United States District Court, D. Connecticut
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
R. UNDERHILL, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Reynolds has spent the past twenty-three years in solitary
confinement. Reynolds' conditions of confinement are the
most restrictive available in the Connecticut prison system.
As the result of state legislation directed against him,
Reynolds has no genuine opportunity to have his conditions
relaxed for the remainder of his life sentence. Reynolds has
moved for summary judgment on his claim that the punishment
meted out by the State of Connecticut violates the
Constitution's protection against cruel and unusual
punishment. For the reasons that follow, Reynolds' motion
committed a heinous crime - he murdered a law enforcement
officer. Reynolds was sentenced to death and awaited
execution for twenty-one years. When the death penalty was
abolished retroactively in Connecticut, Reynolds was
resentenced to life without the possibility of release.
fact that people commit inhumane crimes does not give the
state the right to treat them inhumanely. Solitary
confinement is an extreme form of punishment with a long
history in American penal systems. Since its origins at
Pennsylvania's Eastern State Penitentiary in the 1800s,
the anguish of those held in complete isolation has been
[V]ery few men are capable of estimating the immense amount
of torture and agony which this dreadful punishment,
prolonged for years, inflicts upon the sufferers . . . . I
hold this slow and daily tampering with the mysteries of the
brain to be immeasurably worse than any torture of the body .
. . because its wounds are not upon the surface, and it
extorts few cries that human ears can hear.
Dickens, American Notes for General Circulation 123-24
(Paris, Baudry's European Library, 1842).
an estimated 61, 000 prisoners are held in solitary
confinement in American prisons. See Reforming
Restrictive Housing: The 2018 ASCA-Liman Nationwide Survey
of Time-in-Cell, Yale Law School 2018
(hereinafter “ASCA-Liman Report”) at
Those inmates are separated from the general population and
are held in their cells for twenty-two hours or more per day.
See id. at 4. An abundance of clinical literature
regarding the psychiatric effects of solitary confinement
supports a near-universal conclusion: “The restriction
of environmental stimulation and social isolation associated
with confinement in solitary are strikingly toxic to mental
functioning.” Stuart Grassian, Psychiatric Effects
of Solitary Confinement, 22 Wash. U. J.L. &
Pol'y 325, 354 (2006). As the mental effects of solitary
confinement garner national attention, calls to abolish or
reform its use are increasing nationwide. See, e.g.,
Editorial Board, Solitary confinement is torture. Will
the Bureau of Prisons finally stop using it?, Wash.
Post, July 15, 2017; Joe Hernandez, New Jersey considers
restricting the use of solitary confinement, The Phila.
Tribune, June 7, 2019. “As of the spring of 2018,
legislation to eliminate or to limit restrictive housing for
subpopulations had been enacted in California, Colorado,
Washington, D.C., and Tennessee, and proposed in several
other jurisdictions, including Connecticut, Hawaii, Nebraska,
New Jersey, New York, and Virginia.” ASCA-Liman Report
the growing consensus among the scientific community that
solitary confinement inflicts severe harm on prisoners, a
select group of “special circumstances high
security” inmates in Connecticut are all-but-certain to
be housed in prolonged isolation for the rest of their lives.
Other than two daily hours of recreation and two 15-minute
breaks to eat lunch and dinner, each such inmate is
effectively condemned to spend the rest of his life in a cell
roughly the size of a parking space.
was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. In 2017, he was
re-sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of
release, following the judicial abolition of the death
penalty in Connecticut in 2015. See Mem in
Supp. Defs' Mot. for Summary Judgment
(“Defs' Mot.”) (Doc. No. 117-26) at 1.
Reynolds has been confined at Northern Correctional
Institution (“Northern”), a level 5 maximum
security prison, for the past twenty-three years. Mem. in
Supp. Pl's Mot. for Summary Judgment (“Pl's
Mot.”) (Doc. No. 122) at 1. Pursuant to Connecticut
General Statutes Section 18-10b (“Section
18-10b”),  Reynolds is classified as a “special
circumstances high security” inmate. See id.
at 4. As an inmate on special circumstances status, he lives
alone in a 12 foot by 7 foot cell. See Joint Smt. of
Undisputed Facts (“JSUF”) (Doc. No. 120)
¶¶ 33-34. His cell is enclosed by concrete walls, a
metal door, and a three-inch wide window. Id.
