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Justice Kennedy: Solitary Confinement 'Exacts Terrible Price'

Image: Justice Kennedy: Solitary Confinement 'Exacts Terrible Price'
(Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

By    |   Thursday, 18 Jun 2015 09:57 PM

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, in a opinion on a majority ruling that reinstated a California man's death sentence, invoked the suicide of a New Yorker who spent three years in jail without a trial to conclude solitary confinement "exacts a terrible price."

Kalief Browder, a 22-year-old Bronx man, committed suicide June 6 after battling depression and paranoia during his lockup at Rikers Island, where he spent long stretches in solitary confinement, the Guardian reports.

But his story had already gained national attention after The New Yorker wrote about the protracted legal battle in October 2014, the Atlantic reports.

On Thursday, Kennedy recalled the case as well in an opinion about an unrelated case, writing the plight of prisoners often goes unconsidered by legal scholars and policymakers in discussions that "simply concentrate on the adjudication of guilt or innocence," the Atlantic reports.

'Too easily ignored is the question is the question of what comes next. Prisoners are shut away — out of sight, out of mind."

But, he writes: "Research still confirms what this Court suggested over a century ago: Years on end of near-total isolation exacts a terrible price."

Kennedy also suggests the legal community should bring a solitary-confinement case before the high court – because with the right case, "the judiciary may be required, within its proper jurisdiction and authority, to determine whether workable alternative systems for long-term incarceration exist, and, if so, whether a correctional system should be required to adopt them," the Atlantic reports.

According to a New York City criminal court report, the average wait time for a trial in New York in 2013 was 594 days.

On Wednesday, two New York State lawmakers introduced Kalief’s Law, which would attempt to remove some of these loopholes from the state’s trial proceedings, the Albany Times Union reports.

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Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, in a opinion on a majority ruling that reinstated a California man's death sentence, invoked the suicide of a New Yorker who spent three years in jail without a trial to conclude solitary confinement "exacts a terrible price."
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Thursday, 18 Jun 2015 09:57 PM
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