The New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (NY CAIC), of which NRCAT is a member, is a state-wide campaign of organizations and concerned community members, including formerly incarcerated persons and family members of loved ones in isolated confinement. NRCAT invites you to join the NY CAIC, and to support passage of the HALT Solitary Confinement Act. Learn more about the legislation here.
Join the Interfaith Strategy Session to End Solitary Confinement in New York, Wednesday November 12, 2014 from 1:00-3:30pm. At The Riverside Church, 91 Claremont Ave., New York, NY 10027, Room 10t (10th floor in the tower). Co-Sponsored by: NRCAT, T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, The Riverside Church Prison Ministry, American Friends Service Committee, Jails Action Coalition, and Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement
HALT SOLITARY CONFINEMENT ACT
Key components of the bill include:
- Creating alternatives to Isolated confinement for any person separated from general population for more than 15 continuous days. It requires they must be in a separate secure residential rehabilitation unit (RRU) – a rehabilitative and therapeutic unit aimed at providing additional programs, therapy, and support to address underlying needs and causes of behavior, with 6 hours per day of out-of-cell programming plus one hour of out-of-cell recreation.
- Ending long-term Isolated confinement, establishing a standard that no person may be held in isolated confinement more than 15 consecutive days nor 20 days total in any 60 day period. At these limits, a person must be released or diverted to the alternative RRU with more out-of-cell time, programs, and therapy.
Check out this brief video clip for delegates to the Diocesan Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Western New York, explaining a resolution endorsing the HALT Solitary Confinement Act:
On August 29, 2014, NRCAT responds to New York City legislation regulating solitary confinement. More information available here.
On Tuesday, August 26, 2014, NRCAT and T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, co-sponsored an interfaith delegation of faith leaders to visit the NYC Rikers Island jail complex. Clergy visited solitary confinement units for men and women at Rikers and met with the recently appointed Commissioner Joseph Ponte to discuss the urgent need for change. Learn more here.
On May 5, 2014, NRCAT representatives joined with advocates from throughout the state for a lobby day in Albany to support passage of the HALT Solitary Confinement Act. To learn more, visit here. Take action today to support passage of this critical legislation by visiting here.
In March 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed the next Commissioner for New York City's Department of Correction, Joseph Ponte. Ponte is the former Commissioner of the Maine Department of Corrections where he reduced the use of solitary confinement by two-thirds and eliminated its use for people with mental illness. More information available here.
In February 2014, New York State agreed to important steps toward reducing the torture of solitary confinement as a result of a NYCLU lawsuit. The agreement calls for 16-17 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. It prohibits the use of solitary confinement for youth under eighteen, as well as pregnant women, and limits to thirty days solitary confinement for those who are developmentally disabled. In addition, the agreement 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.
Tragically, Jerome Murdough, a 56-year-old man arrested on trespassing, died in February 2014 on Rikers Island after his cell overheated to at least 100 degrees. Murdough was in isolation in the newly opened mental health units.
To learn more about torture in New York prisons, visit http://www.nyclu.org/BoxedIn to access the NYCLU's critical report "Boxed In: The True Cost of Extreme Isolation in New York's Prisons."
THE BACKSTORY AND CURRENT STATE CAMPAIGN INFORMATION
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.
Links to news stories covering the use of solitary confinement in New York and developments in reforming the practice are available here.