Rethink Isolation, Saving Money, Lives and Sanity, NY Times, Mar. 11, 2012, at A1
“The transformation of the Mississippi prison has become a focal point for a growing number of states that are rethinking the use of long-term isolation and re-evaluating how many inmates really require it, how long they should be kept there and how best to move them out. Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Ohio and Washington State have been taking steps to reduce the number of prisoners in long-term isolation; others have plans to do so. On Friday, officials in California announced a plan for policy changes that could result in fewer prisoners being sent to the state’s three super-maximum-security units.”
Reform Prison Isolation, Albany Times Union, Oct. 29, 2013
“We [Martin F. Horn is a distinguished lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and served as Commissioner of Correction for New York City and Corrections Secretary in Pennsylvania. Michael B. Mushlin is a law professor at Pace Law School, past project director of the New York City Legal Aid Society Prisoners’ Rights Project and author of “Rights of Prisoners”] are the odd couple of prison reform. One has dedicated a career to running prisons, the other to affirming prisoners’ rights. But when it comes to extreme isolation, often called solitary confinement, we agree: this inhumane practice must end. An estimated 80,000 prisoners in this country are living close to 23 hours a day alone in their cells, many deprived of meaningful stimulation. These extreme conditions cause such suffering they have been called “torture.” For the young, the mentally ill, and other vulnerable prisoners, extreme isolation is especially dangerous, often leaving permanent psychological damage.”
Reports Condemn Solitary Confinement in New York City’s Jails, as Officials Weigh Its Future, Solitary Watch, Nov. 6, 2013
“Two recent reports provide a scathing picture of how solitary confinement is employed as a routine disciplinary measure on Rikers Island and in other city jails. The reports are particularly critical of the use of extreme isolation and deprivation on individuals with psychological disabilities, including mentally ill teenagers. The two reports were prepared for the Board of Correction (BOC), which functions as the oversight agency for the New York City jail system, ensuring that all city correctional facilities comply with minimum regulations of care. In recent months, under pressure from local activists, the BOC has been reconsidering the liberal use of solitary confinement in the city’s jails, and conducting fact-finding on the subject.”
Rethinking Solitary Confinement, Washington Post, Oct. 19, 2014
“Every day, state and federal prison authorities subject tens of thousands of inmates to solitary confinement, a psychological and physical hell resulting from near-total isolation in often tiny and windowless cells. Those who go in can come out disturbed. Those who go in with preexisting mental illnesses often get worse. The result is hypertension, panic attacks, self-mutilation and suicide, not to mention extreme difficulties reintegrating into the prison population or society at large. Damon Thibodeaux, who spent 15 years alone in a Louisiana state prison before being exonerated, explained to a congressional committee this year that solitary kills “bit by bit[,] day by day.” Slowly and unevenly, however, the system is changing, or, at times, being forced to change. The latest is that Arizona’s Department of Corrections has struck a deal with the American Civil Liberties Union requiring several reforms in its solitary confinement policy, under which some 3,300 prisoners are kept in isolation. Mentally ill inmates will now be allowed at least 19 hours a week outside their cells, three of which must contain appropriate, structured activities. Prisoners without serious mental illnesses will have at least seven hours outside their cells. Inmates will also be able to earn more free time and access to more activities, such as performing a prison job. These changes come on top of enhancements to Arizona’s prison health-care system, which had an appalling record of neglecting inmates with serious conditions, mental and otherwise.”
Rikers to Ban Isolation for Inmates 21 and Younger, NY Times, Jan. 14, 2015, at A1
“New York City officials agreed on Tuesday to a plan that would eliminate the use of solitary confinement for all inmates 21 and younger, a move that would place the long-troubled Rikers Island complex at the forefront of national jail reform efforts. The policy change was a stark turnaround by the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, which recently eliminated the use of solitary confinement for 16- and 17-year-olds but, backed by the powerful correction officers union, had resisted curtailing the practice more broadly.”
Science of Solitary Confinement, Smithsonian.com, Feb. 19, 2014
“As the number of prisoners in solitary has exploded, psychologists and neuroscientists have attempted to understand the ways in which a complete lack of human contact changes us over the long term. According to a panel of scientists that recently spoke at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual meeting in Chicago, research tells us that solitary is both ineffective as a rehabilitation technique and indelibly harmful to the mental health of those detained.”
Senators Start a Review of Solitary Confinement, NY Times, June 20, 2012, at A13
“The hearing, held before the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, represents the first time lawmakers on Capitol Hill have taken up the issue of solitary confinement, a form of imprisonment that many human rights advocates believe violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment” and that has drawn increasing scrutiny in recent months in the United States and internationally.”
Solitary Confinement Is Cruel and All Too Common, N.Y Times, Sept. 3, 2015, at A30
“If mass incarceration is one of modern America’s deepest pathologies, solitary confinement is the concentrated version of it: far too many people locked up for far too long for no good reason, at no clear benefit to anyone.”
Solitary Confinement Is Cruel and Ineffective, Scientific American, July 17, 2013
“Some 80,000 people are held in solitary confinement in U.S. prisons, according to the latest available census. The practice has grown with seemingly little thought to how isolation affects a person’s psyche. But new research suggests that solitary confinement creates more violence both inside and outside prison walls.”
Solitary Confinement Is Horrible and Inhumane. Why Is It Still Legal?, Slate, Oct. 7, 2013
“Herman Wallace, who spent the majority of his adult life confined in a 6-foot-by-9-foot prison cell, died last Friday of liver cancer. Wallace and another inmate, Albert Woodfox, were charged with murdering a guard at the Louisiana State Penitentiary in 1972. (A third inmate, Robert Hillary King, was also linked to the crime.) The so-called Angola Three—”Angola” is another name for the prison—were sent to solitary confinement, where they remained for decades, and where Woodfox remains today. Even as their situation won national attention, Louisiana prison officials resisted calls to release the men into the general population. (In 2008 the warden justified their continued isolation on the grounds that Woodfox “is still trying to practice Black Pantherism, and I still would not want him walking around my prison because he would organize the young new inmates.”)” See also Woodfox v. Cain, 789 F.3d 565 (5th Cir. 2015).
