His name is Arthur Johnson, and he has lived in his cell, in the ‘hole’, for 37 years.
You heard me right: 37 years!
He was first cast into the Pa. Dept. of Corrections version of hell (officially known as solitary confinement) in December 1979.
Jimmy Carter was President. The Shah of Iran had just been overthrown by the Islamic Revolution. Tennis star, John McEnroe won his first U.S. Open championship. Muhammad Ali wasn’t just alive; he had recently retired from the boxing ring.
From that time, to this very day, Arthur Johnson has been in continuous solitary confinement (locked in ‘the hole’) and virtually forgotten.
Recently the Abolitionist Law Center of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, filed an 8th Amendment challenge to Johnson’s continuous solitary confinement, and seeks an injunction in federal court.
For 37 years, Johnson has lived in “the hole”–held in a 7 x 12 ft. cell–held 23 hours a day (an hour is allowed in an outdoor cage) for an alleged attempted escape in 1979.
Facing conditions such as these, the question arises–“Who wouldn’t want to escape?”
For 37 years he hasn’t touched a woman’s hand, held a child in his arms, hugged a relative, or entered a classroom; prayed in a religious congregation, or walked more than 10 feet without being handcuffed or shackled.
He’s lived (if you can call this ‘living’) in nearly half a dozen prisons: Forest, Huntingdon, Smithfield, Graterford, Greene–back to Huntingdon–but always only in ‘the hole, never in general population-never free of handcuffs, chains and shackles.
When he came to prison, he was 18.
That’s the face of Pennsylvania corrections.
That’s the reality of American solitary confinement—life in ‘the Hole–today.