Thursday, July 7, 2016

Liman Program Publishes Report on Death Row Housing

In response to growing concerns about the prolonged isolation of death sentenced prisoners in the United States, the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program at Yale Law School has released a new report examining the housing of death sentenced prisoners around the country. 

With growing awareness about the debilitating effects of long-term isolation, the placement of death-sentenced prisoners on what is colloquially known as “death row” has become the subject of discussion, controversy, and litigation. The new report, Rethinking “Death Row”: Variations in Housing Individuals Sentenced to Death (2016), details the statutes, regulations, and policies that govern the housing of those sentenced to death and reviews prior research on the housing conditions of death-sentenced prisoners. 

Rethinking Death Row concludes that in most jurisdictions, corrections administrators have discretion about how to house death-sentenced individuals. The report details the experience of administrators in three states, Colorado, Missouri, and North Carolina, who have chosen not to impose isolating conditions. Given the discretion available when deciding on confinement arrangements, these states offer models for death-sentenced people that do not entail placement in solitary confinement.

This report is the fourth in a series of reports related to prison conditions. In 2012, the Liman Program did a study of prison visiting policies, Prison Visitation Policies: A Fifty-State Survey, which was published in the Yale Law and Policy Review along with a related discussion by commentators from academia and practice. In the same year, the Liman Program and the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) asked the directors of state and federal corrections systems to provide their policies governing administrative segregation, defined as removing a prisoner from general population to spend 22-23 hours a day in a cell for 30 days or more. That report, Administrative Segregation, Degrees of Isolation, and Incarceration: A National Overview of State and Federal Correctional Policies (2013) is based on responses from 47 jurisdictions. In 2015, ASCA and Liman published Time-In-Cell, a report detailing the numbers and the conditions in restrictive housing in 46 jurisdictions nationwide. By facilitating cross-jurisdictional comparisons of the rules and practices of restrictive housing, these three reports support ongoing efforts to limit or end extended isolation.

The primary authors of this report are current and former students at Yale Law School, Celina Aldape ’17, Katie Haas ’17, Jessica Hunter ’15, April Hu ’17, Ryan Cooper ’16, and Shelle Shimizu ’17, who worked in the Liman Project under the supervision of Johanna Kalb, Visiting Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program and of Judith Resnik, Arthur Liman Professor of Law. This project is supported by Yale Law School, the Liman Program, and the Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund at Yale Law School. 

The Arthur Liman Public Interest Program was endowed to honor one of Yale Law School’s most accomplished graduates, Arthur Liman ’57. Arthur Liman personified the ideal of commitment to the public interest. Throughout his distinguished career, he demonstrated how dedicated lawyers, in both private practice and public life, can serve the needs of people and causes that might otherwise go unrepresented. The Liman Program was created in 1997 to forward the commitments of Arthur Liman as an exemplary lawyer dedicated to public service in the furtherance of justice.

Today, the Arthur Liman Public Interest Program supports the work of Yale law students and Yale law school graduates through Liman Fellowships. As of the fall of 2016, 114 Yale Law graduates will have held such fellowships. The Liman Program also provides summer fellowships to students from Yale College, Barnard College, Brown University, Harvard University, Princeton University, Spelman College, and Stanford University, all of whom work to respond to problems of inequality and to improve access to justice.