Solitary Confinement: New York’s Hidden Problem, NYLJ, Sept. 5, 2012, at 6
“At a time of record and rising prison populations, New York has taken a different path, showing that crime rates and prison populations can decline simultaneously. Over the past decade, while the nation’s prison population has increased, New York’s has dropped from 67,171 to 55,918, a drop of 16.75 percent. The drop in prison population has not caused crime rates to rise. To the contrary, over the past decade, New York State’s crime rate has decreased. This impressive development is a model for the nation. However, largely overlooked in this positive assessment is the stark reality that New York prisons have one of the highest rates of solitary confinement in the United States. Today in New York almost 4,500 inmates are confined into small prison cells for up to 23 hours a day with almost no stimulation or human interaction. This is a rate of solitary confinement that is 37 percent higher than the national average. It represents a 46 percent increase in 10 years of prisoners placed in solitary confinement in New York.”
Solitary Confinement: Punished for Life, NY Times, Aug. 4, 2015, at D1
“Few social scientists question that isolation can have harmful effects. Research over the last half-century has demonstrated that it can worsen mental illness and produce symptoms even in prisoners who start out psychologically robust. But most studies have focused on laboratory volunteers or prison inmates who have been isolated for relatively short periods. Dr. Haney’s interviews offer the first systematic look at inmates isolated from normal human contact for much of their adult lives and the profound losses that such confinement appears to produce.”
Solitary Policy at Rikers Whipped into Shape, Courthouse News, Feb. 20, 2015
“Some light will shine inside Rikers Island’s darkest holes on Saturday. That’s when the New York City Department of Corrections’ new rules take effect, imposing time limits on solitary confinement and jettisoning the prison’s “owed-time” policy. Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte estimated at a press conference in December that the reforms will eliminate pending solitary confinement terms of thousands of Rikers inmates, and he banned the placement of 16- and 17-year-olds in isolation earlier this year.”
State Agrees to Deal to Move Nearly 2,000 Inmates from Solitary Confinement, Sacramento Bee, Sept. 1, 2015
“After years of legal fights and mass hunger strikes among California prison inmates, state officials and inmate advocates announced sweeping changes Tuesday aimed at curbing the use of solitary confinement for nearly 2,000 prisoners. The proposed settlement of a federal class-action lawsuit is designed to end a system in place for more than 30 years that left some inmates in solitary confinement for decades, sometimes on evidence that inmate advocates say was as minor as a tattoo or poem deemed to signal they were prison gang members.”
Stephen Slevin Accepts $15.5 Million Settlement for 2 Years in Solitary Confinement in New Mexico Jail, Huffington Post, Mar. 7, 2013
“A former inmate who suffered nearly two years in solitary confinement without a trial reached a settlement that makes him a multi-millionaire. Stephen Slevin, 59, accepted a $15 million settlement on Tuesday — one of the largest civil rights prisoner payouts in American history — for the nightmarish 22 months he spent mostly alone in a Dona Ana County, NM, jail.”
Texas Death Row Exoneree Speaks Out Against Solitary Confinement, Innocence Project News, Apr. 26, 2013
“Last June, Texas death row exoneree Anthony Graves was among several wrongfully convicted former prisoners who testified before Congress about the inhumane treatment of they suffered in solitary confinement. Graves spent 12 years on Texas’ death row for a 1992 mass murder, and was released in 2010 after all charges were dismissed. Today, he continues to speak out against the practice as the Texas Legislature considers two bills that call on the state to find better solutions to solitary confinement. In an op-ed that appeared in Thursday’s Houston Chronicle, Graves recounts his experience and calls on the state to do better. ”
There’s a Case on Solitary, If the Court Wants It., NY Times, Sept. 15, 2015
“The Supreme Court seems eager to hear a case on the constitutionality of a distinctively American form of punishment: prolonged solitary confinement. “Years on end of near total isolation exact a terrible price,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote in a concurrence in a case in June. Justice Stephen G. Breyer echoed the point in a dissent in a case later that month. An appeal from Virginia materialized almost immediately. Now the justices must weigh whether it has the right features — whether it is, in legal jargon, a good vehicle — to serve as the basis for a major decision on extended solitary confinement, which much of the world considers torture.”
Time-Lapse Video of Photographer’s 24 Hours in Isolation, Mother Jones, June 4, 2013
“The acclaimed photographer Richard Ross, whose Juvenile-in-Justice project (and photo book) chronicles the lives of children in prison, recently decided to put himself in the shoes of his young subjects by spending 24 hours in isolation. With permission from the head of an unnamed youth facility in the Midwest, he set up a camera to take a photo every seven seconds.”
Torture or Safety Mechanism?, Legis. Gazette, Apr. 27, 2015
“A decade after the U.S. Army and the CIA were accused of human rights violations for overusing solitary confinements in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, Tyrrell Muhammad — who spent approximately 2,555 days in solitary confinement in New York prisons — called on state lawmakers to end the widespread use of extreme isolation in state facilities.” [Alternatives to Long Term Solitary Confinement Act (A.4401/S.2659) and related legislation (A.1347/S.5729 and S.435 and S.436)].
Treating Humans Worse Than Animals, Democracy Now, Apr. 1, 2014
“Following the death of two prisoners at New York City’s Rikers Island facility, we look at mounting pressure on jails and prisons to reform their use of solitary confinement. A corrections officer was arrested last week and charged with violating the civil rights of Jason Echevarria, a mentally ill Rikers prisoner who died after eating a packet of detergent given to him when his cell was flooded with sewage. It was the first such arrest in more than a decade. Also last month, Jerome Murdough, a mentally ill homeless veteran, died in a Rikers solitary mental-observation unit where he was supposed to be checked on every 15 minutes. An official told the Associated Press that Murdough “baked to death” after temperatures soared in his cell. We hear from Echevarria’s father, Ramon, at a protest seeking justice for his son, and speak to former Rikers prisoner Five Mualimmak, who was held in solitary there. And we are joined by two guests from within the prison system calling for reform: Dr. James Gilligan, a psychiatrist who is helping reduce violence in prisons, and Lance Lowry, president of the Texas Correctional Employees, the union which represents Texas prison guards. Lowry is calling on the state to reduce the use of solitary confinement, including on death row. “Zookeepers are not allowed to keep zoo animals in the kind of housing that we put human beings in,” Dr. Gilligan says. “We have created the situation; it is called a self-fulfilling prophecy: We say these are animals, they are going to behave like animals, then we treat them so that they will.””
