On January 25, the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the ACLU’s National Prison Project, the Abolitionist Law Center, and cooperating counsel filed a federal lawsuit against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections for its policy of housing inmates sentenced to death in solitary confinement, in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution.

This treatment -- 22-24 hours a day inside a cell about 8 feet by 12 feet -- is automatically and permanently imposed on all prisoners sentenced to death. It is not triggered by violations of prison rules or a need for protective custody, and there is no procedure for prisoners to challenge their placement in solitary. Of the 156 people sentenced to death in Pennsylvania, nearly 80 percent have spent more than a decade in this form of solitary confinement.


Witold J. Walczak (ACLU of Pennsylvania); David Fathi, Amy Fettig, and Desiree Sholes (ACLU, National Prison Project)

Pro Bono Law Firm(s)

Bret Grote and Jamelia N. Morgan (Abolitionist Law Center); Jonathan H. Feinberg and Susan M. Lin (Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg & Lin LLP); Wilson M. Brown, Barry Gross, Mira E. Baylson, and Mark D. Taticchi (Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP)

Date filed

January 25, 2018


United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania