Punishment on Top of Punishment

Last Thursday (15 August 2013) the Mississippi Supreme Court confirmed as mandatory Willie Manning’s right to ask a lower court for DNA and fingerprint testing (view mandate here). He has 60 days from 15 August in order to lodge his request at the Oktibbeha County Circuit Court.

 Willie, like so many on death row in the USA, will continue to be held in solitary confinement while he waits. Last month the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) published a report (downloadable here) that outlines the psychological damage inflicted by prolonged solitary confinement on death row. Below the report you can view a slide show of conditions for death row inmates in Texas, which are similar to those on the Mississippi death row. You can also watch a video by an exonerated former death row prisoner, Anthony Graves, who describes the terrible impact of removing prisoners from human contact as totally inhumane and unjust.

The ACLU report calls solitary confinement “punishment on top of punishment”, and includes the following statements:

  • “Solitary confinement is not part of the sentence. In order to build a criminal justice system that accurately reflects our values, we must end the routine use of solitary confinement of death row prisoners.”
  • “Empirical research consistently demonstrates that prisoners subjected to isolation suffer many of the same symptoms caused by physical torture.”
  • “The Supreme Court has never addressed whether prolonged confinement on death row before execution violates the Eighth Amendment” (prohibiting cruel and unusual punishment).

The report concludes:

“Especially as we move toward becoming a country without capital punishment, this human rights violation requires immediate attention.”

 Willie, locked in his tiny cell for most of every day and night, must surely agree.

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