Solitary confinement in Pa. is at the center of a new federal lawsuit aiming to end the practice in certain cases

The Philadelphia Inquirer, 03/04/24: “A federal class-action suit filed Monday aims to end solitary confinement for hundreds of incarcerated people in Pennsylvania, saying the practice is “cruel and unusual punishment” and can exacerbate or create mental health conditions for those in prison.

Lawyers from the Abolitionist Law Center, the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, and the law firm Dechert LLP sued the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to put an end to solitary confinement in certain cases. The lawsuit, filed in federal court on behalf of six people incarcerated in Pennsylvania prisons, aims to end prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement and solitary confinement for incarcerated people with a mental health diagnosis or who are receiving mental health care.

Solitary confinement is unconstitutional, the suit contends, violating incarcerated people’s Eighth Amendment rights not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment. The practice, the suit says, is harmful to the well-being of incarcerated people, aggravating mental health conditions and often creating a need for mental health treatment in people who previously had no diagnosed conditions.

The suit seeks an undetermined amount in compensatory damages and to reduce solitary confinement for those groups of incarcerated people, said Bret Grote, legal director for the Abolitionist Law Center.

‘Solitary confinement greatly exacerbates mental health conditions that are pre-existing prior to somebody being put into solitary confinement,’ said Grote in an interview. ‘And it also has the potential to generate adverse mental health symptoms where somebody had never experienced them before.’”

Read the full article here.