¶¶ 34, 37-38.
is allowed out of his cell for two fifteen-minute periods to
eat lunch and dinner. He is allowed to take one
fifteen-minute shower each day. See Defs' Local
Rule 56(a)(1) Stmt., (Doc. No. 117-27) ¶¶ 142, 294.
He is allotted two hours of recreation each day for six days
a week and two hours of weekly indoor gym recreation.
See Robles Decl. (Doc. No. 117-6) ¶¶ 61-
67. Reynolds may, upon request, receive visits from clergy,
attorneys, or prison medical staff. Defs' Mot. at 57.
Other than those periods, Reynolds remains isolated with no
contact with anyone but the six other inmates on special
circumstances status. See PL's Mot. at 4; JSUF
¶ 28. Although he is allowed social visits with family
members, no physical contact is permitted during those
visits, which occur through Plexiglass. Pl's Local Rule
56(a)(1) Stmt. (Doc. No. 121) ¶ 84. Reynolds'
conditions of confinement are more restrictive than any other
form of incarceration available within the State of
Connecticut prison system.
about October 4, 2013, Reynolds filed his original pro
se complaint challenging his conditions of confinement.
Doc. No. 1. On June 29, 2015, I granted Reynolds' request
for appointment of counsel. Doc. No. 52. About a month later,
on August 25, 2015, the Connecticut Supreme Court held that
the prospective repeal of the death penalty enacted by the
Connecticut State Legislature in 2012 violated the state
Constitution and ordered that individuals on death row be
re-sentenced to life without the possibility of release.
See State v. Santiago, 318 Conn. 1 (2015).
Accordingly, Reynolds was resentenced on April 21, 2017. On
June 29, 2017, Reynolds filed his second amended complaint,
which now serves as the operative complaint. Doc. No. 71-1.
has sued former Connecticut Department of Corrections
(“DOC”) Commissioner Leo Arnone and various
prisoner officials at Northern Correctional Institution
(“Defendants”), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983. He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief; as well as
parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment on November
9, 2018. In his motion, Reynolds contends that his conditions
offend multiple constitutional protections as well as basic
principles of human decency. Pl's Mot. at 2-3. He seeks
declaratory and injunctive relief. Id. at 58.
Defendants argue that they are entitled to qualified immunity
because there “is no clearly established law either in
the U.S. Supreme Court or the Second Circuit regarding the
management of inmates on death row/special
circumstances.” Defs' Mot. at 1. In addition,
Defendants state that Reynolds' claims are unripe because
he failed to exhaust his state habeas court remedies
regarding Section 18-10b. Id. at 2. I held oral
argument on April 18, 2019, at which time I took the motions
under advisement. See Doc. No. 151. For the
following reasons, I grant Reynolds'
motion and deny the Defendants' motion.
Standard of Review
judgment is appropriate when the record demonstrates that
“there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact
and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Anderson v.
Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986) (plaintiff
must present affirmative evidence in order to defeat a
properly supported motion for summary judgment).
ruling on a summary judgment motion, the court must construe
the facts of record in the light most favorable to the
nonmoving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all
reasonable inferences against the moving party.
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Matsushita Elec.
Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587
(1986); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S.
144, 158-59 (1970); see also Aldrich v. Randolph Cent.
Sch. Dist., 963 F.2d 520, 523 (2d Cir. 1992) (court is
required to “resolve all ambiguities and draw all
inferences in favor of the nonmoving party”). In the
context of cross-motions for summary judgment, the same
standard is applied. See Scholastic, Inc. v. Harris,
259 F.3d 73, 81 (2d Cir. 2001). However, in deciding each
motion, the court must construe the evidence in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party. Id.
when reasonable minds could not differ as to the import of
the evidence is summary judgment proper.” Bryant v.
Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir. 1991); see
also Suburban Propane v. Proctor Gas, Inc., 953
F.2d 780, 788 (2d Cir. 1992). If the nonmoving party submits
evidence that is “merely colorable, ” or is not
“significantly probative, ” summary judgment may
be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50.
The mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between
the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported
motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be
no genuine issue of material fact. As to materiality, the
substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only
disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit
under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of
summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or
unnecessary will not be counted.