UN Committee on Torture Says U.S. Must Reform Its Use of Solitary Confinement, Solitary Watch, Dec. 5, 2014
“On November 28, the United Nations Committee Against Torture released a 15 page report reviewing the United States’ compliance with the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). The report cites the excessive use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and jails as a violation of CAT, and recommends a set of dramatic reforms.”
Watching Herman’s House: Six Reflections on Herman’s House and the Issues It Raised About Solitary Confinement in the United States, PBS, July 8, 2013
“This powerful film tells the story of Herman Wallace, who has withstood four decades in solitary confinement in Louisiana with dignity, humanity and heroism, and beautifully depicts his moving relationship with Jackie Sumell. But there is another way in which Wallace is not alone: from one end of America to the other, more than 80,000 others are currently held every day in solitary confinement, making our country the world’s leader in the use of this oppressive system.”
What Can Reforming Solitary Confinement Teach Us About Reducing Mass Incarceration?, The Marshall Project, Oct. 13, 2015
“Eliminating solitary confinement will require more than just a policy change or closing a cell block. A comprehensive approach to eliminating solitary confinement will require a cultural change touching every part of the corrections system. It must begin by reorienting corrections away from punishment and dehumanization, and toward rehabilitation and dignity. That will require extensive retraining, better compensation, and additional staffing. It will require robust oversight ensuring that corrections officers are imposing far more proportionate discipline balanced with positive reinforcement, and that they are intervening and de-escalating disputes well before long-term isolation is even a consideration.”
What Do You Do With the Worst of the Worst?, Slate, Apr. 3, 2015
“Washington state has a pathbreaking new idea for how to handle prisoners in solitary confinement: Don’t give up on them. . . . The initiative stands out for being geared toward rehabilitation, with correctional staff administering behavioral courses to groups of inmates in small classrooms instead of keeping them in lockdown 23 hours a day, as is typical in segregation units elsewhere. The classrooms, which you can see in this video, were built in three separate Washington prisons; one was converted from a lieutenant’s office, and the other two used to be food pantries. Because the inmates taking the courses are considered extremely dangerous, they are restrained at their desks with shackles but allowed enough room to move around that they can turn toward each other and participate in role-playing activities designed to teach conflict resolution and the social skills required to deal with other people peacefully. Hastings, who has observed the courses, remembers watching as inmates were asked to imagine themselves in various scenarios, like standing up for a friend who has been insulted or threatened by another inmate without resorting to violence. To date, the Washington program has resulted in an almost 50 percent drop in the number of people the state keeps in isolation: from 612 in January 2011, when the program for violent inmates started, to just 286 last month. It is premised, Warner told me, on the idea that every prisoner, even the so-called worst of the worst, deserves a chance to improve himself, instead of being left to waste away in a tiny, windowless cell with no human contact for months or even years.”
What Solitary Confinement Does to the Brain, Solitary Watch, Aug. 4, 2014
“Based on the evidence amassed by researchers in the last several decades, we have reached a point in time when we may unequivocally state that solitary confinement inflicts psychological damage and distress on those subjected to it. Even in individuals with no prior history of mental illness or instability, extended periods of isolated confinement have produced severe psychological symptoms, and left deep and often permanent psychological scars. More recently, such findings have been bolstered by the field of neuroscience, which is progressively discovering evidence that long-term isolation has the potential to actually alter the chemistry and structure of the brain.”
Wisconsin Prisons Relax Solitary Confinement Policies, The Online.com, Aug. 25, 2015
“Wisconsin prison officials have quietly relaxed solitary-confinement policies over the past year, according to a report from a nonprofit journalism training center. The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reported Sunday that documents from the state Department of Corrections show the agency no longer uses solitary confinement to punish prisoners who commit minor rule infractions and prison officials are now negotiating with inmates over sanctions for such violations. Prisoners can no longer be punished for harming themselves. Other policy revisions state that solitary confinement is to be used only for offenses that threaten life, property, staff or other inmates or threaten an institution’s security. The maximum initial term of confinement is 90 days for the most serious offenses, such as assault or taking a hostage. The DOC secretary must review all confinements of at least 120 days.”
Women in Solitary Confinement, Truthout, Jan. 18, 2015
“Most prison officials eschew the term “solitary confinement” these days. They use other names for the units in which people are isolated to their cells nearly all day. In California, it’s usually the “administrative segregation unit” or “security housing unit”; in New York state and in the federal system, it’s the Special Housing Unit (or SHU). In Logan prison, the unit is known as the “segregation wing.” Regardless of the name, women in these units spend 22 to 24 hours in their cells. They are allowed out of their cells for showers up to three times each week and for one hour of exercise and recreation per day inside a different cage outdoors. This isolation exacerbates any existing mental health problems and, even for those without preexisting conditions, can cause severe psychological and emotional trauma.”
AMERICAN LAW REPORTS
Length of Sentence as Violation of Constitutional Provisions Prohibiting Cruel and Unusual Punishment, 33 A.L.R.3d 335 (1970)
“Without attempting to exhaust the relevant cases, this comment deals with the question of when the length of a sentence violates federal and state constitutional provisions expressly prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment.”
Mandamus, under 28 U.S.C.A. sec. 1361, to Obtain Change in Prison Condition or Release of Federal Prisoner, 114 A.L.R. Fed. 225 (1993)
”In recent years, a number of federal prisoners have attempted to use the remedy of mandamus, whereby the court orders a government official to perform a clear duty to the petitioner, in order to improve their conditions of confinement, or to secure release from confinement. In C.H. v Sullivan (1989, DC Minn) 718 F Supp 726, 114 ALR Fed 743, for example, federal prisoners imprisoned under the federal witness protection program sought, but were denied, mandamus to require the termination of a practice in their penal institution of “double celling” prisoners under that program. The article that follows collects and analyzes the cases wherein the courts have decided whether, and if so, under what circumstances, a federal prisoner may use the remedy of mandamus to improve conditions of imprisonment in, or gain release from, federal correctional institutions.”
