WMH Files Amicus Brief By Former Correctional System Officials Concerning Prolonged Solitary Confinement

Walden Macht & Haran LLP

On August 23, 2021, WMH and co-counsel, representing a group of five former correctional system officials – Dan Pacholke, Phil Stanley, Dick Morgan, Eldon Vail, and Steve J. Martin – filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit concerning the practice of solitary confinement.

The lawsuit was initially filed by a federal prisoner in Texas who had endured over two decades of solitary confinement, which he claimed was cruel and unusual under the Eighth Amendment. A panel of three judges on the Fifth Circuit rejected the claim and ruled that the duration of confinement was not cruel and unusual, as a matter of law, despite its “sheer length.” The prisoner, represented by his counsel at the MacArthur Justice Center, filed a petition for rehearing, asking the full Court of Appeals to rehear the case and reconsider the ruling that prolonged solitary confinement is permissible under the Eighth Amendment.

WMH submitted a brief in support of the prisoner’s petition for rehearing, on behalf of the former corrections officials, each of whom has decades of experience operating prison systems. The brief explained that prolonged solitary confinement can cause severe psychological harm to prisoners. Furthermore, based on the officials’ experience, prolonged solitary confinement is not only incredibly harmful, but also costly and often unnecessary, as prison security can be maintained effectively through other means.

WMH Partner Jeffrey A. Udell and Counsel Derek Borchardt prepared the brief along with co-counsel at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and Hogan Lovells US LLP. Read the brief here.

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