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Open Access Publications from the University of California

“Everything Is at Stake if Norway Is Sentenced. In that Case, We Have Failed”: Solitary Confinement and the “Hard” Cases in the United States and Norway

  • Author(s): Rovner, Laura
  • et al.

While the harms caused by solitary confinement and its overuse in American prisons have gained increased recognition over the last decade, most states and the federal government maintain that extensive solitary confinement is both necessary and appropriate for those people deemed “the worst of the worst.” As a result, many of those who have been so labeled have languished in solitary confinement for years or even decades. With limited exceptions, they are there with the blessing of the federal courts, which have generally held that even very lengthy periods of solitary confinement do not violate the Eighth Amendment’s Cruel and Unusual Punishments clause. In this Article, I examine a Norwegian court’s holding that Anders Behring Breivik’s long-term solitary confinement violates the European Convention on Human Rights to consider the lessons it holds for American Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement jurisprudence.

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