Id. at 247-48. To present a “genuine”
issue of material fact, there must be contradictory evidence
“such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for
the non-moving party.” Id. at 248.
nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an
essential element of his case with respect to which he has
the burden of proof at trial, then summary judgment is
appropriate. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317,
322 (1986). In such a situation, “there can be
‘no genuine issue as to any material fact,' since a
complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of
the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other
facts immaterial.” Id. at 322-23; accord
Goenaga v. March of Dimes Birth Defects Found., 51 F.3d
14, 18 (2d Cir. 1995) (movant's burden satisfied if he
can point to an absence of evidence to support an essential
element of nonmoving party's claim). In short, if there
is no genuine issue of material fact, summary judgment may
enter. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.
party requesting permanent injunctive relief must demonstrate
(1) that he will be irreparably harmed in the absence of an
injunction and (2) actual success on the merits. Ognibene
v. Parkes, 671 F.3d 174, 182 (2d Cir. 2012) (citation
omitted). To demonstrate irreparable harm, a plaintiff must
show an “injury that is neither remote nor speculative,
but actual and imminent and that cannot be remedied by an
award of monetary damages.” Forest City Daly
Housing, Inc. v. Town of North Hempstead, 175 F.3d 144,
153 (2d Cir. 1999) (quoting Rodriguez v. DeBuono,
162 F.3d 56, 61 (2d Cir. 1998)). The standard for a permanent
injunction is essentially the same as for a preliminary
injunction with the exception that a plaintiff must show
actual success on the merits for permanent injunctive relief
rather than a likelihood of success on the merits for
preliminary injunctive relief. See Amoco Prod. Co. v.
Vill. Of Gambell, 480 U.S. 531, 546 n.12 (1987).
Reynolds' Conditions of Confinement Violate the
claims his conditions of confinement violate of the Eighth
Amendment. The Eighth Amendment prohibits the infliction of
“cruel and unusual punishments” on those
convicted of crimes. U.S. Const. amend. VIII. To prevail on
his Eighth Amendment claim, Reynolds must prove “both
an objective element-that the prison officials'
transgression was ‘sufficiently serious'-and a
subjective element-that the official acted, or omitted to
act, with a ‘sufficiently culpable state of mind,'
i.e., with ‘deliberate indifference to inmate
health or safety.'” Phelps v. Kapnolas,
308 F.3d 180, 185 (2d Cir. 2002) (quoting Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994)). A condition is
objectively serious if it deprives Reynolds of “basic
human needs-e.g., food, clothing, shelter, medical
care, and reasonable safety.” Id. (quoting
Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 32 (1993))
(internal quotation marks omitted). “Ultimately, to
establish the objective element of an Eighth Amendment claim,
a prisoner must prove that the conditions of his confinement
violate contemporary standards of decency.”
the subjective component, Reynolds must show that prison
officials knew “of and disregard[ed] an excessive risk
to inmate health or safety, ” that is, that they were
“aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn
that a substantial risk of serious harm exist[ed], and . . .
dr[e]w the inference.” Id. at 185-86 (internal
citation omitted). The requisite knowledge of risk may be
inferred “from the fact that the risk of harm is
obvious.” Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 738
(2002) (citing Farmer, 511 U.S. at 825); see
also Walker v. Schult, 717 F.3d 119, 125 (2d Cir. 2013)
(quoting Brook v. Wright, 315 F.3d 158, 164 (2d Cir.
2003) (“Evidence that a risk was ‘obvious or
otherwise must have been known to a defendant' may be
sufficient for a fact finder to conclude that the defendant
was actually aware of the risk.”). The Supreme Court
has also stated that “the Eighth Amendment prohibits
punishments which, although not physically barbarous, involve
the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain, or are grossly
disproportionate to the severity of the crime. Among
unnecessary and wanton inflictions of pain are those that are
totally without penological justification.” Rhodes
v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346 (1981) (internal quotation
marks and citations omitted).
argues that his “inhumane” conditions of
confinement establish the objective element of an Eighth
Amendment claim, noting that his “extreme social
isolation offends contemporary standards of decency.”
Pl's Mot. at 9. First, he states that “[a]n
overwhelming body of scientific research confirms that
prolonged, extreme social isolation is inconsistent with
‘evolving standards of decency.'”
Id. at 13; see also Stuart Grassian,
Psychiatric Effects of Solitary Confinement, 22
Wash. U. J.L. & Pol'y 325, 327 (2006) (The
confinement of a “prisoner alone in a cell for all, or
nearly all, of the day with minimal environmental stimulation
and minimal opportunity for social interaction - can cause
severe psychiatric harm.”).
notes that many states are severely limiting the use of
solitary confinement. See Id. at 10. For example,
Idaho's short-term restrictive housing is capped at
fifteen days. See ASCA-Liman Report at 69-71.
