Challenge to Automatic Solitary Confinement for Death Row Prisoners, Prieto v. Clarke (amicus). 

All Virginia offenders who are sentenced to death are assigned to solitary confinement for the remainder of their lives or until their sentence is overturned. Typically, inmates serve at least six years in solitary while they pursue their appeals. Solitary confinement is an extremely cruel method of imprisonment that has been proved to cause severe harm to inmates. Death row prisoner Alfredo Prieto challenged Virginia’s system of automatic solitary confinement , and a federal judge in Alexandria agreed that the practice was unconstitutional. Virginia appealed. On June 4, 2014, the ACLU of Virginia and the National ACLU filed a brief on behalf of nine correctional experts supporting Prieto’s case. On March 10, 2015, the Fourth Circuit reversed the lower court, ruling that automatic solitary confinement for death row inmates is not unconstitutional.

Additional Info: Executions at any Cost (September 30, 2015)


Rebecca Glenberg, Hope Amezquita, ACLU of Virginia; Amy Fettig, Helen Vera, National ACLU

Date filed

June 4, 2014


U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit