A Death Before Dying: Solitary Confinement on Death Row

Document Date: July 22, 2013

Most death row prisoners in the United States are locked alone in small cells for 22 to 24 hours a day with little human contact or interaction; reduced or no natural light; and severe constraints on visitation, including the inability to ever touch friends or loved ones.

This stark reality endures at a time when the United States’ experiment with the death penalty is at a crossroads. On one hand, in 2013, another state repealed the death penalty – Maryland. That makes six states in the last six years – Maryland, Connecticut, Illinois, New Mexico, New Jersey, and New York – that have repealed the death penalty, bringing the number of states without it to 18. Today, more than half of the states have either eliminated the death penalty completely or have not executed anyone for at least 10 years. Thirty states, plus federal and military jurisdictions, have not executed anyone in at least 5 years. This steady march toward repeal seems to indicate that it is only a matter of time before the Supreme Court will declare the death penalty cruel and unusual punishment and bar its use nationwide.

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