Ghastly Signs and Tokens: A Constitutional Challenge to Solitary Confinement
29 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2019
Date Written: March 10, 2019
Since its popular reemergence in the 1980s, courts have not placed significant restrictions on the use of solitary confinement. One small exception has appeared. Lower courts have held that placing prisoners with preexisting severe mental illness in solitary confinement violates the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause. Can this relatively limited rule be expanded to abolish solitary confinement altogether?
This Comment argues that it can. A large body of diverse research demonstrates that prolonged solitary confinement causes severe mental illness in most prisoners, regardless of their medical history. And because there is no principled basis — in law or in fact — for distinguishing between preexisting and confinement-induced mental illness, solitary confinement must end for all prisoners.
Keywords: solitary confinement, constitutional law, Eighth Amendment, mental illness
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