U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema has issued a decision under which holding prisoners convicted of capital murder on “death row” is unconstitutional. The decision holds that the automatic and indefinite regime, consisting of solitary confinement and harsh conditions, violates due process. More from the Associated Press:
According to court papers, a death row inmate is kept alone in his cell 24 hours a day, with the only exceptions a 10-minute break three days a week for a shower and an hour of exercise five days a week in an outdoor cell not much bigger than his indoor cell. Inmates are allowed to purchase a television set and a compact disc player for their cells, and have access to some books from the prison library.
Brinkema said that the problem is exacerbated by the extended amount of time prisoners spend on death row. A prisoner could easily spend more than a decade on death row while the appeals process plays out, and never have an opportunity to join the general population.
This is the first ruling in the country holding indefinite solitary confinement conditions unconstitutional for all inmates, not just for the mentally ill.