Colorado also limits the use of restrictive housing to
fifteen days. Id. at 67-68. In North Dakota, an
inmate's average stay in solitary confinement is between
thirty and sixty days. Id. at 72. In 2014, the
Nebraska legislature adopted a law that limits the use of
solitary confinement. See JoAnne Young, New
Rules on Solitary Confinement in Nebraska Prisons to Take
Effect Friday, Lincoln Journal Star (June 26, 2016). The
Wisconsin state legislature also approved reforms for the use
of solitary confinement, including alternative punishment for
behavior in general population and DOC review after 120 days
in the restrictive housing unit. See Dee J. Hall,
State Changing Solitary Confinement Policy,
Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (Aug. 23,
argues that his ongoing confinement in near-total isolation
poses a serious risk of future harm to his mental health.
See Pl's Mot. at 14. “Defendants severely
limit the amount of meaningful social interaction [Reynolds]
has with other inmates . . . . Although Defendants now allow
congregate meals during lunch and dinner, the 15-20 minutes
allotted for meals barely allow for some very modicum of
social interaction [over] eating and talking.”
Id. at 15 (internal citations and quotation marks
omitted). Reynolds is only allowed to interact with other
special circumstances inmates. Id. He is unable to
interact with staff in any meaningful way and he is not
allowed to have physical contract with his guests during
social visits. See Pl's Local Rule 56(a)(1)
Stmt. ¶ 84.
relies on the expert testimony of Dr. Stuart Grassian, who
described special circumstances inmates' confinement as
“psychologically toxic, cruel, ineffective and
counterproductive.” Grassian Expert Report (Doc. No.
100-1) at 11. Dr. Grassian noted that an inmate like
Reynolds who does not have a pre-existing mental illness, is
placed at great risk of psychiatric decompensation in
solitary confinement, leading to self-harm and suicidal
Although it has become widely accepted that mentally ill
individuals are at severe risk of psychiatric decompensation
in solitary, such decompensation is not limited to those with
pre-existent mental illness. After controlling for the
presence of mental illness, there remains overwhelming
evidence that solitary confinement causes many inmates to
become suicidal and self-destructive, on average
demonstrating that such acts are about seven times as
prevalent among those housed in solitary as they are among
those housed in general population.
Id. at 14-15.
Reynolds contends that the Defendants continue to deny his
basic need for adequate shelter. See Pl's Mot.
at 17. “Plumbing problems are endemic at Northern;
wastewater and fecal matter regularly back up into adjacent
cells, causing the entire unit to smell strongly of
feces.” Id. at 18. “On multiple
occasions, [Reynolds'] genitals were submerged in his
neighbor's wastewater and fecal matter because another
inmate had flushed the adjacent cell's toilet while
[Reynolds] was using the toilet in his cell.”
Id.; Pl's Local Rule 56(a)(1) Stmt. ¶ 58.
In addition, Reynolds notes that the temperatures and noise
levels inside Northern can vary, causing him to experience
“extreme” temperatures and “chaotic, noisy
conditions, which further deprive [him] of adequate
shelter.” Pl's Mot. at 19-20.
response, Defendants argue that Reynolds' complaints
about his conditions of confinement do not amount to a
constitutional violation. “[Reynolds] fails to allege a
sufficiently serious deprivation; he does not lack, shelter,
medical care or reasonable safety. Instead, [Reynolds] has a
modern well-furnished cell with TV, radio, video games,
heating, cooling, lighting, hot and cold water, and is
relatively comfortable in his single-cell.”
Id. at 29. In addition, Defendants avow that
“many allegations  are either wholly untrue,
inaccurately exaggerated or misrepresentative of the true
facts of this case . . . . Many more of [Reynolds']
allegations were completely and wholly raised for the first
time in his affidavit, and Rule 56(a)(1) statement.”
Defs' Opp. (Doc. No. 129-21) at 1.
