FJI and co-counsel filed a federal class action lawsuit in 2019 challenging Florida’s use of solitary confinement as cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act.
The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of Florida, Tallahassee Division, cites scientific, medical and mental health evidence against the practice.
At any given time, there are close to 10,000 people in solitary confinement in Florida’s prison system, many of them for months, even years, in cells smaller than a parking space. Yet solitary confinement is increasingly recognized by medical and mental health professionals as torture. Individuals subject to isolation are more likely to exhibit a range of conditions, from anxiety and depression to hallucinations, paranoia and suicidality.
These effects begin to manifest within hours or days of isolation, worsening with time and causing permanent damage, especially to those in isolation for months or years. Apart from the devastating harm it inflicts on those who experience it, isolation costs taxpayers an inordinate amount of money without making prisons or communities safer.
Nationwide, about 4.5 percent of the prison population is in solitary, but in Florida it’s more than double that – about 10 percent.
Over 60 percent of the people in solitary are black, a jarring racial disparity in a state that is majority white.