The Fair Punishment Project has filed an amicus brief in support of Shawn Walker’s petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States. Mr. Walker is asking the Supreme Court to hear his challenge to the conditions of his confinement while on death row, and subsequently during the period he awaited resentencing after his death sentence was vacated. Mr. Walker was held in solitary confinement of one form or another for 20 years.
The Fair Punishment Project’s amicus brief urges the Supreme Court to hear Mr. Walker’s case. As the brief points out, there is a strong scientific consensus about the serious and lasting harms of solitary confinement. This consensus is increasingly reflected at every level of government, and has long been recognized in the Court’s own punishment jurisprudence. For these reasons, prisoners have a liberty interest in avoiding solitary confinement, which is an additional punishment above and beyond the length of their sentence. Further, they should have an opportunity to challenge their placement in such conditions, as well as an opportunity to obtain meaningful periodic review of the appropriateness of remaining in solitary.