Appeals court hears NC solitary confinement case

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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A lawyer for a North Carolina inmate with severe mental illness argued that state prison officials have violated his constitutional rights by holding him in solitary confinement for more than 10 years.

Phillip Griffin told a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond that isolating Michael Williams constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. Griffin asked the court to reinstate his case, which a federal court dismissed in February.

A North Carolina assistant attorney general argued that Williams has failed to show that prison officials displayed deliberate indifference, the standard for such a claim.

Williams says he's confined to a small cell for all but five hours a week. He claims isolated confinement and various punishments aggravate his mental illness and lead to further behavior problems.

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