Is Solitary Confinement Torture? United States Supreme Court May Decide.
The United Nations considers solitary confinement exceeding 15 days to be torture, however solitary confinement is a popular method of inmate discipline in American prisons. Solitary confinement is also used for an inmate’s own safety if the inmate’s case was high profile or if the inmate has a higher chance of being injured by the other inmates. Dennis Wayne Hope has been in solitary confinement for 27 years. Hope v. Harris may be a turning point for prison reform if it reaches the United States Supreme Court.
What happened in the Hope case?
Dennis Hope was convicted of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon in 1990. In September of 1990, Hope attempted to escape his Texas prison. His attempt was unsuccessful and added ten years onto his sentence. In 1994, Hope escaped again. He jumped the prison fence and ran 26 miles to a nearby town. He was caught around two months later. 25 years was added onto Hope’s sentence and he was placed in solitary confinement, where he has remained to this day. His cumulative sentences add up to more than a life sentence, and he will likely be in prison until he dies.
Hope’s cell is somewhere between the size of an elevator and a parking spot. He has not left this cell for 27 years. He is unsurprising, suicidal and now suffers from hallucinations.
The issue of solitary confinement has created a circuit split. Five circuits hold that solitary confinement can violate the Eight Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.
However, four circuits hold that solitary confinement does not violate the Eight Amendment.
Hope was originally placed in solitary confinement because after his multiple escape attempts, he was deemed a flight risk. However, he argues that 27 years later at the age of 53, he is no longer a risk, and should be released from solitary confinement. In fact, after 11 years in solitary confinement, a committee of prison security personally determined that Hope was no longer an escape risk, but the prison administrators did not take this professional recommendation into consideration.
Hopefully the Supreme Court will take this case and five solitary confinement a much needed review. For more information on important United States Supreme Court cases, follow Attorney DelSignore on Facebook.