A lawsuit filed by civil rights groups against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections made complaints about an indefinite solitary confinement unit called the Security Threat Group Management Unit (STGMU) at the Fayette state prison, The Appeal reports. One inmate, T. Montana Bell, was transferred into solitary confinement after he had been identified as a person with mental illness. During his almost two years in the STGMU, Bell said he attempted suicide at least ten times. The plaintiffs seek a meaningful, transparent way out of solitary for everyone currently in the STGMU—and for anyone sent to a different solitary unit. Alexandra Morgan-Kurtz of the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project, said the DOC should shut the unit down.
“There’s not an element of how the unit is run or conceived that is operating by constitutional standards,” she said. “When you have something that to its bare fundamental building blocks is unconstitutional, there’s no way to improve the unit.” The lawsuit began almost a year ago when Bell and other men incarcerated in the unit filed the case without attorneys in a hand-written pro se complaint. The law firms joined the case later. The STGMU is supposed to house “groups of individuals who have been identified as a possible threat to the security, safety, and/or operation of the facility.” The state refers to such people as a Security Threat Group (STG). The complaint says that people who fail in the program are sent to another solitary confinement unit. The suit alleges that many plaintiffs were housed in other solitary confinement units before and after their stints in STGMU. The conditions have predictably devastating consequences. The suit alleges that people in the unit self-harm, attempt suicide, and smear feces on themselves and their cells.