US Supreme Court declines appeal from man who spent 27 years in solitary confinement News
Ichigo121212 / Pixabay
US Supreme Court declines appeal from man who spent 27 years in solitary confinement

The US Supreme Court Monday declined to hear a case that asks if extended solitary confinement is a violation of the Eighth Amendment to the country’s constitution.

In Hope v. Harris, the petition for the plaintiff described the solitary confinement of Dennis Wayne Hope since 1994 following an escape attempt from prison. For almost 30 years, Hope “has spent between 22 and 24 hours per day alone in a 54-square-foot cell. He does not socialize with other prisoners. [He] has been allowed one personal phone call since 1994.” Specifically, Hope alleged this isolation contributed to mental health conditions including anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

The government’s petition asserted that the prison resolved Hope’s claims, explaining that processes started in February of last year to remove Hope from solitary confinement into the general prison population.

The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit previously heard Hope’s challenge but held in a 2 to 1 opinion that Hope did not provide enough evidence that he suffered cruel and unusual punishment to violate the Eighth Amendment. Additionally, the panel of judges found that the prison’s review hearings, which determined if Hope should have still remained in solitary confinement, ensured Hope’s due process rights were met. However, Hope argued these hearings were a sham, where the review board did not actually discuss Hope’s solitary confinement.

After his conviction for carjacking and robbery, a court sentenced Hope to 80 years in prison in 1990. Hope was denied parole in April 2021 due to the parole board’s opinion that he is likely to reoffend and poses a violent threat to the community if released. In April 2024, the parole board will reconsider if he is eligible for early release.

This action further demonstrates an ongoing trend in the US Supreme Court to decline to hear prisoners’ complaints. Last week, the court declined to block the execution of a Florida man after his death sentence was not unanimously agreed upon by a jury.