Defendants note that Reynolds and other special circumstances
inmates can engage in “unlimited social
correspondence” with family and friends. Defs' Mot.
at 81. Inmates can talk to one another “through the
vents and crevices in the walls” and during their
outdoor recreation period. Id. They have
opportunities to visit with family and friends and can make
multiple phone calls daily. Id. A special
circumstances inmate may request to have a professional visit
with a clergyperson from the community, if that clergyperson
is the same religion as the inmate. Id. at 71.
rely on the expert report of Dr. Gregory Saathoff, who opined
that based upon his own experience and a visit with officials
at Northern, the conditions of confinement for special
circumstances inmates do not constitute “solitary
confinement conditions.” Saathoff Decl. (Doc. No.
117-10) ¶ 11. Although Dr. Saathoff agrees with Dr.
Grassian regarding the detrimental effects than can be caused
by solitary confinement, he states that Reynolds does not
exhibit the serious symptoms described by Dr. Grassian.
Because the serious symptoms described by Dr. Grassian that
are a consequence of long term solitary confinement are not
evident in Mr. Reynolds, it supports a determination that the
special circumstances unit as it is designed and implemented
does not constitute solitary confinement.
also argue that they are entitled to qualified
immunity because their behavior was objectively
reasonable considering the lack of any clearly established
law or evidence that Reynolds suffered either a physical or
The defendants have acted reasonably and professionally and
did not take any action with any knowledge of any [of
Reynolds'] clearly established rights being violated.
[Defendants] acted in an objectively lawful manner and
without knowledge of any injury to [Reynolds], whether
physical, emotion or legal. In fact, [Reynolds] suffered no
injury whatsoever . . . . [Reynolds] can point to no clearly
established legal rights of which the defendants should have
been aware with regard to the management of death row.
Defs' Mot. at 16.
courts have held similar conditions inconsistent with
contemporary standards of human decency. Recently, the Fourth
Circuit affirmed an Eastern District of Virginia ruling that
the conditions of confinement for Virginia's death row
inmates violated the Eighth Amendment. See Porter v.
Clarke, 923 F.3d 348, 353 (4th Cir. 2019), as
amended (May 6, 2019).
The challenged conditions of confinement on Virginia's
death row-under which Plaintiffs spent, for years, between 23
and 24 hours a day alone, in a small . . . cell with no
access to congregate religious, educational, or social
programming-pose a substantial risk of serious psychological
and emotional harm.
Id. at 357 (internal quotations marks omitted). The
Porter Court's ruling was based on
“[n]umerous studies [that] reveal that prolonged
detention of inmates in conditions akin to those Plaintiffs
faced on Virginia's death row also leads to psychological
deterioration, including declines in mental functioning . . .
difficulties in thinking, concentration and memory problems,
and problems with impulse control.” Id. at 356
(internal quotations marks omitted).
plaintiffs in Porter were inmates on Virginia's
death row who were housed in conditions analogous to
Reynolds'. Like special circumstances inmates, Virginia
death row inmates “could keep a television and compact
disc player in their cell and borrow approved publications
and library materials.” Id. at 354. Two
inmates, “were allowed out of their cells to perform
institutional jobs, ” like special circumstances
inmates in Connecticut. Id.; Mulligan Decl. (Doc. No.
117-1) ¶ 84. Despite the Porter defendants'
argument that the plaintiffs were not held in
“solitary” confinement because they were not
“subject to prolonged isolation of lack of stimulation,
” the Fourth Circuit noted that
“[d]efendants do not dispute-nor could they- that the
challenged procedures and regulations restricted death row
inmates to their cells for between 23 and 24 hours a
day.” Id. at 359.
Third Circuit, in Williams v. Sec'y Pa. Dep't of
Corr., reached a similar conclusion. 848 F.3d 549 (3d
Cir. 2017), cert. denied sub nom. Walker v. Farnan,
138 S.Ct. 357 (2017), and cert. denied sub nom. Williams
v. Wetzel, 138 S.Ct. 357 (2017). In Williams,
Pennsylvania death row inmates who were granted resentencing
hearings challenged their placement in solitary confinement
without meaningful review. Id. at 552. They argued
that their indefinite detention in socially isolating
conditions violated their Fourteenth Amendment rights to due
process. Id. at 553. After reviewing the
“robust body of scientific research on the effects of
solitary confinement” the Third Circuit held that
“the deprivations of protracted solitary confinement so
exceed the typical deprivations of imprisonment as to be the
kind of atypical, significant deprivation . . . . which [can]
create a liberty interest.” Id. at 566.
(internal quotation marks omitted).
case, Reynolds has spent nearly half his life alone in a
concrete cell. When considering the average male life
expectancy, he still has 34.3 years remaining in those
conditions. See Pl's Local Rule 56(a)(1) Stmt.
