University of Pittsburgh
April 13, 2016

The Impact of Prolonged Solitary Confinement

Pitt hosts two-day conference that explores the health ramifications of and alternatives to prolonged isolation during incarceration April 15-16
Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—Prison inmates deprived of normal human interactions for long periods of time are vulnerable to a range of mental health disorders, including anxiety, depression, and paranoia. For many former prisoners, the ill effects of prolonged isolation continue for years after their release, hindering efforts to assimilate back into society and raising odds of recidivism.

To explore the impact of prolonged solitary confinement, the University of Pittsburgh School of Law will host a two-day conference, analyzing the issue and evaluating alternative practices being implemented globally. The International and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Prolonged Solitary Confinement Conference will be held April 15-16 in Pitt’s Barco Law Building, 3900 Forbes Ave., Oakland. The conference is free and open to the public; RSVPs are requested.

The conference will bring together human rights activists, legal professionals, medical researchers, and prison administrators from Austria, Brazil, Canada, Norway, and the United Kingdom, among other nations. Events will feature the current and a former United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture, state directors of the U.S. Department of Corrections, and representatives of the U.S. Department of Justice. Participants also will include scholars from some of the United States’ highest regarded law and medical school programs.

“The time has come to restrict and end the practice of prolonged solitary confinement. This conference reflects the broad and diverse scientific knowledge, legal understanding, and practical experience necessary to do just that,” said Jules Lobel, conference organizer, the Bessie McKee Walthour Endowed Chair in Pitt’s School of Law, and the lead attorney in the landmark solitary confinement case Ashker v. Governor of California.

A complete schedule, as well as a listing of panelists and speakers, for the International and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Prolonged Solitary Confinement conference can be found here.

Through a series of panel discussions, leading medical research scientists, neuroscientists, and psychologists will spearhead the conference’s first day. Panel sessions will focus on the potential health ramifications directly related to prolonged isolation. The day will conclude with a discussion amongst three former U.S. inmates, who have collectively endured more than 60 years of solitary confinement.

Prominent prison officials, from both Europe and the United States, as well as historians and litigators from around the world will headline the second day of the conference. The opening session offers a history of solitary confinement as well as modern efforts to end the practice. Panel sessions will contrast American prisons with correctional facilities abroad and discuss reform methods that are being considered worldwide.

The conference is sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Law, Office of the Provost, Global Academic Partnership, University Center for International Studies, Global Studies Center, Center for International Legal Education, Center for Latin American Studies, Department of Psychology, and the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute. Additional support has been provided by the Danish Institute for Human Rights, the University of California Criminal Justice and Health Consortium, and the Jacob and Valeria Langeloth Foundation.