Today, Lambda Legal, the MacArthur Justice Center and law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon sued the Missouri Department of Corrections (“MODOC”) on behalf of Jane Roe, a formerly incarcerated transgender woman living with HIV, who was put in solitary confinement for over six years between 2015 and 2021 while held at the Jefferson City Correctional Center (“JCCC”) due to an unconstitutional and discriminatory policy against people living with HIV. The severe physical and psychological harms associated with solitary confinement – much of which Ms. Roe endured – are well-researched and documented. In fact, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has determined that solitary confinement lasting beyond 15 days constitutes torture or cruel, inhumane, and or degrading treatment in violation of international human rights law.
The lawsuit, Roe v. Precythe, et. al., filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, asserts that MODOC’s policy on incarcerated people living with HIV lacks any consideration of modern medicine and does not engage in individualized assessments. In holding Ms. Roe in solitary confinement because of her HIV status without meaningful review, MODOC violated the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. Ms. Roe was also denied the benefits of services, programs and activities offered because of her HIV status. Ms. Roe is seeking that the policy with respect to people living with HIV be enjoined, monetary damages, and other relief.
“No person should be subjected to the inhumane and devastating effects of long-term solitary confinement, conditions that Ms. Roe faced every day for more than six years,” said Lambda Legal Senior Attorney, Criminal Justice and Police Misconduct Strategist, Richard Saenz. “We filed this lawsuit to hold the Missouri Department of Corrections accountable for its use of an unconstitutional and discriminatory policy that singles out people living with HIV.”
“Ms. Roe was trapped in isolation with no way to challenge her conditions,” said MacArthur Justice Center Attorney, Shubra Ohri. “Six years of that led Ms. Roe to self-harm, suicidal ideation and actual suicide attempts. This tracks with widespread consensus among the human rights experts, psychologists, physicians and mental health authorities who say solitary confinement is torturous and should be abolished.”
“We seek justice for our client who endured six years of unwarranted solitary confinement. We will work to prevent this from ever happening to another human being,” said Shook Partner, Gregory Wu. Shook has a long history of promoting LGBT+ rights with its Project Affirmation program, which assists those seeking to legally change their name and gender markers.
Joining Lambda Legal attorneys Richard Saenz, Jose Abrigo and Kell Olson are Amy E. Breihan, Shubra Ohri and W. Patrick Mobley of the Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice Center and Gregory Wu, William Walberg, Jennifer Hackman, and Connor Smith with Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P.
Read more about Roe v. Precythe, et al. here.