In an almost obscure reference, and ignored by virtually all modern media, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy recently penned (June 2015) an interesting and insightful sua sponte opinion about the criminal justice system and the common practice of prolonged solitary confinement.  See Davis v. Ayala, No. 13-1428 (U.S. June 18, 2015) Quoting Dostoyevsky from over 150 years ago, Kennedy observed “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”  In a surprise and unsolicited remark, Kennedy observed that “There is truth to this in our own time.”

In modern society we give almost no public discourse to the topic of what happens to more than 1 million adult citizens who are confined in the prison system for everything from tax evasion, business malfeasants, and financial misdeeds – to the more gruesome and violent wrong doings.   As one of my heroes was known to have commonly remarked, we simply “blank out” rather than use our minds to engage in this important area of thought and civil discourse.    Good for Justice Kennedy.

Principle 6 “People are Assets”

Principle 12 “Collective Action has no Unique Moral Authority”

Also, consider the following interesting quotes from Justice Kennedy illustrating some of his thoughts on liberty.

“At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

“Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct.”

“[Under certain conditions] the State can exact forfeiture of some of the most basic liberties, but the State cannot extinguish [a juvenile man’s] life and his potential to attain a mature understanding of his own humanity.”  

 Source: Prisoners in Isolation | Casetext