Inmate Let Out of Solitary Confinement After 37 Years
Arthur Johnson sued the state alleging cruel and unusual punishment
By Michael Harthorne,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 6, 2017 4:06 PM CST
Arthur Johnson returned to the general population of a Pennsylvania prison after 37 years in solitary confinement.   (Pennsylvania Department of Corrections via AP)

(Newser) – A Philadelphia murderer is out of solitary confinement for the first time in 37 years, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Arthur Johnson, 64, was sentenced to life in prison for a 1970 gang killing. He was placed in solitary confinement in 1979 after multiple escape attempts. In September, Johnson sued the state of Pennsylvania, claiming cruel and unusual punishment in violation of his constitutional rights. His lawyer argued that Johnson hadn't had a disciplinary problem in a quarter of a century and that the mere possibility of an escape attempt isn't justification enough for indefinite solitary confinement.

A federal judge agreed, saying Johnson was subjected to "institutional exile" in an "area smaller than the average horse stall." Johnson returned to the general population at SCI Greene state prison last Friday. The Christian Science Monitor reports solitary confinement can increase the risk of suicide and the likelihood of recidivism. Johnson says nearly four decades in a 7-foot-by-12-foot cell left him with depression, anxiety, loss of short-term memory, insomnia, and more.

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