Arthur Johnson freed: 36 years in solitary confinement is enough for inmate

By on September 22, 2016
Arthur Johnson freed: 36 years in solitary confinement is enough for inmate

A federal judge in Harrisburg has ordered the state prison system to release Arthur Johnson from solitary confinement, where he has spent the past 36 years.

U.S. Middle District Judge Christopher Conner gave prison officials and lawyers for 64-year-old Arthur Johnson a week to develop a plan for mental health monitoring and to continually increase contact with other inmates and visitors. He set a target of 90 days to complete the transition after being transferred to an appropriate facility.

“It is difficult to conjure up a more compelling case for reintegration to the general prison population,” Conner wrote. “After 36 years of isolation, Mr. Johnson deserves the opportunity to shake hands with someone other than his attorneys.”

Arthur Johnson made several escape attempts after being convicted of the 1970 murder of a man during a street fight in Philadelphia, but officials describe him as having been a model prisoner for the past 25 years.

Conner said that during an injunction hearing in July, Johnson said his prolonged isolation has caused sleeplessness, anxiety, depression, obsession behavior, anger, loss of concentration and despair.

Johnson’s 7-by-10-foot cell, containing a TV, radio, bed, desk and toilet at the prison in Frackville, about 100 miles northwest of Philadelphia, is illuminated at all hours. He gets one hour in a small caged-in area of the prison yard five days a week and is taken to showers in handcuffs three times a week.

All of his family members are dead, and he has had no physical contact with family or friends in 36 years, the judge wrote.

Johnson was cited for misconduct at least 90 times early during his incarceration and then tried to escape in 1979, 1984 and 1987. The December 1979 escape attempt, at a state prison in Pittsburgh, involved binding, gagging and locking a prison guard in a cell, and Johnson was found with two loaded zip guns, Conner noted.

“To confine an inmate to isolation indefinitely, absent a tenable threat, cannot be justified under the guise of institutional security,” the judge wrote.

Over the past 25 years, Johnson has received only one misconduct citation, for having a multivitamin in his cell.

“I behave every way that they told me I was (supposed) to behave, and it really doesn’t mean nothing at all,” Johnson testified in July, Conner wrote.

Johnson said he was reluctant to complain about his mental health because, he told the judge, he was “brought up not to complain.”

A spokeswoman for the Corrections Department said the matter was under review, and declined comment.

Wire Services

About Staff

To contact the editors responsible for this story: [email protected]


  1. Amy

    September 22, 2016 at 11:06 am

    Freaking pathetic behavior by prison guards, let him go!

    • Tom

      September 22, 2016 at 12:59 pm

      “Prison Guards” or Correctional Officers, do not have the authority to “let him go”…

    • Trevor

      September 22, 2016 at 2:35 pm

      This is inhuman the fact that this blk man or any man for that matter is kept confined this long. Everyone from the Warden on down should be held accountable. This man has had 1 infraction since 1980. So why keep him there. It’s crazy imagine how many people that are lost to the system. Because they have no family members or anyone fighting for them on the outside. This man should get a full pardoned by the Gov of PA.


      September 22, 2016 at 4:59 pm

      DISRACE IN AMERCIA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Shawty Lo's Ghost

    September 22, 2016 at 11:13 am

    Proof positive that the White Man is the DEVIL!!!

    • Tom

      September 22, 2016 at 1:00 pm

      That is mighty racist of you, thank you!

    • sean

      September 22, 2016 at 1:51 pm

      didn’t the black guy kill someone?

    • Sean

      September 22, 2016 at 2:03 pm

      Give me a break, stop this racist crap, not all white people are the same, nor are black people. Stop the ignorance.

    • Joe

      September 22, 2016 at 2:53 pm

      Yes, I’m sure no black guards or DOC officials were involved. Retard.

    • White Mann

      September 22, 2016 at 3:27 pm


    • ANN

      September 23, 2016 at 1:41 am

      Why is there always a race card. He was a model prisoner because of where he was. White people are no more devils than blacks Hispanics Chinese or any other nationality. WE ALL BLEED RED AND IF YOU NEED BLOOD HOW DO YOU KNOW WHERE IT CAME FROM!!!!!!!! STOP the race cards for Gods Sake!!!!!

  3. Patricia

    September 22, 2016 at 11:35 am

    This is just so wrong. Mankind was not ment to br alone. What happened to rehabilitation?

  4. Lee Harvey

    September 22, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    And as soon as you let him out he is going to rob and kill someone. “prediction#28867”.

    • Montae Carr

      September 22, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      lee Harvey he is 64 dude…. 64. He is more likely to be robbed and beating if he attempts to rod someone. You are horrible. 37 years in a dark box is unreasonable. UNREASONABLE!!!

