New York State has agreed to significant steps towards an end to the torture of solitary confinement in US prisons. Reforms will limit the use of solitary confinement and prohibit it for prisoners under eighteen. Additionally, it will be prohibited for pregnant inmates and limited to thirty days for those who are developmentally disabled.
The agreement calls for16 and 17 year old prisoners who are under the most restrictive confinement to be allowed at least 5 hours of exercise or programming outside their cells, five days a week. The agreement also creates guidelines that specify the specific amount of punishment an infraction will cause, and the maximum time the punishment will run. More information available here.
End Extreme Isolation in New York
Each year, the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) sentences thousands upon thousands of prisoners to spend months, and even years, in Special Housing Units (SHU), where they are subject to extreme forms of isolation and deprivation. For more details about the scope of the problem in New York, visit http://www.nyclu.org/BoxedIn to access the NYCLU's new report "Boxed In: The True Cost of Extreme Isolation in New York's Prisons."
On April 16, 2013, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the New York State Council of Churches, New York Civil Liberties Union, Correctional Association, and Prisoners' Legal Services for a screening of the new documentary film Herman's House, followed by a panel discussion about solitary confinement. The event included a full scale model of a solitary confinement cell. Read more about the documentary and event here.
In September 2013, NRCAT was pleased to co-sponsor the "Photo Requests from Solitary" exhibit at PhotovilleNYC in Brooklyn Bridge Park, an exhibit featuring photographs that represent a unique collaboration between men held in supermax prisons and the photographers who fulfilled their requests. In addition, a panel discussion was hosted Sunday, September 22 involving artists, activists, journalists, and survivors of solitary confinement. The event drew significant media attention and public attendance. Co-sponsors of the project include Tamms Year Ten, Parsons The New School for Design, Solitary Watch, and the New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement.
The Governor of New York signed bill A09342 into law in 2008. The law requires that the Department of Corrections remove prisoners with serious mental illness from solitary confinement whenever possible and establishes mental health treatment units for the care of such prisoners. The Department must provide documentation when a prisoner with serious mental illness is kept in solitary confinement, explaining the security or other concerns preventing the release of such prisoners from solitary confinement. Additionally, such prisoners must be treated with a heightened standard of care and be periodically reassessed to determine whether a less restrictive setting may be appropriate.Press Coverage
Links to news stories covering the use of solitary confinement in New York and developments in reforming the practice are available here.