¶ 113. Each passing year, he faces the risk of
deteriorating psychological health. Defendants concede that,
under current policy, as a former death row inmate Reynolds
has no genuine opportunity to enter the general inmate
population. See, e.g., Defs' Mot. at 78
(“Death row inmates are a special class of prisoners .
. . . They have nothing to lose in committing assaults or
attempting to escape. It is eminently rational to conclude
that death row inmates constitute the biggest escape risk
should they be housed in general population.”). Under
the Defendants' current policies, Reynolds will never
interact with inmates who were not previously on death row,
never touch a friend or loved one, and never have another
opportunity for meaningful social interaction for the rest of
Reynolds may recreate with other special circumstances
inmates, the Defendants cannot dispute that Reynolds is
detained in his 12 foot by 7-foot cell for nearly twenty-two
hours a day. Nor have the Defendants' experts challenged
the scholarly studies regarding the risks of developing
disturbing mental health conditions in prolonged isolation.
The fact that Reynolds may not currently exhibit any
devastating effects of his confinement does not defeat the
claim that the Defendants' behavior was
“sufficiently serious” to meet the objective
prong of an Eighth Amendment claim. See Phelps, 308
F.3d at 185. There is every indication that Reynolds'
conditions of confinement would “pose an unreasonable
risk of serious damage to his future health.”
McKinney, 509 U.S. at 35.
extent that the Defendants argue that Reynolds'
conditions of confinement do not constitute “solitary
confinement, ” that notion is contrary to both the vast
array of literature discussing the harmful effects of
prolonged periods of isolation and the undisputed facts of
this case. Reynolds is confined to his cell an average of 21
to 22 hours a day. See Defs' Mot. at 84. He is
unable to interact with other inmates in general population.
See id. at 78. He is unable to physically embrace
his visitors. See Defs' Local Rule 56(a)(1)
Stmt. ¶ 111. Other than his limited recreation time,
professional or medical visits, and short fifteen-minute
increments to eat and shower, Reynolds will spend the
remainder of his life alone in a small cell.
types of conditions give rise to the harmful effects
described by the growing body of research on social isolation
and mental health. See, e.g., Craig Haney,
Mental Health Issues in Long-Term Solitary and
“Supermax” Confinement, 49 Crime &
Delinquency 124, 132 (2003) (emphasis added) (“[T]here
is not a single published study of solitary or
supermax-like confinement in which nonvoluntary confinement
lasted for longer than 10 days, where participants were
unable to terminate their isolation at will, that failed
to result in negative psychological effects.”);
McClary v. Kelly, 4 F.Supp.2d 195, 208 (W.D.N.Y.
1998) (“[a] conclusion . . . that prolonged isolation
from social and environmental stimulation increases the risk
of developing mental illness does not strike this Court as
on the evidence in the record, I conclude that Reynolds has
established the objective element of his Eighth Amendment
claim. An overwhelming body of scientific research supports
the conclusion that prolonged isolation presents dangerous
risks to an inmate's physical and mental health.
also contends that the Defendants' deliberate
indifference to his conditions of confinement satisfies the
subjective element of his Eighth Amendment claim. “The
risks of harm from the conditions of [Reynolds']
confinement are obvious; Northern's own policies and the
Defendants' own testimony reflect an understanding of the
mental health risks of prolonged social isolation. The
undisputed facts show not only that Defendants knew the risks
posed by the conditions of [Reynolds'] confinement but
that they failed to respond to those risks.” Pl's
Mot. at 21-22.
asserts that the risks inherent in subjecting a person to
over twenty-three years of social isolation are so
“obvious” that no reasonable person could claim
to be unaware of them. Id. at 22. Specifically, he
argues that the Defendants' awareness of those risks is
evident in Northern's own internal policies and
directives. DOC's Restrictive Housing Unit Matrix
requires special circumstances inmates to be reviewed
“[b]y a mental health professional after 30 days of
initial placement” and then reviewed again “every
90 days thereafter.” Doc. No. 121-23 at 1. In addition,
Reynolds argues that DOC officials knew about the mental
health consequences of social isolation. Defendant Mark
Frayne, a former psychologist at Northern, stated that the
scientific literature regarding the effects of solitary
confinement reflects, “[t]hat there is a propensity for
solitary confinement to adversely affect [a person's]
mental health.” Frayne Dep. (Doc. No. 121-8) at 8.