Number of Prisoners per Cell, Conditions Relating to Placement of More Than One Prisoner per Cell as Violation of Inmates’ Federal Constitutional Rights, 85 A.L.R. Fed 308 (1987)
“This annotation collects and analyzes the federal cases in which the courts have discussed or determined whether conditions resulting from the placement of more than one jail or prison inmate per cell constitutes a violation of the inmate’s federal constitutional rights. This annotation includes cases involving both pretrial detainees and those prisoners convicted of a criminal offense. Generally the constitutional rights assertedly violated are the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment guaranteed by the Eighth Amendment in the case of convicted prisoners and the right to due process of law or equal protection of the law guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments in the case of pretrial detainees (see Am. Jur. 2d, Penal and Correctional Institutions S 41.3). Although typically state prisoners’ actions are brought under the Federal Civil Rights Acts (see Am. Jur. 2d, Civil Rights SS 11-17), particularly 42 U.S.C.A. S 1983, the annotation is not limited to such cases, and also includes actions by prisoners incarcerated in penal institutions operated by the federal government and the District of Columbia.”
Prison Conditions as Amounting to Cruel and Unusual Punishment, 51 A.L.R.3d 111 (1973)
“This comment collects and analyzes illustrative decisions in which the courts have addressed themselves to the question of what particular conditions of confinement will, individually or in combination, subject prison inmates to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of either the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution or a similarly worded state constitutional or statutory provision. Statutes and regulations are dealt with herein only insofar as they are reflected in the decisions afforded treatment; for the current status thereof, the reader is advised to consult the latest statutory and regulatory compilations for the jurisdiction of his interest.” [See S 9[a] Segregated Confinement Per Se-General Rule S 9[b] Segregated Confinement Per Se-Particular Confinements; Cruel and Unusual Punishment Not Established or Sufficiently Alleged S 9[c] Segregated Confinement Per Se-Cruel and Unusual Punishment Established or Sufficiently Alleged]
Propriety and Construction of “Totality of Conditions” Analysis in Federal Court’s Consideration of Eighth Amendment Challenge to Prison Conditions, 85 A.L.R. Fed. 750 (1987)
“This annotation collects and analyzes the federal cases in which the courts have discussed or determined whether, or under what circumstances, it is proper to apply a totality of conditions or circumstances analysis in a federal court’s consideration of a challenge to the conditions of confinement in a prison, as a violation of the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment secured by the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, and the construction applicable to the totality of conditions analysis.”
Propriety of Holding Prisoner in Isolation—Federal Cases, 82 A.L.R. Fed. 2d 315 (2014)
“Inmates in prisons or jails may be placed, for administrative, punitive, or protective reasons, in some type of solitary confinement or isolation where they may have restricted access to exercise, recreation, educational and vocational opportunities, congregate religious services, and visitation. Prisoners have mounted a variety of challenges to being so confined, claiming that they have been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment, denied due process under the 14th Amendment, had their First Amendment Free Speech and Free Exercise of Religion rights improperly restricted, or have been placed in such conditions in retaliation for the exercise of their First Amendment rights. For example, in Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 82 A.L.R. Fed. 2d 689 (3d Cir. 2012), the court remanded a pretrial detainee’s challenge against prison officials who placed him in a special housing unit for 447 days in arguable retaliation for exercising his First Amendment rights. This annotation collects and analyzes a selected representation of federal court cases analyzing constitutional and other challenges made by inmates about being placed in solitary confinement.”
Propriety of Holding Prisoner in Isolation—State Cases, 96 A.L.R.6th 269 (2014)
“State courts have been called on to adjudicate suits brought by prisoners challenging the decision to place or maintain them in the prison’s segregated housing area, which has some degree of isolation from the general population of the prison. Depending on whether the placement is for disciplinary reasons or to protect the inmate, other inmates, or staff, the facilities may be referred to by terms such as administrative segregation, punitive segregation, or solitary confinement. Prisoners have occasionally succeeded in establishing that the process employed in making the determination to impose isolation was inadequate under principles of procedural due process. For example, in LaChance v. Commissioner of Correction, 463 Mass. 767, 978 N.E.2d 1199, 96 A.L.R.6th 731 (2012), ruling that under no circumstances may a prison inmate be held in segregated confinement while awaiting transfer or reclassification for longer than 90 days without a hearing, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts explained that whether the confinement occurs in an area designated as a Special Management Unit, a Disciplinary Segregation Unit, or otherwise, the prisoner has a due process right to notice of the basis for the detention, as well as a hearing at which the prisoner may contest the asserted rationale, and a posthearing written notice explaining the reviewing authority’s classification decision. This annotation collects and discusses all of the cases in which state courts have considered the legal propriety of holding a prisoner in isolated confinement.”
Relief, under Federal Civil Rights Acts, to State Prisoners Complaining of Conditions Relating to Corporal Punishment, Punitive Segregation, or Other Similar Physical Disciplinary Measures, 18 A.L.R. Fed. 7 (1974)
“This annotation collects the federal cases involving civil actions brought under the Federal Civil Rights Acts and dealing with whether and under what circumstances relief thereunder may be available to state prisoners complaining of conditions or deprivations relating to corporal punishment, punitive segregation, or other similar physical disciplinary measures, while confined. Although 42 U.S.C.A. S 1981, generally providing that all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall have certain “equal rights” with white citizens, and 42 U.S.C.A. S 1985 (primarily subsection 3), a lengthy section dealing generally with conspiracies to interfere with civil rights, have sometimes been involved in the litigation discussed in this annotation, the statutory provision most commonly involved is 42 U.S.C.A. S 1983.”
Bronx Defenders Solitary Confinement Project (Bronx Defenders)
“The Bronx Defenders Solitary Confinement Project captures the devastating stories of Bronx Defenders clients currently or formerly held in solitary confinement at Rikers Island, and also helps clients file Article 78 forms, which are used to challenge placements in solitary confinement. In September 2014, the Bronx Defenders Solitary Confinement Project released Voices from the Box: Solitary Confinement at Rikers Island, a report summarizing the experiences of 59 clients held in solitary confinement between July 2013 and August 2014. The report brings the voices of people who have experienced solitary confinement firsthand into the ongoing conversation regarding the future of Rikers.”
