Civil and Human Rights

Brief Argues Against Mandatory Solitary on Death Row

By Marcia Coyle


Sixteen former corrections leaders from across the country are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to use a Virginia case to end the automatic assignment of death row inmates to solitary confinement.


In an amicus brief in Prieto v. Clarke, the officials, who ran prison systems in California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Virginia and other states, tell the justices, “There is no penological justification for imposing extreme isolation across the board on a population of inmates based only on their sentence, because the sentence is not predictive of how an inmate will behave in prison.”…


The high court on Aug. 10 called upon Virginia to respond to Prieto’s petition. The matter has been scheduled for the justices’ conference on Sept. 28. In addition to the former corrections officials, Prieto’s petition for review is supported in amicus briefs by the Constitutional Accountability Center and by professors and practitioners of psychiatry and psychology with extensive experience studying the psychological effects of imprisonment, including solitary confinement.

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