Michael Johnson was jailed in 2007 on charges relating to home invasion and assault. He was forced into solitary confinement after "countless" instances of prison violations, according to reports.
During his time in solitary confinement, Jackson, who has several mental health conditions including severe depression and bipolar disorder, was barred from exercising as prison officials "stacked" 30- to 90-day restrictions on him for mostly minor infractions.
The back-to-back restrictions left him no allowance to leave his cell except for a 10-minute shower once a week at the Pontiac Correctional Center.
“The deprivation was not imposed to ensure the safety and security of the exercise yard, but rather to punish Mr. Johnson for engaging in misconduct that was born of mental illness and unrelated to exercise," Johnson's attorneys said in a statement.
In March 2022, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit denied Johnson's claim that solitary confinement along with the lack of outdoor time violated the Eighth Amendment.
The U.S. Supreme Court also rejected Johnson's appeal, with Justices Ketanji Brown Jackson, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan dissenting from the court’s decision.
“For three years, Johnson had no opportunity at all to stretch his limbs or breathe fresh air,” Jackson wrote in a dissent on Monday (November 13). “Johnson’s mental state deteriorated rapidly. He suffered from hallucinations, excoriated his own flesh, urinated and defecated on himself, and smeared feces all over his body and cell.”
“Johnson became suicidal and sometimes engaged in misconduct with the hope that prison guards would beat him to death,” she continued.
Johnson’s attorney, Daniel Greenfield, said in a statement: "We are saddened to live in an era where imposing such cruelty ― let alone on a person known to suffer from mental illness ― is acceptable to any federal judge.”
“Three years of 24/7 solitary confinement, unrelieved by any opportunity for exercise, would have appalled the Founders,” Greenfield said. “It should be no less shocking to us today.”