NEWS (4/9/20) — Pennsylvania: A federal district court judge has approved a settlement of a class action challenge to the conditions of confinement on Pennsylvania’s death row that officially ends the state’s policy of mandatory incarceration of death-row prisoners in permanent solitary confinement. In a 14-page Memorandum and Order, Judge John E. Jones III of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania expressed “absolutely no hesitancy” in accepting the proposed agreement, which he said “effectuates a sweeping alteration of the class members’ conditions of confinement.”

The settlement agreement, reached in November 2019, provides death-row prisoners with at least 42.5 hours a week out of their cells and 15-minutes of phone access each day and allows prisoners to have contact visits, outdoor exercise, daily showers, group religious services, jobs, and access to educational programs. It also ends the Commonwealth’s practices of subjecting death-row prisoners to body cavity searches whenever they leave their cells and requiring 24-hour illumination of the prisoners’ cells. Pennsylvania had already begun implementing some of the terms of the agreement in anticipation of its approval.


Mark Scolforo, Death row inmates’ deal for bet­ter con­di­tions gets approved, Associated Press, April 9, 2020; Matt Miller, Pa.’s death row inmates will have eas­i­er, more social lives under deal approved by fed­er­al judge, Harrisburg Patriot-News/PennLive, April 92020.

Read the Memorandum and Order approv­ing the set­tle­ment in Reid v. Wetzel.