On Litigating Constitutional Challenges to the Federal Supermax: Improving Conditions and Shining a Light

62 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2018

See all articles by Laura L. Rovner

Laura L. Rovner

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Date Written: March 26, 2018

Abstract

Prisons and jails are the most invisible part of the American criminal justice system. In this hidden world of punishment, no prison is more shrouded in secrecy than the federal Bureau of Prisons’ only “supermax” prison — the U.S. Penitentiary-Administrative Maximum known as ADX. Located in a remote area of Colorado, ADX has been described by one journalist as “a black site on American soil.” The men at ADX are held in solitary confinement, locked in cells the size of a parking space for twenty-three hours a day, with little or no contact with other people. Some of them have been there for decades.

This Article describes the work of the men at ADX and their lawyers, including the student attorneys at the University of Denver’s Civil Rights Clinic, who have dedicated themselves to bringing the conditions at ADX into compliance with the Constitution, human rights principles, and basic human dignity. While the federal courts have found constitutional violations in some of the ADX cases but not in others, the civil rights litigation undertaken by these lawyers and clients has been instrumental in shining a light into this darkest of places.

Suggested Citation

Rovner, Laura L., On Litigating Constitutional Challenges to the Federal Supermax: Improving Conditions and Shining a Light (March 26, 2018). Denver University Law Review, Vol. 95:2, No. 457, 2018; U Denver Legal Studies Research Paper No. 18-07. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3149859

Laura L. Rovner (Contact Author)

University of Denver Sturm College of Law ( email )

2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
United States

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