    • Ms. Always On Top

      September 22, 2016 at 4:41 pm

      Why is it that so many people assume that a person who has been confined for many years that they’re going to commit a crime??? Not everyone who goes to jail repeat their crimes!!! I mean come on, at least give the man a break.

    • JHS

      September 22, 2016 at 5:46 pm

      They didn’t say they were releasing him.

  5. D'uane Merchant

    September 22, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    This is so inhumane. People will up rise up and cry out for the treatment of animals but we turn a blind eye to this type of depravity. We all pay a price when injustices like this continue. #Accountabilitymatters


    September 22, 2016 at 1:48 pm


  7. Christine

    September 22, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    Anyone seen Shawshank redemption? Isolation ruins you. Poor guy, he deserves human contact, a chance at a normal life with blue skies and a terrible job. You can only pray he’ll be able to recover from being so mentally screwed from all these years in captivity that he’ll hopefully eventually halfway adjust to normal life. Prison is not rehabilitation.

  8. Richard Stanley

    September 22, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    The poor regardless of race never get a shot at a decent life.
    And it all begins in early education. This society is caught in a spiraling whirlpool of zero compassion to people born in poverty. We would rather send jobs overseas than give a poor person any shot at all.

  9. Josh

    September 22, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    Instead, we should kill him and eat him!

  10. Richard Stanley

    September 22, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    This society will never give a person born into poverty a decent shot.
    From early education to sending jobs overseas. People in poverty are given three options, substance abuse, violence, and the lottery. That’s society’s dogma for the poor.

  11. Joe

    September 22, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    Extended solitary confinement is cruel, and tends to have the opposite of the desired effect. This does permanent, irreparable harm. I’m not sure if a lobotomy is worse.

  12. Chuck

    September 22, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    I smell it from here.

  13. Chuck

    September 22, 2016 at 3:03 pm

    It’s like a bag of wet cats. You have to listen quite gully.

  14. your Daddy

    September 22, 2016 at 3:28 pm

    i hate this world and mankinds judgements….because they are biased and often time wrong !!!!!

  15. Something's Gotta Give

    September 22, 2016 at 4:10 pm

    The US detention system is not built around rehabilitation, it’s merely there to babysit for only as long as they have to. The Justice system, the Presidential candidates, the economy, the the the etc etc etc. WE HAVE NO ONE TO BLAME BUT OURSELVES. It’s time for American’s to wake up and stop drinking the Kool-Aid. If we dont do something soon our country is going to end up driving itself into the ground.

  16. Tony From Long Isand

    September 22, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    There’s a difference between punishment and “cruel and unusual punishment.” This is an example of the latter. A really said commentary on our criminal justice system.

  17. Ms. Always On Top

    September 22, 2016 at 4:38 pm

    Just ridiculous, this type of stuff needs to stop. We don’t deserve to be treated as animals. That’s not who we are.

  18. Tom Clawz

    September 22, 2016 at 5:20 pm

    Cruel and unusual punishment, a good example of how our judicial and correctional system failed to protect the constitutional rights of a citizen. In addition, this amounts to a violation of human rights. Why, I ask myself, is no official being made responsible for this gross violation.

  19. deeds

    September 22, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    i’m nottt saying it’s right, but…

    he was cited for misconduct NINETY times.

    and then tried to escape three times – during the first of which, he bound and gagged and locked an officer in a cell…

    he was obviously determined to escape, and the facility didn’t know what else they could do…

    again, i’m not saying it’s right…

  20. N.ryan

    September 22, 2016 at 7:33 pm

    It will be interesting to see what will happen. I do feel he will need more than 90 days to reintegrate into society. Maybe a more gradual release like a reintegration into general population at the institution then intensive supervision at a community correctional facility slowly moving towards full release.
    This way there is less shock to the offender.

    Just my 2 cents though

  21. Tony

    September 22, 2016 at 7:42 pm

    Don’t forget he is a convicted murderer. His victim lost their only chance at life because of him.

  22. bruce

    September 22, 2016 at 7:48 pm

    if this isn’t cruel and inhumane I don’t know what is.

  23. ridikulus

    September 22, 2016 at 10:00 pm

    His victim is still confined to a 2×6 pine box. Probably dust by now but locked up forever

  24. Brian Chick

    September 22, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    Solitary confinement for long stretches of time, not to mention 37 years, is a violation of prison accreditation standards. How this prison was able to get away with it is mind boggling. I sense there is something more to this that we may never know.

  25. Jennifer V

    September 23, 2016 at 1:51 am

    What’s cruel and inhumane is life in jail without parole for robberies like my friend Gregory Bartholomew; this guy Johnson murdered someone- that’s forever – just saying

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.