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$660,000 Awarded in Post-Sandin Segregation Suit

On February 26, 1999, a federal jury in Rochester, New York, awarded New York state prisoner David McClary $660,000 in damages after finding he was improperly held in administrative segregation for over four years. In the March, 1999, issue of PLN we reported McClary v. Kelly, 4 F. Supp.2d 199 (WD NY 1998) which sets out the facts of the legal case and the legal issue to be decided at trial.

McClary spent more than four years in segregation because prison officials claimed the notoriety of McClary's crime (McClary was convicted of killing a police officer guarding the home of a drug witness) put him at risk in the prison's general population. McClary claimed he was denied due process because no meaningful review of his segregation placement ever took place.

This case is significant for several reasons. First, McClary used expert testimony from psychiatrists to show that prolonged isolation causes a number of psychological problems. Second, the court held that McClary had met the very demanding standard set forth in Sandin v. Connor , 515 US 472 (1995) in that the length and conditions of McClary's solitary confinement were an "atypical and significant" hardship in the context of prison life.

That the jury awarded substantial damages against former New York DOCS commissioner Thomas Coughlin III and three prison wardens is also significant. The defendants' attorneys said they would ask the court to overturn the verdict.

Associated Press

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Related legal case

McClary v. Kelly