Hannah May


Few inmates placed in solitary confinement escape the detrimental consequences of the punitive, oppressive conditions. Anthony Gay is no exception. As a teenager, Gay pled guilty to robbery for stealing a hat and a $1 bill and violated his probation by driving a vehicle without a license when he was twenty years old. Gay was supposed to be released in three and a half years with good behavior, but he suffers from borderline personality disorder. The symptoms of his mental illness, such as self-mutilation and throwing bodily fluids, manifested in prison. The manifestations of his mental illness landed him in solitary confinement, where he remained for the next twenty years of his life. Gay’s mental health decompensated to a point so severe that he needed acute inpatient care. Over the twenty years he spent in solitary confinement, he never received the proper mental health care, and he filed a lawsuit against the IDOC claiming his treatment violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment Rights.

The Supreme Court has not yet addressed the constitutionality of psychological conditions imposed on inmates in solitary confinement. Therefore, lower courts across the country have crafted their own nuanced standards to deal with this issue. Gay v. Baldwin sits in the Central District of Illinois, where the Seventh Circuit has ruled that psychological claims need to be accompanied by either a physical injury or an extreme and officially sanctioned psychological harm in order for a prisoner to allege a sufficiently serious injury that would hold a prison official liable for the harm under the Eighth Amendment. This Comment contends that the Central District of Illinois, and upon appeal, the Seventh Circuit, should hold that the use of solitary confinement as punishment for prisoners with serious mental illness under any circumstances constitutes a deliberate indifference for the prisoner’s health, for which prison officials may be held liable as a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

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