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Hearing begins Monday to challenge retaliation against plaintiffs in Florida solitary confinement lawsuit

Tallahassee, Fla. — A five-day evidentiary hearing begins Monday in Harvard v. Inch. on Plaintiffs’ motion for a protective order asking the court to stop retaliation, chilling or harassing conduct against people who are incarcerated for participating in the lawsuit. 

Harvard v. Inch, a federal class action lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Florida Legal Services and the Florida Justice Institute in 2019, challenges the Florida Department of Correction’s (FDC)  use of solitary confinement as cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.


At the hearing, Plaintiffs will present evidence about how members of the proposed class experienced verbal and physical intimidation from the FDC for speaking with class legal counsel and their experts. Some proposed class members were denied basic necessities of food, water, and clothing; called them “snitches;” pressured to tell what they told their attorneys; and threatened with physical assault for participating in the lawsuit. 


Kelly Knapp, SPLC senior supervising attorney and lead counsel in the case said, “It is an issue of fundamental fairness that anyone who wants to take part in this case be able to without threats and harassment from the Florida Department of Corrections.”


Opening statements are expected to occur Monday morning in front of Magistrate Judge Martin A. Fitzpatrick. Former Washington State Corrections Director Dan Pacholke is scheduled to testify on Friday at 9:30 a.m. about his observations during his inspections of FDC solitary confinement units and his reaction to the retaliation that incarcerated people experienced because they communicated with Plaintiffs’ legal team. 


The virtual hearing can be publicly accessed by dialing (646) 828-7666. The meeting ID is 1602379872#