Peoples v. Fischer, No. 11-cv-2694, is a class action lawsuit filed by the New York Civil Liberties Union in the federal Southern District Court of New York challenging the use of solitary confinement and extreme isolation as a disciplinary measure against individuals in the New York State prison system, and seeking system-wide reform. The lawsuit argues that thousands of people incarcerated in New York prisons are subjected to severely harmful and grossly disproportionate extreme isolation in violation of Eighth and Fourteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit alleges that the frequency with which New York prisons use isolation as punishment is a direct result of official policies that permit staff to impose extraordinarily long isolation sentences regardless of whether a person’s behavior demonstrated any danger to the safety and security of prison staff or other prisoners, with few guidelines or restraints, and with inadequate consideration of the physical and psychological risk that isolation may pose to a particular individual. The three named plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Leroy Peoples, Dewayne Richardson and Tonja Fenton, were confined for 780 days, 425 days and 270 days respectively in extreme isolation as punishment for non-violent misbehavior that involved no threat to the safety or security of others. Peoples v. Fischer was initially filed by Mr. Peoples on his own behalf in April 2011.
SHU sanctions imposed on Tonja Fenton