Expert Reports in Ashker v. Brown

On March 13, 2015, CCR and co-counsel submitted 10 reports in Ashker v. Brown, our federal class action lawsuit on behalf of prisoners held in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at California’s Pelican Bay State Prison who have spent a decade or more in solitary confinement. The reports were authored by experts in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, medicine, prison classification, prison security, international law, and international corrections. Together, these reports provide an unprecedented and holistic analysis of the impact of prolonged solitary confinement, and document severe physical and psychological harm among California SHU prisoners as a result of their isolation.

According to the experts, prisoners subjected to prolonged solitary experience a form of “social death” that is not cured upon release, but rather lingers as a “post-SHU syndrome” characterized by social withdrawal, isolation, and anxiety. The profound impact of solitary is not just psychological; plaintiffs' experts also uncovered evidence that SHU prisoners experience unusually heightened levels of hypertension, placing them at risk for serious health consequences. The international and domestic experts agree that such prolonged isolation is not only unnecessary for prison security, but actually counter-productive, as well as a violation of international law.

Finally, plaintiffs’ experts demonstrate that social interaction and physical touch are basic and fundamental human needs, the deprivation of which has serious and irreversible impacts. These reports provide valuable new evidence for prisoners and advocates fighting to end solitary confinement across the country. For more more information on the case, see Ashker v. Brown.

Last modified 

August 3, 2015