For many, a death sentence means a double punishment. People on death row can spend decades locked alone in a tiny, cement room before they are ever strapped to an execution gurney.
We know that the death penalty system is broken. Racial bias, junk science, underfunded public defense, and other serious breakdowns in our legal system can mean that people – sometimes innocent people – will languish on death rows for years while pursuing appeals. Spending these years in extreme isolation can erode mental health to the point that some will “volunteer” to die rather than continue to live under such conditions. Many prisoners die a slow and painful psychological death before the state ever executes them.
Using the results of an ACLU survey of death row conditions nationwide, this briefing paper offers the first comprehensive review of the legal and human implications of subjecting death row prisoners to solitary confinement for years.