Despite the Defendants' knowledge of those risks,
Reynolds notes that DOC officials continue to house him in
social isolation for an indefinite period. “There is no
evidence that [Defendants] have taken any action to order an
evaluation or otherwise inquire into the effects of this
isolation on [Reynolds'] mental health.” Pl's
Mot. at 23.
also cites the Defendants' own testimony to show that his
conditions of confinement lack a penological justification.
“Defendants themselves acknowledge that there is no
security justification for the extreme conditions of
[Reynolds'] confinement. Defendants Frayne and Semple,
and Dr. Saathoff, all testified that [Reynolds] can be
managed safely in general population.” Id. at
response Defendants argue that “any and all claims
regarding alleged deleterious effects on [Reynolds']
mental health must be dismissed because [Reynolds] has no
such deleterious mental health effects.” Defs' Mot.
at 2. “[Reynolds] [has] never asked for mental health
assistance and has been determined to have no mental health
issues. He certainly never exhausted his mental health
claims, and thus, this court is without any power to review
them.” Id. at 16. Reynolds never reported to a
DOC official that he was suffering from any mental
[Reynolds] never wrote or spoke to me concerning his mental
health nor was I ever advised by any other staff member that
he was in any way suffering from mental instability or
deterioration of any kind . . . . If anything, he seemed to
be relatively satisfied with having a single cell, with all
of his property and being able to remain on single-cell
status, which death row allowed him to do.
Maldonado Decl. (Doc. No. 117-3) ¶ 18.
Reynolds has demonstrated that the Defendants acted with
deliberate indifference to a substantial risk of harm by
continuing to house him in social isolation. There is no
dispute that prison officials at Northern were aware of the
mental health risks associated with prolonged isolation.
Indeed, Defendant Frayne, the former managing mental health
provider at Northern, testified that he was familiar with the
detrimental effects of solitary confinement. The
Defendants' knowledge of the health risks of solitary
confinement is apparent through DOC's own policies, which
mandate that special circumstances inmates be assessed by a
mental health professional one month after their initial
placement and every three months thereafter. Additionally, a
psychiatrist remained on-call during second and third shifts
at Northern to assist special circumstances inmates.
See Defs' Local Rule 56(a)(1) Stmt. ¶ 410.
Medical staff and social workers toured the death row housing
unit multiple times a day. Id. ¶¶ 427,
435. The Defendants implemented those policies because they
were aware of the disturbing mental health consequences of
solitary confinement. It is immaterial to the Eighth
Amendment analysis that Reynolds has yet to display symptoms
of a mental disease.
the Defendants' description of Reynolds' stable
behavior supports a finding that there is no penological
purpose for his severe conditions. Indeed, Defendant
Maldonado, the District Administrator for DOC, characterized
Reynolds as “respectful and professional.”
Maldonado Decl. ¶ 17. Based on his observations,
Reynolds appeared to be “relatively
well-adjusted” to prison life. Id. Hipolito
Rodriguez, former Warden of Northern, found that Reynolds
“is articulate and able to communicate well.”
Rodriguez Decl. (Doc. No. 117-5) ¶ 20. Defendant Frayne
stated that Reynolds “continues a very favorable
adjustment considering his correctional title.” Frayne
Decl. (Doc. No. 117-9) ¶ 72. Even the Defendants'
own expert, Dr. Saathoff, opined that Reynolds is “a
thoughtful, articulate and disciplined individual.”
Saathoff Decl. ¶ 12.
[Reynolds] continues to serve as the barber for the special
circumstances population . . . . Because a prison barber is
in a unique position to harm others when they are at their
most vulnerable, it is incumbent upon the institution to
allow only someone who has the requisite and appropriate
interpersonal, cognitive and emotional stability to
accomplish this important role - the most intimate job that
any prisoner can be assigned. That [Reynolds] performs this
job with exceptional skill in the dayroom according to
correctional staff and is fully accepted in this role by
other inmates as well as security and administrative staff
and leadership is a testament to his mental and emotional
Id. ¶ 17. The individual that Dr. Saathoff
describes is a far cry from the impulsive death row inmate
who has “nothing to lose in committing assaults or
attempting to escape.” See Defs' Mot. at
Defendants' attempt to justify Reynolds' current
conditions based on his underlying state murder
conviction (which occurred in 1992) is without
merit. See Defs' Opp. at 3-6. Despite the
Defendants' objection to Reynolds' characterization
as a “model inmate, ” Reynolds' most recent
disciplinary citation occurred in 2013. See Id. at 4
n. 3. As noted above, the Defendants' sworn testimony
indicates that Reynolds does not exhibit “paranoid
rage” nor “compulsive behaviors” and has
adjusted “relatively well” to prison life.
