Solitary Confinement

*Case descriptions, selected pleadings, motions, as well as court opinions and orders are found below.

On August 2, 2017, Mr. Bridges filed a complaint challenging his perpetual solitary confinement and a motion for preliminary injunction ordering his immediate release to the general prison population. Mr. Bridges challenged his continued isolation as a violation of the 8th Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment and the 14th Amendment’s procedural due process clause.

Darrick Hall was held in solitary confinement on death row for 24 years.  On February 28, 2018, Judge J. Curtis Joyner of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania granted Darrick Hall’s preliminary injunction against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC). Even after Darrick's death sentence was vacated in 2014, and despite overwhelming evidence of the devastating mental health consequences of solitary confinement, the Pennsylvania DOC continued to hold him on death row in an open grill caged cell, subjecting him to humiliating strip searches and a dog leash he is tethered to every time he leaves his cell. In ruling that Darrick is entitled to an immediate review of his placement in solitary confinement, Judge J. Curtis Joyner wrote, “[i]ndeed, we are somewhat perplexed as to why Mr. Hall remains housed in the Capital Case Unit and why efforts have yet to be undertaken to transition him to General Population.”

Palakovic v. Wetzel is a lawsuit in the Western District of Pennsylvania brought on behalf of the late Brandon Palakovic by his parents Renee and Darian. The suit claims that Pennsylvania DOC Secretary John Wetzel and other officials in charge of the now-defunct State Correctional Institution (SCI) Cresson created and sustained conditions of solitary confinement that subjected Brandon Palakovic to torture, causing him to take his own life on July 17, 2012, at the age of 23. Defendants transformed Brandon's 16-48 month term of imprisonment into a death sentence.”

  • Porter v. Wetzel (Western District of P.A.)

Theodore Porter has been held in solitary confinement since 1986. In July 2017, he filed a pro se lawsuit challenging his prolonged placement in solitary confinement. The Abolitionist Law Center entered an appearance in his lawsuit after his complaint was filed and is now representing Theodore in this case. Theodore remains in solitary confinement despite the fact that his sentence was vacated in 2003. The Pennsylvania DOC has provided Theodore with no meaningful review of the reasons for his placement--in direct violation of Theodore's due process rights.  This lawsuit seeks to win removal from solitary for Theodore and an end to the psychological and physical harms he has endured over all these years.

This case is a class-action lawsuit against the commonwealth of Pennsylvania over its unconstitutional practice of holding prisoners sentenced to death in mandatory, permanent solitary confinement. These prisoners spend 22-24 hours a day in their cells alone, conditions proven to damage mental health and worsen existing mental illness. The lawsuit seeks an end to this practice, which violates the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.