The Legality of Solitary Confinement Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)


  • Christopher Steven Martin Stanford University



Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, individuals with "a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities," (ADA Sec. 12102), are to be protected from discrimination and offered reasonable alternatives to navigate their spaces. Mentally ill prisoners are under the protection of the ADA, making the use of solitary confinement as a punitive tool for this population a blatant defiance of the law. Solitary confinement is capable of shattering any healthy mind, and is associated with higher rates of self harm. In addition, the use of solitary confinement denies the prisoners several benefits given to the prison population, ranging from access to emergency services to proper therapy and treatment. This paper examines the history of solitary confinement in the United States, the illegality of imposing it on the mentally ill and presents alternatives for addressing mentally ill prisoners within the United States, focusing on the New York and Pennsylvania prison systems. 

Author Biography

Christopher Steven Martin, Stanford University

Undergraduate Senior

Human Biology: Public Health for Underserved Communities






Research Articles