ALC and co-counsels PILP and Dechert LLP are representing a group of men in the Security Threat Group Management Unit (STGMU) at PA State Correctional Institution (SCI) Fayette, who are challenging their indefinite solitary confinement.
The lawsuit alleges cruel and unusual punishment in a prolonged cycle of solitary confinement, and seeks to:
- consolidate and extend constitutional protections that prevent people with mental health conditions from being held in solitary confinement
- prohibit the indefinite warehousing of people in solitary for years on end
- and support the leadership and agency of the incarcerated human rights defenders who have taken the initiative in filing this lawsuit and fighting for their survival and humanity as well as the human rights of all who are incarcerated.
The plaintiffs, a group of people incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) Fayette, are seeking to end the unconstitutional solitary confinement being imposed on them and others in the Security Threat Group Management Unit (STGMU) at the prison. The men filed the lawsuit from their solitary confinement cells, without the assistance of attorneys, in October 2022, and, at their request, lawyers from ALC, PILP, and Dechert LLP entered the case in September 2023.
The STGMU holds between 30 and 50 men, the majority of whom are Black and Latinx. The plaintiffs, including individuals with serious mental illness, describe being isolated in permanent solitary confinement, which exacerbates their symptoms and has led to self-harm and suicide attempts. They are locked in extremely small cells for at least 22 hours a day, and have virtually no contact with others except when they are taken to small outdoor yard cages for one hour on weekdays. They are also denied necessary mental health care, prohibited from working, prevented from participating in educational or rehabilitative programs, and barred from attending religious services.
According to the plaintiffs, many of those condemned to warehousing in the STGMU are never provided the evidence or rationale the DOC used to send them there. This means they cannot challenge the validity or length of this placement. The operations of the unit are managed by secret policies, and DOC officials may halt or set back progression out of the STGMU for an undefined array of conduct, without additional evidence, and without issuing a formal misconduct citation or conducting a hearing.
All of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit have spent at least 11 months in solitary confinement, with some spending as much as 15 years.
The plaintiffs seek an injunction to end the prolonged cycle of solitary confinement in the STGMU and provide functional avenues for re-entry into the general prison population. They also seek compensatory and punitive damages.