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse (CRLC)
“The Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse collects documents and information from civil rights cases across the United States. It is available to scholars, teachers, students, policymakers, advocates, and the public, to allow greater understanding of historical and contemporary American civil rights litigation.”
Isolated Confinement: The Facts (Correctional Association of NY 2012)
“Imagine living in a space the size of a bathroom, for months or years, without the ability to leave, go outside, or engage in any meaningful human contact or activity for 23 or 24 hours a day. Even your one hour of recreation takes place in a cage. Whether called special housing units (“SHU”), supermaxes, or the box, isolated confinement is common across the country. In New York, thousands of people struggle in isolated confinement each day, resulting in great harm to them and the communities to which they will return. ”
National Institute of Corrections (NIC)
“The National Institute of Corrections (NIC) is an agency within the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons. The Institute is headed by a Director appointed by the U.S. Attorney General. A 16-member Advisory Board, also appointed by the Attorney General, was established by the enabling legislation (Public Law 93-415) to provide policy direction to the Institute. We provide training, technical assistance, information services, and policy/program development assistance to federal, state, and local corrections agencies. We also provide leadership to influence correctional policies, practices, and operations nationwide in areas of emerging interest and concern to correctional executives and practitioners as well as public policymakers.” Their library includes reports, studies and articles on the following related topics: Administrative Segregation, Mental Health and Special Housing.
Segregation Reduction Project (Vera Institute of Justice)
“Many corrections systems isolate certain prisoners from the general prison population—a practice known as solitary confinement or segregation. Vera’s Segregation Reduction Project (SRP) works with states and local jurisdictions to decrease the number of people they hold in segregation, provides recommendations tailored to their specific circumstances and needs, and continues to assist them while they plan and implement change.”
Solitary Confinement (LLRX 2010)
“Solitary confinement is the most extreme penalty in the hierarchy of incarcerative punishment. Depending on the institution, length of detention and purpose, this “prison within prison” has been described in many ways: administrative segregation, communications management unit, control unit, disciplinary housing unit, the hole, intensive management unit, lockdown, punitive isolation, segregation, SHU (special housing unit, special handling unit, segregated housing unit, security housing unit), and Supermax (Super-Maximum Security Confinement). And these “inner prisons,” have come under constitutional scrutiny by the way of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, and procedural due process challenges to prison conditions and special status, e.g., death row or gang affiliation. The selected materials collected here represent current research and thinking about the physical, psychological and legal implications of isolation as punishment, and the policy issues behind continuing this practice in the light of national and international standards and human rights declarations. Additional bibliographic resources are noted throughout.”
Solitary Confinement (NY Times)
“News about Solitary Confinement, including commentary and archival articles published in The New York Times.”
Solitary Confinement: Resource Materials (ACLU 2013)
Bibliography linking to articles and reports in the following areas: Solitary Confinement and Supermax Prisons: General; Mental Health Effects of Extreme Isolation; Solitary Confinement of Youth; Cost Issues; Violence and Public Safety Impacts; Alternatives; Litigation Documents and Legal Analysis of Solitary Confinement; International Resources; Legislation and Policy Reform; Standards and Resolutions; Advocacy Organizations; and Videos and Films.
“Solitary Watch is a web-based project aimed at bringing the widespread use of solitary confinement out of the shadows and into the light of the public square. Our mission is to provide the public—as well as practicing attorneys, legal scholars, law enforcement and corrections officers, policymakers, educators, advocates, people in prison and their families—with the first centralized source of unfolding news, original reporting, firsthand accounts, and background research on solitary confinement in the United States.” See also Facts & Resources; Special Reports; and Voices from Solitary.
Stop Solitary – Litigation Resources (ACLU)
“Courts have consistently found that long-term isolation for the mentally ill is cruel and unusual punishment, and solitary confinement can have shattering psychological effects even for people without mental illnesses. Litigation is one of the many ways the ACLU and its allies are working to put an end to solitary confinement. Established international law can also be effectively integrated into litigation and advocacy strategies.”
StopMax (American Friends Service Committee)
“The STOPMAX Campaign, sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), works to eliminate the use of isolation and segregation in U.S. prisons. Our strategies include research, grassroots organizing, public education and policy advocacy to abolish solitary confinement or reduce its use. To lay the groundwork for the campaign, we researched the use of isolation in a cross-section of correctional facilities: state Departments of Corrections, Departments of Juvenile Corrections, and immigration detention centers. In several states, we surveyed the number of people in isolation, the conditions they are living in, how they came to be placed there, and whether and how it is possible to exit those units. The results of this research have been published two regional reports outlining our findings in Arizona and California.”
Think Outside the Box (NY Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement)
“The goal of the Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC) is sweeping reform of New York’s use of solitary confinement and other forms of extreme isolation in state prisons and local jails. Isolated confinement involves confining people in a cell for 22 to 24 hours a day without meaningful human contact, programming, or therapy. This practice is ineffective, counterproductive, unsafe, and inhumane, and it causes people detained in these conditions to deteriorate psychologically, physically, and socially. Despite these facts, New York utilizes isolated confinement at rates well above the national average.”
Timeline: Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons (NPR)
“An overview of key moments in the history of solitary confinement.”
Torture: The Use of Solitary Confinement in U.S. Prisons (Center for Constitutional Rights 2012)
“In May 2012, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a lawsuit against the state of California for its use of prolonged solitary confinement in the infamous Pelican Bay prison. Ashker, et al. v. Governor, et al., is a federal class action challenging prolonged solitary confinement and deprivation of due process, based on the rights guaranteed under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, at Pelican Bay. The case challenges inhumane, unconstitutional conditions under which thousands of prisoners live. The case argues that ten years or more of solitary confinement cannot be imposed on any prisoner, regardless of his mental health status, and that prisoners must have meaningful notice of the reason for their placement in solitary, and frequent reviews of that status. While California has implemented major changes to its process for placing and retaining prisoners in solitary confinement in response to prisoner hunger strikes and the litigation, grave rights violations remain at Pelican Bay and other prisons, and the case is set to go to trial in December 2015.”
