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Arthur Johnson Freed From Solitary Confinement After 36 Years With the Lights Always On

Image: Arthur Johnson Freed From Solitary Confinement After 36 Years With the Lights Always On

64-year-old Arthur Johnson is serving life without parole. (Pennsylvania Corrections)

By    |   Thursday, 22 Sep 2016 10:26 AM

Arthur Johnson is being freed from 36 years in solitary confinement in Pennsylvania prisons after a federal judge said it was cruel and unusual punishment even if the 64-year-old "lifer" continues to be an escape risk.

State corrections officials had said they were justified in holding Johnson in solitary for so long because he remained a high risk for misbehavior and had attempted to escape, reported Philly.com.

Johnson, who is serving a life prison without possibility of parole for murder, tried to escape several times before he was placed in solitary.

U.S. District Judge Christopher C. Conner said the state's efforts to continuously confine Johnson in solitary was not justified.

"The court has no crystal ball," Conner said in his order, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "It may well be that Johnson will endeavor to escape again. But Mr. Johnson is 64 years old. And he will be subject to three decades of improvements in institutional security over the general population."

"The Department (of Corrections) has at its disposal a broad array of investigative and penological techniques to dissuade even the most entrenched escape artist. Surely, there are less restrictive means to monitor Mr. Johnson than solitary confinement."

PennLive.com said Johnson had been living his life out in a cell at the State Correctional Institution at Frackville with a television, radio, bed, desk and toilet, and where the lights are on 24 hours. Johnson gets to spend one hour in a small caged-in area of the prison yard five days a week and is taken to showers in handcuffs three times a week.

Johnson told the court at an earlier hearing, according to the Post-Gazette, that he suffered from sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, obsessive behavior, anger, loss of concentration, loss of short-term memory and despair because of his years alone in a small cell.

Craig Haney, a University of California psychology professor and a solitary confinement expert said Johnson had deteriorated to the point of experiencing what he called "social death."

Conner told both sides to give him a detailed plan on how to allow Johnson back into the prison's general population by next Wednesday, reported Philly.com. The judge also ordered that a monitoring plan be created for Johnson's transition, providing him mental health counseling during that period.

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Arthur Johnson is being freed from 36 years in solitary confinement in Pennsylvania prisons after a federal judge said it was cruel and unusual punishment even if the 64-year-old "lifer" continues to be an escape risk.
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2016-26-22
Thursday, 22 Sep 2016 10:26 AM
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