[Pnews] Settlement Ends Solitary Confinement for All People Sentenced to Death in Pennsylvania

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Nov 18 10:15:28 EST 2019


  PRESS RELEASE: Settlement Ends Solitary Confinement for All People
  Sentenced to Death in Pennsylvania

November 18, 2019


Hanna Johnson, hjohnson at aclu.org

Andrew Hoover, media at aclupa.org

HARRISBURG, Pa. — The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of 
Pennsylvania, Abolitionist Law Center 
<https://abolitionistlawcenter.org/about/>, and counsel from Drinker 
Biddle & Reath LLP and Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg & Lin LLP 
announced a settlement today in a class action lawsuit against the 
state’s Department of Corrections. The suit, which was filed in January 
of 2018, claimed that Pennsylvania DOC’s automatic, irrevocable practice 
of holding all people sentenced to death in permanent solitary 
confinement violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

In the settlement, the department agreed to house people who have been 
sentenced to death in the same manner as the prisons’ general population.

“The use of long-term solitary confinement on anyone is torture,” said 
Amy Fettig, deputy director of the National Prison Project. “The 
conditions Pennsylvania’s DOC was subjecting people on death row to — 
spending their entire lives in a tiny, filthy cell without any normal 
human contact, congregate religious services, sufficient access to 
exercise, sunshine, access to the outdoors, or environmental and 
intellectual stimulation — weren’t just deeply unconstitutional; they 
were horribly inhumane.”

The department will still house people who are sentenced to death in 
specific prisons, but has agreed to reforms to offer the rights and 
privileges afforded to people in other state facilities, including:


    At least 42.5 hours out-of-cell activity every week, including yard
    and outdoor time, law library time, congregate meal time, treatment
    or counseling meetings, congregate religious worship, work
    assignment, and phased in contact visitation;


    Permission to use the phone on a daily basis for at least 15 minutes
    per usage;


    Incarcerated people will not be subjected to strip-searches,
    shackling, or other restraints, unless security measures are
    required in response to a temporary, emergent situation;


    Contact visits with family, lawyers and religious advisors; and


    Resocialization assistance for individuals psychologically damaged
    by long periods in solitary confinement to help them in the
    transition to living in a general population setting, as well and
    physical and mental health baseline evaluations due to years of neglect.

“This settlement brings Pennsylvania out of the penological dark ages 
and makes it a national leader in treating all incarcerated persons 
humanely,” said Witold Walczak, legal director of the ACLU of 
Pennsylvania. “We are grateful that Governor Wolf and Secretary Wetzel 
have agreed to stop using permanent solitary confinement and to adopt 
humane policies to govern Pennsylvania’s capital units.”

"Despite decades spent in inhumane isolation, our clients have organized 
and persevered in this historic achievement for the movement to abolish 
solitary confinement in Pennsylvania,” said Bret Grote, legal director 
of the Abolitionist Law Center. “They have set a powerful precedent for 
ending solitary confinement of capital case prisoners —  and eventually 
the death penalty as a whole — across the country. We are proud to 
represent them."

Pennsylvania currently has 136 people 
on death row, making it the fifth largest row in the country. The state 
hasn’t carried out an execution since 1999 and currently has a 
moratorium on the death penalty.

More information about the lawsuit, Reid et al. v. Wetzel, including a 
copy of the settlement agreement, is available at this link: 


/Copyright © 2019 Abolitionist Law Center, All rights reserved./

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