Solitary Confinement

Filed - October 16, 2019

Hamner v. Burls et al.


For 203 days, Arkansas prison officials held Charles Hamner, a seriously mentally ill inmate, in solitary confinement for no discernible reason and without any opportunity to challenge his placement. Mr. Hamner was designated seriously mentally ill by the Arkansas Department of Corrections and suffers from borderline personality disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, antisocial personality disorder, anxiety, and depression. Rather than help him get better, the DOC threw him in solitary for no discernible reason. Over nearly seven months in isolation, his mental illness went from manageable to devastating. Even today, they can’t explain why they put him in solitary.

After the panel majority raised qualified immunity sua sponte—and ruled against Hamner on that basis—the MacArthur Justice Center petitioned for rehearing en banc in October 2019 alongside a coalition of high-ranking former Department of Justice Officials, high-ranking former prison officials, legal scholars of diverse ideologies, and medical experts. Our petition is supported by seven amicus briefs. Collectively, they represent a consensus that both solitary confinement and the qualified immunity regime that permits it to persist unchecked belong in the dustbin of history.