Prisons

MA Court Rules Solitary Confinement Must Be Governed by Due Process

No more throwing people in the hole and forgetting about them

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BOSTON—Ruling today in LaChance v. Commissioner of Correction–a case involving an inmate held in solitary confinement for 10 months at the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center in Shirley, Mass., following an original incident in which Mr. LaChance threw pudding at another inmate–the Massachusetts Supreme Court reaffirmed the principle that use of solitary confinement is a harsh punishment that must be balanced with firm legal protections. The American Civil Liberties Union, which submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, hailed the ruling for its significance both in Massachusetts and across the country.

Specifically, the Court ruled that the state Department of Corrections (DOC) can no longer use labels such as "administrative segregation" as an end-run around legal protections designed to prevent prisoners from being held in solitary confinement without end and without due process. The Court also found that placing a prisoner in solitary without due process for over 90 days is unlawful, and ordered the DOC to put into place regulations to prevent such confinements in the future.