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DOJ Closing Letter to PA DOC re Use of Solitary Confinement on Prisoners with Mental Illness or Intellectual Disabilities, April 14, 2016

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U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division

Assistant Attorney General

Washington, D.C. 20530

APR 14 2016
The Honorable Tom Wolf
Office of the Governor
225 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120

Investigation of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections' Use of Solitary
Confinement on Prisoners with Serious Mental Illness and/or Intellectual Disabilities

Dear Governor Wolf:
This refers to the Department of Justice's investigation into the Pennsylvania Department
of Corrections' ("PDOC") use of solitary confinement on prisoners with serious mental illness or
intellectual disabilities ("SMI/ID"), pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act,
42 U.S.C. § 1997. 1 Two years ago, we issued our findings that PDOC subjected prisoners with
SMVID to solitary confinement under conditions that violated their constitutional rights and their
rights under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C §§ 12131-12134. In light
of the significant improvements in PDOC's policies and practices regarding solitary confinement
for this vulnerable population, we are pleased to report that we are closing our investigation.
PDOC has demonstrated significant commitment to reforming its use of solitary
confinement on prisoners with SMVID. It worked quickly to address concerns that we flagged
starting with our initial onsite tours in August 2013. Notably, PDOC had already initiated some
changes before we even issued our findings. To be sure, institutional change takes many years to
fully implement, but nearly three years after we began our statewide investigation, PDOC's
leadership remains committed to seeing slated reforms through to completion.
Today, PDOC is headed in the right direction. 2 In deciding to close this investigation, we
considered the following factors: (1) PDOC worked closely with the Department of Justice and
our experts to change policies and procedures that lay the groundwork for protecting prisoners
with SMI/ID from inappropriate and harmful solitary confinement that violates their rights under
federal law; (2) PDOC implemented initial reforms, and we confirmed its efforts through site

We opened this statewide investigation in May 20 I 3 after our initial 2011 investigation of the State Correctional
Institution at Cresson revealed statewide concerns.

Indeed, several of the reforms PDOC has instituted are in line with the Department of Justice's guiding principles
on the use of restrictive housing. See U.S. Dep't of Justice, Report and Recommendations on the Use of Restrictive
Housing 94-103 (2016),