About the ACLU National Prison Project

Document Date: May 12, 2010

915 15th Street, NW, 7th Floor
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 393-4930 | Fax (202) 393-4931

The National Prison Project of the ACLU is dedicated to ensuring that our nation’s prisons, jails, and detention centers comply with requirements of the U.S. Constitution, federal law, and international human rights principles, and to addressing the crisis of over-incarceration in this country.

The NPP is the only organization that litigates prison conditions cases on a national level. Since 1972, the NPP has represented more than 100,000 men, women and children. We have fought and continue to fight unconstitutional conditions of confinement through successful litigation, public education, and other forms of advocacy. We are currently litigating cases from the Virgin Islands to California.

The National Prison Project’s priorities include:
Exposing and Combating Domestic Torture

The NPP litigates against supermax prisons that subject prisoners to sensory deprivation and extreme isolation. Much of our work is also devoted to ending abuse, assault, retaliation, and other forms of torture during incarceration. In addition to litigation, the NPP leads the Stop Solitary Campaign, devoted to ending extreme conditions of solitary confinement. For more information on the Stop Solitary Campaign, visit:

Protecting Health and Safety in Prisons

The majority of NPP’s litigation involves claims of deficient medical and/or mental health care. We also litigate excessive force cases. NPP’s Health in Prisons Initiative works not only to ensure that prisoners and detainees receive proper medical, dental, and mental health care while behind bars, but also seeks to improve the overall health of the incarcerated population by emphasizing the links between prison health and public health. The Initiative seeks to lower the burden of morbidity and mortality associated with going to jail or prison while looking at ways that improved health can lead to better criminal justice outcomes, such as decreased recidivism.

Protecting Human Dignity in Prisons

Through our litigation, public education, and other advocacy, the NPP works to ensure that human dignity and human and constitutional rights are respected in prisons and jails across the country. Putting an end to rape and assaults within prisons, promoting equal treatment for all prisoners regardless of gender or race, and protecting the rights of prisoners with mental illness and other disabilities are among our top priorities.

Promoting Access to the Courts

The NPP is committed to preserving the rights of all prisoners to have full, unobstructed access to the judicial system. Amending the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) is the NPP’s top legislative priority. Enacted in 1996 supposedly to reduce frivolous litigation by prisoners, the PLRA has proved to be an insurmountable obstacle for many prisoners trying to file meritorious lawsuits in federal court. As a result, countless abuses and constitutional violations go unchecked. The NPP spearheads a bi-partisan coalition with more than 50 members that advocates for amending the PLRA. For more information, visit

Improving Conditions of Confinement for Immigration Detainees

The NPP is committed to improving conditions in immigration detention facilities. We have filed multiple cases since 2007 regarding conditions of confinement for immigration detainees, and have published reports to expose medical neglect and lax oversight, advocated with executive officials to adopt better standards and oversight of detention facilities, and pushed for increased Congressional oversight of immigration detention facilities.

Ending Private Prisons

The NPP works to stop private prison companies and other prison profiteers from making our criminal justice system run on a profit motive. These companies—including multi-billion-dollar publicly-traded corporations that run entire prisons for profit, companies that specialize in cutting corners on medical and health care for a literally captive patient market, companies that seek to privatize supervision functions previously carried out by probation and parole officers, and prison-specific service providers that use monopoly contracts to charge exorbitant prices to prisoners and their families for phone calls, toiletries, and financial services—depend on and profit from America’s addiction to incarceration. The NPP has sued over inhumane conditions of confinement in private prisons and medical neglect by for-profit medical providers, published reports on these abuses, and advocated to end federal reliance on private prison companies.

Protecting Freedom of Thought, Association, Belief, and Religion

The NPP works to ensure that religious freedom and freedom of expression are not wrongly curtailed within prisons and jails. Prisons often impose strict rules that prohibit prisoners from exercising their First Amendment rights. The NPP works to expose such abuses and reform restrictions on these rights.

More Information

For specific cases that the NPP is currently litigating, you may find our docket online.

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