Solitary confinement has many euphemisms: administrative segregation, restrictive housing unit, security management unit, secure housing unit. No matter what you call it, the practice remains substantially the same: for months, years, or even decades, a single human being is confined in a bathroom-sized cage for 23 hours a day.
Their single hour of respite is taken alone in a tiny outdoor cage, insufficiently spacious for any recreational activity other than pacing. Even that meager privilege is always denied on weekends, and sometimes permanently. Those in solitary confinement have little or no opportunity to talk to or otherwise meaningfully interact with other human beings. And with the exception of incidental contact accompanying the placing or removal of shackles, they go years or decades without experiencing human touch. In short, they are utterly alone.
Irrespective of the precise set of restrictions, the outcome is unvarying: prisoners condemned to solitary confinement endure grave and permanent psychological and physiological harm. As Justice Kennedy has written, it is a practice that brings prisoners “to the edge of madness, perhaps to madness itself.” Today, 80,000-100,000 humans endure this regime in American prisons and jails. It is time to put an end to it.
Reyes v. Clarke
The MacArthur Justice Center partnered with ACLU of Virginia filed a lawsuit alleging violations of Mr. Reyes, who has been kept in extreme solitary confinement for over 12 years. He remains in solitary solely because he cannot speak or read English and therefore cannot complete the Step-Down Program, requiring reflective journaling and other lessons, mandated the Virginia Department of Corrections.
Wallace v. Baldwin (Seventh Circuit)
Mr. Wallace, who suffers from mental illness, has been in solitary confinement since 2006. Mr. Wallace sued, charging that his solitary confinement and the process accompanying its imposition violated the constitution. The district court dismissed the case after concluding that Mr. Wallace was not under imminent danger of serious physical injury and, accordingly, could not...
Hall v. Wetzel
The MacArthur Justice Center, together with partners at the Abolitionist Law Center and Amistad Law Project, represents Plaintiff Darrick U. Hall in litigation regarding twenty-four years of solitary confinement endured on Pennsylvania’s death row. Unlike some other states that have moved away from automatic solitary confinement for death-sentenced prisoners, Pennsylvania holds all prisoners sentenced to...