1 See, e.g., Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209 (2005)(Description of Ohio State Penitentiary (OSP) supermax facility: “In the OSP almost every aspect of an inmate’s life is controlled and monitored. Inmates must remain in their cells, which measure 7 by 14 feet, for 23 hours per day. A light remains on in the cell at all times, though it is sometimes dimmed, and an inmate who attempts to shield the light to sleep is subject to further discipline. During the one hour per day that an inmate may leave his cell, access is limited to one of two indoor recreation cells. Incarceration at OSP is synonymous with extreme isolation. In contrast to any other Ohio prison, including any segregation unit, OSP cells have solid metal doors with metal strips along their sides and bottoms which prevent conversation or communication with other inmates. All meals are taken alone in the inmate’s cell instead of in a common eating area. Opportunities for visitation are rare and in all events are conducted through glass walls. It is fair to say OSP inmates are deprived of almost any environmental or sensory stimuli and of almost all human contact.” Id. at 214); Jones ‘El v. Berge, 164 F.Supp.2d 1096 (W.D. Wis. 2001)(“Inmates on Level One at the State of Wisconsin’s Supermax Correctional Institution in Boscobel, Wisconsin spend all but four hours a week confined to a cell. The “boxcar” style door on the cell is solid except for a shutter and a trap door that opens into the dead space of a vestibule through which a guard may transfer items to the inmate without interacting with him. The cells are illuminated 24 hours a day. Inmates receive no outdoor exercise. Their personal possessions are severely restricted: one religious text, one box of legal materials and 25 personal letters. They are permitted no clocks, radios, watches, cassette players or televisions. The temperature fluctuates wildly, reaching extremely high and low temperatures depending on the season. A video camera rather than a human eye monitors the inmate’s movements. Visits other than with lawyers are conducted through video screens.” Id. at 1098); David Abel, Colorado Prison ‘A High-Tech Version of Hell’, Boston Globe, Apr. 26, 2015 (“What distinguishes the ADX [United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum], as it’s known, from other federal prisons is that it was designed for solitary confinement. Many of the more than 400 prisoners are required to spend 23 hours a day alone in their 7-by-12-foot concrete cells, where they receive all their meals on trays slid through small holes in the steel doors, see limited natural light from a sliver of a window, and are permitted little contact with anyone other than guards and staff. When prisoners are allowed out of their cells, they are escorted by multiple guards and are required to wear leg irons, handcuffs, and belly chains. Their recreation hour is usually spent in a small outdoor cage, which is surrounded by high gray walls with a view of the sky etched by barbed wire.”).
2 Solitary connotes intense prolonged isolation contrasted with temporary “separation.” See Boxed In: True Cost of Extreme Isolation in New York’s Prisons (NYCLU 2012)(“The purpose of extreme isolation is the absolute deprivation of meaningful human interaction and mental stimulation. Extreme isolation results in forced idleness and the complete cessation of education and rehabilitation. Like extreme isolation, prisoner separation, long an accepted corrections practice, removes violent or vulnerable prisoners from the general prison population. But unlike extreme isolation, separation aims to preserve, as much as possible, the social interaction, education and rehabilitation that maintains prisoners’ psychological and physical well-being and supports a productive return to society.” Id. at 1 (emphasis added)).
3 See Jones ‘El v. Berge, 164 F.Supp.2d 1096 (W.D. Wis. 2001) (“Confinement in a supermaximum security prison such as Supermax is known to cause severe psychiatric morbidity, disability, suffering and mortality. Prisoners in segregated housing units who have no history of serious mental illness and who are not prone to psychiatric decompensation (breakdown) often develop a constellation of symptoms known as “SHU [Segregated Housing Unit] Syndrome.” Although SHU Syndrome is not an officially recognized diagnostic category, it is made up of official diagnoses such as paranoid delusional disorder, dissociative disorder, schizophrenia and panic disorder. The extremely isolating conditions in supermaximum confinement cause SHU Syndrome in relatively healthy prisoners who have histories of serious mental illness, as well as prisoners who have never suffered a breakdown in the past but are prone to break down when the stress and trauma become exceptionally severe. Many prisoners are not capable of maintaining their sanity in such an extreme and stressful environment; a high number attempt suicide.” Id. at 1101-1102). See also Terry A. Kupers, The SHU Syndrome and Community Mental Health, 12 AACP Newsletter, No. 3 (Summer 1998) (“Psychiatrist Stuart Grassian coined the term ‘SHU Syndrome.’ He examined a large number of prisoners during their stay in segregated, solitary confinement units and concluded that these units, like the sensory deprivation environments that were studied in the Sixties, tend to induce psychosis.”).
4 See generally Expert Report of Craig Haney, Ph.D., J.D. in Ashker v. Brown, No. 09-cv-05796 (N.D. Cal. Mar. 12, 2015)(N.B. Settlement Agreement in Ashker v. Brown, No. 09-cv-05796 (N.D. Cal. Aug. 31, 2015); and Sam Stanton, State Agrees to Deal to Move Nearly 2,000 Inmates from Solitary Confinement, Sacramento Bee, Sept. 1, 2015).