Saathoff Decl. ¶ 16; Maldonado Decl. ¶ 17. There is
no evidence in the record that there is any penological
justification for Reynolds' current conditions of
on the evidence in the record, I conclude that Reynolds has
established the subjective element of his Eighth Amendment
claim. The Defendants knew or reasonably should have known of
the serious risks of harm to Reynolds from his conditions of
confinement; their failure to ameliorate those conditions
reflects deliberate indifference.
Reynolds has shown that his conditions of confinement violate
the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual
move to preclude the opinions of Dr. Stuart Grassian,
arguing that his report fails the admissibly test for expert
opinions set forth in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharm.,
Inc., 509 U.S. 579, 590 (1993).
702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence addresses testimony to
be provided by experts. The Rule provides:
If the expert's scientific, technical, or other
specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to
understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, [a
witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill,
experience, training or education, may testify thereto in the
form of an opinion or otherwise, if] (1) the testimony is
based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the
product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the
witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to
the facts of the case.
Fed. R. Evid. 702. Rule 702 “establishes a standard of
evidentiary reliability, ” Daubert, 509 U.S.
at 590, and “requires a valid . . . connection to the
pertinent inquiry as a precondition to admissibility.”
Id. at 592; see also Kumho Tire Co. v.
Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137 (1999).
determining the admissibility of expert testimony, whether
based on “scientific, ” “technical, ”
or “other specialized knowledge, ” the Supreme
Court has adopted a two-step inquiry under which trial judges
must determine “whether the reasoning or methodology
properly can be applied to the facts in issue.”
Daubert, 509 U.S. at 592-93; see also Kumho
Tire, 526 U.S. at 141. Specifically, the Federal Rules
of Evidence “assign to the trial judge the task of
ensuring that an expert's testimony both rests on a
reliable foundation and is relevant to the task at
hand.” Daubert, 509 U.S. at 597; see also
Wills v. Amerada Hess Corp., 379 F.3d 32, 48 (2d Cir.
2004) (instructing that “the district court must
consider both the reliability and relevance of the proffered
assessing the reliability of a proffered expert's
testimony, a district court's inquiry under
Daubert must focus, not on the substance of the
expert's conclusions, but on whether those conclusions
were generated by a reliable methodology. See Id. at
590; see also Amorgianos v. Nat'l R.R. Passenger
Corp., 137 F.Supp.2d 147, 162 (E.D.N.Y. 2001). In
Daubert, the Supreme Court set out a list of
non-exclusive factors the trial court may consider in
determining whether an expert's reasoning or methodology
is reliable: (1) whether the theory or technique on which the
expert relies has been tested - that is, whether the
expert's theory can be challenged in an objective sense,
or whether it is instead simply a subjective, conclusory
approach that cannot reasonably be assessed for reliability;
(2) whether the theory or technique has been subject to peer
review and publication; (3) the known or potential rate of
error of the technique when applied; (4) the existence of
standards controlling the technique's operation; and (5)
whether the method has been generally accepted by the
scientific community. See Daubert, 509 U.S. at 593-
factors are not a definitive checklist, however. See
Kumho Tire, 526 U.S. at 150. A court applying the
Daubert factors must look at “the nature of
the issue, the expert's particular expertise, and the
subject of his testimony, ” and “consider the
specific factors identified in Daubert where they
are reasonable measures of the reliability of expert
testimony.” Id. at 150- 52. In short,
“the trial judge must have considerable leeway in
deciding in a particular case how to go about determining
whether particular expert testimony is reliable.”
Id. at 152.
Defendants focus their objection on the reliability of Dr.
Grassian's methods. See Defs' Opp. at 17-21.
They contend that Dr. Grassian's conclusions regarding
Reynolds' conditions at Northern are inadmissible because
he did not visit Northern and did not interview Reynolds
prior to producing his expert report. “Dr.
Grassian's opinions had been pre-judged and
pre-determined before he ever became involved in this case,
and not only did he simply copy and paste from other reports,