Rolando Ruiz v. Texas: Assessing the Psychological Impacts of Extended Solitary Confinement on Death Row Inmates
Arts and Sciences
The 2017 Supreme Court case Rolando Ruiz v. Texas brought the debate surrounding solitary confinement and death row conditions to the fore, in Ruiz's appeal for a stay of execution so that the Court may further consider his case. Awaiting execution in solitary confinement for 22 years, Rolando Ruiz suffered psychological symptoms characteristic of extended solitary confinement and threat of execution, including depression, suicidal thoughts, and hallucinations. While some research is critical of these effects and no two inmates' experiences are the same, many recent studies suggest that the negative conditions of solitary confinement, like almost-constant isolation and prevention of contact with others, can have profound psychological effects on a person over long periods of time, particularly with the added stressor of an impending execution. Inmates with and without mental illness can experience decreased concentration, violent fantasies, anxiety, depression, paranoia, and more (Cockrell, 2013) in solitary confinement. Some inmates awaiting execution in solitary might even dismiss their appeals, bringing about their execution faster to end their lives in death row isolation (Johnson, McGunigall-Smith, Miller, & Rose, 2014). Enlightened by psychological research of these threats to inmates' psychological health, this Amicus Brief argues in favor of Ruiz and future appellants whose extended solitary confinement has negatively affected them. This Brief supports Ruiz's appeal for a stay of execution and subsequent review of his case in the hopes that the Supreme Court takes into account current psychological research to assess the constitutionality of extended stays in solitary confinement on death row.
Fischer, Zoe, "Rolando Ruiz v. Texas: Assessing the Psychological Impacts of Extended Solitary Confinement on Death Row Inmates" (2018). Symposium on Undergraduate Research and Creative Expression (SOURCE). 730.