In The New York Times Magazine, Mark Binelli chronicles the lawsuit filed against the Bureau of Prisons by the D.C. Prisoner Project with the help of Arnold & Porter.
What's obvious from the get-go is the power of litigation. A settlement may be near. But even if the lawsuit concerning treatment of inmates at ADX (U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility, Florence, Colorado) never reaches the courtroom, already reforms have been accomplished. These outcomes should give all lawyers a sense of pride in their profession.
For example, the informal policy of little or no treatment for the mentally ill at ADX has been changed. The enforcement of 23-hours of solitary confinement, every day, for the entire sentence, will likely eventually be discontinued at all prisons, federal and state.
Both the litigation itself and the publicity is has received, such as in the NYT Magazine, have hammered the inhumanity of such terms and conditions of incarceration.
The majority of those in solitary simply go insane, even if they were fairly stable beforehand. That's not news, of course.
Mental-health experts know well how even a little isolation can undermine emotional equilibrium. There are those professionals who lose their big jobs and don't leave the house, for instance. Soon enough they will be hospitalized for clinical depression, alcohol poisoning and/or a suicide attempt.
Bits of gossip have, incidentally, add spice to Binelli's article. Among the inmates at ADX is Harvard graduate and domestic terrorist Ted Kaczynski. From media reports, it seemed he wasn't playing with a full deck when he was sentenced to life instead of the death penalty. One wonders if over the years he had time to reflect on his actions and see them as wrong or has he, like so many of his fellow inmates, deteriorated.