University of Michigan Law School
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Case Name Johnson v. Wetzel PC-PA-0040
Docket / Court 1:16-cv-00863-CCC-MCC ( M.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Special Collection Solitary confinement
Case Summary
On May 12, 2016, an inmate who had been in solitary confinement since 1979 filed this lawsuit in the District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiff, represented by the Abolitionist Law Center and private counsel, sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for violations of the Eighth ... read more >
On May 12, 2016, an inmate who had been in solitary confinement since 1979 filed this lawsuit in the District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiff, represented by the Abolitionist Law Center and private counsel, sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983 for violations of the Eighth Amendment and the procedural and substantive components of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

The complaint alleged that “confinement in small cells for approximately 23 hours a day for more than three decades has harmed his mental and physical health, resulting in permanent damage,” including “increasing feelings of anxiety, frustration, loneliness, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, and depression.”

The plaintiff also submitted an expert report with his lawsuit from psychologist Dr. Craig Haney, one of the leading psychologists and scholars of the harms of solitary confinement. Dr. Haney’s report states that the plainitff has been subjected to a “social death” due to his having “been kept in solitary confinement for an extraordinary amount of time—an amount that greatly exceed any of the limits recommended or countenanced by any legal, mental health, or human rights organization of which I am aware.”

The plaintiff sought a preliminary injunction in the form of a court order mandating a “step-down” process to end his long-term solitary confinement On May 12, 2016.

The plaintiff moved to compel discovery on July 13, 2016. On August 5, 2016, Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner granted, but deferred portions of the plaintiff’s motion to compel discovery. On August 10, 2016, the court denied the plaintiff’s motion to compel discovery on the portions that were deferred.

On September 20, 2016, Judge Conner granted the plaintiff’s motion for preliminary injunction and directed the parties to develop a “step-down” program for the plaintiff’s reintegration into the general population. 209 F. Supp. 3d 766. On September 30, 2016, the parties provided a joint step-down program for the plaintiff. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the program includes time out of cell and social interactions, progressive increase in social interaction and mental health monitoring and treatment.

The parties subsequently engaged in settlement negotiations and on June 28, 2017, Judge Conner dismissed the case as the parties had reached a voluntary settlement. The case is now closed.

Susie Choi - 02/02/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Due Process: Substantive Due Process
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
General
Solitary confinement/Supermax (conditions or process)
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
Defendant(s) John Wetzel, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC); Shirley Moore-Smeal, Executive Deputy Secretary of the DOC; Michael Wenerowicz, Regional Deputy Secretary of the DOC; Brenda Tritt, Superintendent SCI Frackville; etc.
Plaintiff Description Incarcerated plaintiff held in solitary confinement
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Voluntary Dismissal
Filed 05/12/2016
Case Closing Year 2017
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
Court Docket(s)
M.D. Pa.
10/17/2017
1:16-cv-863
PC-PA-0040-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
M.D. Pa.
05/12/2016
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-PA-0040-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. Pa.
05/12/2016
Exhibit A – Declaration of Professor Craig Haney, Ph.D., J.D. [ECF# 4-2]
PC-PA-0040-0006.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. Pa.
05/12/2016
Memorandum In Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 4]
PC-PA-0040-0007.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. Pa.
08/05/2016
Memorandum [ECF# 45] (2016 WL 4158800)
PC-PA-0040-0009.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. Pa.
08/05/2016
Order [ECF# 46] (2016 WL 4158801)
PC-PA-0040-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. Pa.
08/10/2016
Order [ECF# 49] (2016 WL 4211719)
PC-PA-0040-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. Pa.
09/20/2016
Memorandum [ECF# 67] (209 F.Supp.3d 766)
PC-PA-0040-0008.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. Pa.
09/20/2016
Order [ECF# 68] (209 F.Supp.3d 766)
PC-PA-0040-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. Pa.
09/30/2016
Joint Step-Down Program for Arthur Johnson [ECF# 71]
PC-PA-0040-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
show all people docs
Judges Conner, Christopher C. (M.D. Pa.) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0040-0002 | PC-PA-0040-0003 | PC-PA-0040-0004 | PC-PA-0040-0005 | PC-PA-0040-0008 | PC-PA-0040-0009 | PC-PA-0040-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ackerman, Tarah E. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0040-0001 | PC-PA-0040-0002 | PC-PA-0040-0007 | PC-PA-0040-9000
Grote, Bret D. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0040-0001 | PC-PA-0040-0002 | PC-PA-0040-0007 | PC-PA-0040-9000
Jones, Thomas S. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0040-0001 | PC-PA-0040-0002 | PC-PA-0040-0007 | PC-PA-0040-9000
Laun, Peter D. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0040-0001 | PC-PA-0040-0002 | PC-PA-0040-0007 | PC-PA-0040-9000
Lobel, Jules L. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0040-0001 | PC-PA-0040-0002 | PC-PA-0040-0007 | PC-PA-0040-9000
McDaniel, Dustin (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0040-0001 | PC-PA-0040-0002 | PC-PA-0040-0007 | PC-PA-0040-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Giunta, M. Abbegael (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0040-0002 | PC-PA-0040-9000
Holmes, Timothy A. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0040-0002 | PC-PA-0040-9000
Perez, Theron (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0040-0002 | PC-PA-0040-9000
Romano, Karen Mascio (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0040-9000

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