5 See generally Solitary Confinement (Wikipedia last modified Nov. 11, 2015)(“Solitary confinement is colloquially referred to in American English as “the hotbox”, “the hole”, “lockdown”, “punk city”, “SCU” (Solitary Confinement Unit), “AdSeg” (Administrative Segregation), the “SHU” (pronounced “shoe”) – an acronym for “special housing unit” or “security housing unit”, or “the pound”; in British English as “the block” or “the cooler”; and in Canada it is known as the Special Handling Unit.” (footnotes omitted)); Time-In-Cell: The ASCA-Liman 2014 National Survey of Administrative Segregation in Prison (Liman Public Interest Program at Yale Law School and Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) 2015), at 1; Laura Rovner, Dignity and the Eighth Amendment: A New Approach to Challenging Solitary Confinement, Issue Brief (Amer. Const. Soc’y), Sept. 2015, at 2; Debra L. Parkes, Ending the Isolation: An Introduction to the Special Volume on Human Rights and Solitary Confinement, 4 Can. J. Hum. Rts. vii, vii (2015); Elizabeth Bennion, Banning the Bing: Why Extreme Solitary Confinement Is Cruel and Far Too Usual Punishment, 90 Ind. L.J. 741, 746 (2014); Solitary Confinement as Torture (UNC Sch. of L. Immigration/Human Rights Clinic 2014) (see Definitions sect. at 5-7); Administrative Segregation, Degrees of Isolation, and Incarceration: A National Overview of State and Federal Correctional Policies (Liman Public Interest Program at Yale Law School 2013) at 1, 3; Improvements Needed in Bureau of Prisons’ Monitoring and Evaluation of Impact of Segregated Housing (GAO 2013); Lisa Guenther, The Living Death of Solitary Confinement, NY Times, Aug. 26, 2012; Ken Strutin, Solitary Confinement, LLRX, Aug. 10, 2010; William C. Collins, Supermax Prisons and the Constitution: Liability Concerns in the Extended Control Unit (NIC 2004). These terms are distinguished from “keeplock” in the inmate’s own cell for brief periods. See Lockdown New York: Disciplinary Confinement in New York State Prisons (Correctional Association of N.Y. 2003) (“Keeplock. Inmates on keeplock are either confined to their cells or housed in a separate cellblock in the prison. While keeplock is considered the least restrictive form of disciplinary housing because inmates are permitted more personal property and the stays tend to be shorter, keeplock is still governed by the same Department directive (4933) that applies to inmates in Special Housing Units.” Id. at 10. (emphasis added)). Lastly, solitary units can be double-celled, exist as special units within a general prison or as an independent institution such as a supermax or maximum-security facility. See generally Debra T. Landis, Conditions Relating to Placement of More Than One Prisoner Per Cell as Violation of Inmates’ Federal Constitutional Rights, 85 A.L.R. Fed. 308 (1987).
6 See Allen J. Beck, Use of Restrictive Housing in U.S. Prisons and Jails, 2011–12 (BJS 2015) (“Inmates may be held in restrictive housing for their protection or for the safety of other inmates. They may be held while awaiting classification or reclassification, while awaiting transfer to another facility or unit within a facility, or while awaiting a hearing or as a sanction for violating a facility rule. Inmates may also be separated from the general population to provide for their special needs (e.g., medical or mental health) or to ensure the safety, security, and orderly operation of the facility. Whether it is disciplinary segregation, administrative segregation (largely nonpunitive in nature), or solitary confinement (involving isolation and relatively little out-of-cell time), restrictive housing typically involves limited interaction with other inmates, limited programming opportunities, and reduced privileges. However, the use of restrictive housing varies widely in terms of duration and conditions of confinement.” Id. at 2 “While these differences [apropos of serious psychological distress] may reflect a variety of factors related to the use of segregation by correctional authorities, including sanctions imposed for violations of facility rules, they may also reflect the need to provide protective custody (for nonpunitive reasons) and placement in administrative segregation (while assessing treatment needs and appropriate classification). Moreover, time in restrictive housing—especially longer periods of time—may trigger symptoms of SPD [serious psychological distress].” Id. at 7).
7 See Rovner, supra note 5, at 10 (“The overwhelming and ever-growing body of psychological and medical evidence documents what we know intuitively—that human beings need social interaction and meaningful activity, and they suffer without it. Indeed, this borders on common sense; it is why solitary confinement is a regular feature of torture regimes. Additionally, neuroscience research has increasingly demonstrated that the harmful effects of solitary confinement appear not only in the reports of those who are forced to endure it, but also in brain imagery and testing, which reveal that changes can occur in the brain after even (comparatively) brief periods of solitary confinement. In short, “we now know that prolonged social deprivation has the capacity to literally change who we are, physically as well as mentally.”” Id. (footnotes omitted) (emphasis added)). See also John Caher, Inmate Raped by Guard, Then Placed in Solitary, Gets $606,750, NYLJ, Oct. 17, 2012 (discussing Anna O. v. State of New York, 37 Misc. 3d 1209(A) (N.Y. Ct. Claims 2012) (“Essentially, Claimant was treated like a SHU inmate who had committed a disciplinary infraction, not a rape victim.” Id.)); Wilkerson v. Stadler, 639 F.Supp.2d 654, 681-682 (M.D. La. 2007)(“Although the defendants have produced conclusory statements that they consider the plaintiffs to present a threat to the safety of the institution, taking the plaintiffs’ evidence as true and resolving all inferences in plaintiffs’ favor for purposes of the pending motion, not only have the defendants failed to meet their burden, but the court finds that the plaintiffs have introduced evidence sufficient to allow a reasonable finder of fact to find that the defendant prison officials have been deliberately indifferent to the health and safety of the plaintiffs in continuing to impose the condition of extended confinement in lockdown. It will be for the jury to make the necessary credibility determinations.” Id. at 682); State v. Rettenberger, 984 P.2d 1009 (Utah Sup. Ct. 1999) (“Another important consideration is whether the defendant was subjected to extended periods of incommunicado interrogation. Cf. Mabe, 864 P.2d at 894. In the present case, Rettenberger’s interrogations took place over a two-day period. The first interrogation lasted between one and a half to two hours. Rettenberger was then placed in solitary confinement where he spent approximately 22 hours with neither pillow nor blanket. The next day he was interrogated a second time. Although the State concedes some “troubling conduct” occurred in the first interview, it argues that the two interrogations should be viewed as separate events and that any illegality in the first interview was cured by the subsequent period of isolation. We cannot agree. It is true that the passage of time can, in some circumstances, “dissipate any lingering effects of police coercion.” Mabe, 864 P.2d at 894. In this case, however, it is not appropriate to view Rettenberger’s time in solitary confinement as curative. In this case, however, the evidence indicates that the isolation exacerbated Rettenberger’s disposition. At the suppression hearing, Dr. Gregory testified that the period of solitary confinement would have caused Rettenberger to have “increased vulnerability” and “anxiety,” compromising “his ability to make decisions.” Furthermore, the character and content of the second interrogation related directly to the first. Where there exists a “causal relationship” between two interviews, it is not appropriate to view them in isolation. See id. In this case, we conclude that the two interrogations and the period of isolation “all were simply parts of one continuous process.” Leyra v. Denno, 347 U.S. 556, 561, 98 L. Ed. 948, 74 S. Ct. 716 (1954).” Id. at 1018-1019).
