- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 26, 2014

McLEAN, Va. (AP) - In a story March 25 about a legal battle over policies on Virginia’s death row, The Associated Press erroneously reported the title of Rebecca Glenberg. She is legal director of the ACLU of Virginia, not its executive director. The story also mischaracterized the ACLU of Virginia. The ACLU of Virginia is an affiliate of the national American Civil Liberties Union, not a chapter.

A corrected version of the story is below:

Va. AG defends use of solitary on death row

Va. AG defends use of solitary on death row; judge says routine use of solitary is improper

By MATTHEW BARAKAT

Associated Press

McLEAN, Va. (AP) - A federal judge’s order banning Virginia from automatically placing death-row inmates in solitary confinement “would do away with death row as it is currently operated” in Virginia and elsewhere, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring’s office argued in court papers.

Herring’s office filed papers Monday with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, seeking to overturn the decision of a federal judge who ruled that automatically banishing death-row inmates to solitary confinement violates their constitutional rights.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema in Alexandria ruled last year that the practice of solitary confinement is so onerous that the Department of Corrections must justify its use for each inmate on death row. Failing to do so violates their due process rights, she said in her ruling.

As it stands now, the state’s eight death-row inmates are automatically placed in solitary.

Herring’s office says in its appeal that the judiciary should not second-guess prison wardens on issues of safety.

“The District Court’s ruling is unprecedented,” the AG’s office wrote in its brief. “It would do away with death row as it is currently operated in Virginia and numerous other States. … The decision is monumentally wrong and intrudes into the core professional judgment of State corrections officials.”

The use of solitary confinement has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years. In Colorado, the state’s Corrections Department director, Rick Raemisch, spent a day in solitary confinement himself and vowed to minimize the practice after saying the experiment left him “feeling twitchy and paranoid.”

Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union reported that the overwhelming majority of states with the death penalty house death-row inmates in solitary confinement, and said that the problem is exacerbated as the pace of executions slows and more inmates are held in solitary indefinitely.

“Solitary confinement can have very deleterious effects on inmates. No prisoner should be subjected to those conditions without any penological reason,” said Rebecca Glenberg, legal director of the ACLU of Virginia.

Story Continues →