MEDIA RELEASE: Settlement in Lawsuit that Ended 37-year Solitary Confinement
December 21, 2017: Arthur Johnson, a 65-year-old man in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) at State Correctional Institution Greene, who spent 37 years in solitary confinement before a federal court ordered his release last year, has reached a settlement with the DOC in his case. In exchange for $325,000, including attorney fees and costs, and a guarantee not to return him to solitary confinement based on his previous record, Mr. Johnson has settled his remaining claims in the case.
Mr. Johnson originally filed a lawsuit challenging his long-term solitary confinement in May 2016. Mr. Johnson had been held in isolation since 1979. He sued for violations of his 8th Amendment right against cruel and unusual punishment and his rights to procedural and substantive due process.
Conditions of solitary confinement in the DOC involve 23-24 hour lockdown in a small cell. For five hours per week Mr. Johnson is permitted to enter an outdoor cage slightly larger than his cell. He was not permitted contact visits.
On September 20, the Chief Judge Christopher Conner of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania granted a preliminary injunction ordering the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to begin a “step-down” program to return Arthur Johnson to the general prison population.
In reaching his decision, Judge Conner stated: “For the past thirty-six years, the Department has held Mr. Johnson in solitary confinement—his entire existence restricted, for at least twenty three hours per day, to an area smaller than the average horse stall. Astoundingly, Mr. Johnson continues to endure this compounding punishment, despite the complete absence of major disciplinary infractions for more than a quarter century.”
Mr. Johnson was represented by a team of attorneys from the international law firm of Jones Day, Bret Grote and Dustin McDaniel from the Abolitionist Law Center and Professor Jules Lobel from the University of Pittsburgh Law School.
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