Fourth Circuit Should Affirm Lower Court Decision Striking Down this Cruel, Inhumane, and Unnecessary Punishment, said ACLU of Virginia in Friend-of-the-Court BriefRichmond, VA – American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia Legal Director Rebecca Glenberg issued a statement commenting on Prieto v. Clarke, a case heard today in the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
“Solitary confinement is an extreme form of isolation proven to cause devastating mental and physical harms, including paranoia and self-mutilation,” said Glenberg. “We hope the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirms the lower court’s decision and protects Alfredo Prieto from this cruel, inhumane, and unnecessary punishment.”
Prieto has been held in solitary confinement for five years without due process solely because of his death row status.
All Virginia offenders who are sentenced to death are assigned to solitary confinement for the remainder of their lives or until their sentence is overturned. Typically, inmates serve at least six years in solitary while they pursue their appeals. Many professional organizations, like the American Bar Association, oppose solitary confinement, especially for individuals with mental illness.
Like other prisoners in solitary confinement, Mr. Prieto spends at least 23 hours per day alone in his cell with little human contact or interaction. He is allowed few visits or in-cell activities, and his cell is lit with a light bulb 24 hours a day. Mr. Prieto has already spent five years in solitary confinement and will remain indefinitely as he pursues his appeals. As correctional experts with decades of experience state in their amicus brief, the automatic placement of death row prisoners in solitary confinement is unnecessary because safe, effective alternatives to automatic solitary confinement of death-sentenced prisoners have been successfully implemented in other states.