8 See Rovner, supra note 5, at 10 n. 55 (collecting neuroscience studies on the effects of isolation on the human brain).
9 See, e.g., Ayyad v. Holder, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 115084 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 19, 2014) (“For example, Exhibits 2 and 4 (ECF Nos. 381-1 and 381-3) are referenced by Ayyad as examples that prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement or isolation has become a matter of concern for professional and human rights organizations — a perhaps nonremarkable fact of which the Court could take judicial notice. Ayyad asserts they are offered only for the proposition that a reasonable factfinder could conclude similarly in this case, depending upon the specific evidence that would be presented at a trial. Cf. Blair v. City of Pomona, 223 F.3d 1074, 1081 (9th Cir. 2000) (taking judicial notice of an independent investigation of the Los Angeles Police Department as illustrative of concerns nationwide regarding “codes of silence” impeding investigations within police departments); Winder v. Erste, 905 F.Supp.2d 19, 38 n. 8 (D.D.C. 2012) (taking judicial notice, as a “matter of a general public nature,” of a newspaper article illustrating that matters subject to a whistleblower complaint were already publicly known). Similarly, Ayyad asserts that Exhibit 3 (ECF No. 381-2) is only referenced to present a durational benchmark for terms of solitary confinement endorsed by the United Nations Special Rapporteur — a fact also readily subject to judicial notice whether or not one agrees with the benchmark.” Id. at 6-7 (emphasis added)). See also Cortes v. Luther, 1984 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16866 (N.D. Ill. May 8, 1984) (“We could almost take judicial notice of the serious psychological and physical harm which can result from more than ten months of what is essentially “solitary confinement.” See Boudin v. Thomas, 533 F.Supp. 786, 791 (S.D.N.Y.), appeal dismissed, 697 F.2d 288 (2d Cir. 1982); Brown v. Neagle, 486 F.Supp. 364, 367 (S.D. W.Va. 1979). We need not do so, however, since Plaintiffs have presented evidence of the deleterious effects of their confinement (Affidavit of Edwin Cortes, Plaintiffs’ Exhibit A; Affidavit of Alberto Rodriguez, Plaintiffs’ Exhibit B), and a medical basis for their position (Transcript of testimony of Marvin Schwarz, M.D., Plaintiffs’ Exhibit E, at 13-17, 27).” Id. at 6). See generally Rovner, supra note 5, at 10 (“[N]euroscience research has increasingly demonstrated that the harmful effects of solitary confinement appear not only in the reports of those who are forced to endure it, but also in brain imagery and testing, which reveal that changes can occur in the brain after even (comparatively) brief periods of solitary confinement.” Id. (footnote omitted)).
10 Rovner, supra note 5, at 12-15. See also Brown v. Plata, 131 S.Ct. 1910 (2011) (“As a consequence of their own actions, prisoners may be deprived of rights that are fundamental to liberty. Yet the law and the Constitution demand recognition of certain other rights. Prisoners retain the essence of human dignity inherent in all persons. Respect for that dignity animates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. “‘The basic concept underlying the Eighth Amendment is nothing less than the dignity of man.'” Atkins v. Virginia, 536 U.S. 304, 311, 122 S.Ct. 2242, 153 L.Ed.2d 335 (2002) (quoting Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 100, 78 S.Ct. 590, 2 L.Ed.2d 630 (1958) (plurality opinion)).” Id. at 1928).
11 Id. at 16-18 (discussing claim in Ashker v. Brown’s that “basic human needs” included: “normal human contact, environmental and sensory stimulation, mental and physical health, physical exercise, sleep, nutrition, and meaningful activity” Id. at 16). The Eighth Amendment views prison conditions in two ways: (1) objectively in terms of basic human needs or substantial risk of harm; and (2) subjectively through deliberate indifference in the context of a judicial philosophy of deference to penological interests. Id. at 5, 7
12 See Allen J. Beck, Use of Restrictive Housing in U.S. Prisons and Jails, 2011–12 (BJS 2015) (“The use of restrictive housing is difficult to measure. Absent uniform definitions and information systems that classify inmates in comparable categories, estimates based on data reported by correctional officials are subject to variation and uncertainty, depending on the data collection. Nevertheless, almost every correctional system, at the federal, state, or local level, places inmates in some form of restrictive housing to separate some inmates from the general institutional population.” Id. at 2); Joseph Stromberg, The Science of Solitary Confinement, The Smithsonian, Feb. 19, 2014 (“Exact numbers are hard to come by, but based on a wide swath of censuses, it’s estimated that between 80,000 and 81,000 prisoners are in some form of solitary confinement nationwide.”). Generally speaking, statistics on the treatment of prisoners and conditions of confinement are often hard to find. See Matt Ford, The Missing Statistics of Criminal Justice, The Atlantic, May 31, 2015 (absence of numbers on conditions of confinement); Josh Voorhees, A City of Convicts, Slate, June 30, 2014 (uncounted crime behind bars).
13 135 S.Ct. at 2208-2209 (Kennedy, J. concurring: “In response to a question, respondent’s counsel advised the Court that, since being sentenced to death in 1989, Ayala has served the great majority of his more than 25 years in custody in “administrative segregation” or, as it is better known, solitary confinement. Tr. of Oral Arg. 43-44. Counsel for petitioner did not have a clear opportunity to enter the discussion, and the precise details of respondent’s conditions of confinement are not established in the record. Yet if his solitary confinement follows the usual pattern, it is likely respondent has been held for all or most of the past 20 years or more in a windowless cell no larger than a typical parking spot for 23 hours a day; and in the one hour when he leaves it, he likely is allowed little or no opportunity for conversation or interaction with anyone. Ibid.; see also Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S. 209, 218, 125 S.Ct. 2384, 162 L.Ed.2d 174 (2005); Amnesty International, Entombed: Isolation in the U.S. Federal Prison System (2014). It is estimated that 25,000 inmates in the United States are currently serving their sentence in whole or substantial part in solitary confinement, many regardless of their conduct in prison. Ibid.”).