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 November 14, 2023

Illinois inmate who had been isolated for three years had his appeal denied by the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has chosen not to take up the case from an inmate who appealed to the nation's high court.

The inmate's attorney argued that his rights were violated when he was kept in solitary confinement for around three years, as CNN reported.

The inmate, Michael Johnson was also reportedly denied access to virtually all forms of exercise, which the attorney argued should have constituted an appropriate means for an appeal, asserting that it violated the Constitutional mandate that bars cruel and inhumane punishment.

Indicating the deplorable circumstances, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, along with her liberal colleagues Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, expressed dissent regarding the court's refusal to hear Johnson's appeal.

“For three years,” Jackson wrote, “Johnson had no opportunity at all to stretch his limbs or breathe fresh air.” She noted that without the ability to exercise, Johnson’s “mental state deteriorated rapidly.”

“He suffered from hallucinations, excoriated his own flesh, urinated and defecated on himself, and smeared feces all over his body and cell,” Jackson wrote in the eight-page dissent.

Johnson began his time in prison in February 2007 and some have said that he is truly mentally ill and have given him diagnoses of depression, bipolar disorder, and other disorders.

From 2008 to 2016, he broke the rules many times, including by hitting guards or other prisoners. Because of the time he had already spent in segregation, he spent almost three and a half years alone.

Johnson was found guilty by a lower court, which said that the exercise restriction was allowed unless it was for a "trivial infraction." It said that what the Illinois Department of Corrections did was right because of the "continuous, serious, and sometimes highly dangerous misconduct."

In court documents, Kwame Raoul, the attorney general of Illinois, told the justices that from January 2014 until August 2016 he was "on yard restrictions" due to "persistent misconduct," but that throughout that time he routinely met with doctors and mental health professionals provided by the prison healthcare provider.

In August 2016, it was determined that he needed to be transferred to a mental health unit and he was transported.

Raoul argued before the court that the officials "could not have acted with deliberate indifference because they reasonably deferred to the treatment decisions" made by Johnson's physicians.

Attorneys for the defendant disagreed with the decision.

“The deprivation was not imposed to ensure the safety and security of the exercise yard,” they argued, “but rather to punish Mr. Johnson for engaging in misconduct that was born of mental illness and unrelated to exercise.”

Written By:
Charlotte Tyler

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