Texas dying row inmates sue over solitary confinement

HOUSTON (AP) — A gaggle of dying row inmates filed a federal lawsuit Thursday towards the Texas jail system over its coverage of obligatory and indefinite solitary confinement for all prisoners who’re awaiting execution, saying it causes extreme bodily and psychological hurt.

The swimsuit alleges that the coverage severely restricts their entry to human interplay, medical care and authorized illustration as they’re confined to their 8-by-12-foot (2.4-by-3.7-meter) cells for all however two hours a day.

“The situations on dying row in Texas have been characterised as a number of the most brutal dying row situations within the nation. The plaintiffs on this case are in search of reduction from situations which were described as torture,” stated Pieter Van Tol, one of many attorneys for the inmates.

The category motion lawsuit, which was filed in Houston federal court docket on behalf of the 182 male inmates on dying row, alleges the solitary confinement coverage “addresses no reliable safety or penological want, and serves no goal however to intensify the psychological anguish” of inmates.

One of many 4 inmates who filed the lawsuit, Mark Robertson, 54, has spent the previous 31 years on dying row, with 21 of these in solitary confinement.

The lawsuit says that since Robertson was put in solitary, his cardiac well being has declined, he has developed signs of post-traumatic stress dysfunction and his psychological well being points have been exacerbated.

Amanda Hernandez, a spokeswoman for the Texas Division of Prison Justice, or TDCJ, stated the company doesn’t touch upon pending litigation.

All male dying row inmates in Texas are housed on the Polunsky Unit, situated exterior Livingston, which is about 75 miles (120 kilometers) northeast of Houston. The state’s seven feminine dying row inmates, who usually are not a part of the lawsuit, are housed at a separate jail.

The lawsuit comes as a bunch of Texas prisoners have been on starvation strike since Jan. 10 to protest the state’s solitary confinement coverage. It’s unclear what number of have taken half, with activists estimating the quantity at a number of hundred in the beginning of the strike and TDCJ saying it was about 70.

As of Thursday 9 had been nonetheless on strike, Hernandez stated, and not one of the inmates who’ve participated have wanted medical care.

Hernandez stated solitary confinement, referred by TDCJ as “safety detention,” is used with inmates who’re confirmed members of harmful jail gangs, are escape dangers or have dedicated assaults or a number of critical disciplinary offenses.

Solitary confinement accounts for lower than 3% of the system’s inmate inhabitants and “is used judiciously,” with processes in place to overview and enchantment an inmate’s continued keep in such confinement, she added.

Twelve states had robotically positioned dying row inmates in extended, automated solitary, in response to the Loss of life Penalty Data Heart, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that gives evaluation and data on capital punishment. Since 2017, six states, together with Arizona and Pennsylvania, have ended such insurance policies.

At present earlier than the U.S. Supreme Court docket is the case of Texas inmate Dennis Wayne Hope, whose legal professionals are asking the excessive court docket to find out whether or not a long time of solitary confinement can violate the Eighth Modification’s ban on merciless and strange punishment. Hope, who was convicted of aggravated theft, has been in solitary since 1994 following an escape try.


Comply with Juan A. Lozano on Twitter: twitter.com/juanlozano70

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