Philly con who spent 37 years in solitary finally in general pop

PSOLI31
Arthur Johnson spent 37 years in solitary confinement.

Arthur Johnson, the Philadelphia-born murderer who spent 37 years in solitary confinement, prompting him to sue the state last year, is now serving time with other inmates.

In September, a federal judge ruled that Johnson's "institutional exile" in an "area smaller than the average horse stall" had to end.

Johnson was moved into the general population at SCI Greene last Friday after a 90-day transition process, according to Amy Worden, state Department of Corrections spokeswoman. She said she would answer no other questions because "the case remains in active litigation."

Last year, Johnson, 64, sued the prison system, claiming he was the victim of cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and 14th Amendments to the Constitution.

He was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole for a 1970 gang-related murder when he was placed in solitary confinement in 1979 after several failed escape attempts.

During two hearings last summer in Harrisburg before U.S. District Judge Christopher C. Conner, Johnson and his lawyers argued that he had committed no major disciplinary infractions for more than 25 years and therefore was no longer an escape risk.

"It may well be that Johnson will endeavor to escape again," Conner wrote. "But Mr. Johnson . . . will be subject to three decades of improvements in institutional security over the general population.

"The department has at its disposal a broad array of investigative and penological techniques to dissuade even the most entrenched escape artist. Surely there are less restrictive means to monitor Mr. Johnson than solitary confinement."

deanm@phillynews.com

215-854-4172@mensahdean