UCL Institute for Human Rights


Is Prolonged Solitary Confinement Cruel and Inhumane? The Experience of California Prisoners

10 March 2014, 6:00 pm

Event Information

Open to



Centre for Constitutional Rights


Bentham House


California  holds several thousand prisoners in solitary confinement throughout the state. Over 1000 of these prisoners confined in isolation are at Pelican Bay State Penitentiary. They live in 80 square foot windowless cells, locked in their cells for 22 ½ to 24 hours a day. Hundreds of prisoners have been held in solitary for over a decade, many for over two decades. Last summer, 30,000 California prisoners went on hunger strike in protest over California's use of solitary. This talk will discuss why United States courts have thus far refused to hold that the use of such prolonged solitary confinement constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, why that might change now, and the movement in California to end such use.


  • Professor Jules Lobel, Bessie McKee Walthour Endowed Chair Professor, University of Pittsburgh Law School

About the speaker

Professor Jules Lobel is President of the Centre for Constitutional Rights and the Bessie McKee Walthour Endowed Chair Professor at the University of Pittsburgh Law School. On behalf of the Centre, Professor Lobel is lead counsel representing the prisoners at Pelican Bay in a Federal Court class action lawsuit challenging California's use of prolonged solitary confinement. He also argued the U.S. Supreme Court  due process case against Ohio's use of solitary in its supermax prison.