Wednesday: Advocates Unveil Replica Solitary Confinement Cell, Call for Prison Reform

NYAPRS Note: One of NYAPRS’ top issues this past session and decade has been to replace torture with treatment in NYS prisons for vulnerable groups, including people with mental health conditions. NYAPRS’ Elena Kravitz and Harvey Rosenthal will be on hand to support this Wednesday’s Albany action organized by our friends at the New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement.

Look next for Elena’s flyer urging you to support this effort with a Call In Drive this Wednesday!

 
 

Survivors of Solitary, Families, Advocates & Legislators to Unveil Replica

Solitary Confinement Cell & Call for Comprehensive Reform

Participants Will Also Urge Gov. Cuomo to Spend 24 Hours in a Real NYS Solitary Cell

and Place ‘Cardboard Cuomo’ in the Replica

Contacts: Jerome Wright, jwright@nyaic.org, (716) 909-2425  Jared Chausow, jchausow@gmail.com, (650) 814-0565

On Wednesday, May 16, at 9am, Survivors of solitary, family members, community members and legislators will hold a press conference unveiling a replica solitary confinement cell in the Legislative Office Building. They will reiterate their call for Governor Cuomo to spend 24 hours in solitary confinement in one of his prisons, as Rick Raemisch, the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, did upon taking the job. Mr. Raemisch’s experiences ultimately helped inspire significant reforms in that state that are similar to the Humane Alternatives to Long Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act (A.3080B / S.4784A). If Gov. Cuomo does not show up for even the replica cell, advocates will illustrate his absence by placing a life-size Cardboard Cuomo inside it. Participants will be urging the enactment of #HALTsolitary this session. The bill has more than 100 supporters in the Legislature and more than 180 organizational supporters across the state. If the Legislature will not act, Governor Cuomo must implement these changes administratively. Press and members of the public will have an opportunity to spend time in the replica cell to get a small glimpse into the horrible experience thousands of New Yorkers endure each day.

WHERE: In the entrance to the lobby of the NYS Legislative Office Building, Albany, NY.

WHO: Speakers will include:

  • Doug van Zandt, Organizer for CAIC’s #HALTsolitary campaign, constructor of replica cell, and father of Benjamin van Zandt, who lost his life in solitary in a New York prison;
  • Victor Pate, Organizer for CAIC’s #HALTsolitary campaign & solitary confinement survivor;
  • Cynthia Williams, Organizer for CAIC’s #HALTsolitary campaign, & incarceration survivor;
  • Jerome Wright, Organizer for CAIC’s #HALTsolitary campaign and solitary survivor;
  • Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Jeffrion Aubry (Assembly lead sponsor of #HALTsolitary)
  • Senator Kevin Parker (Senate lead sponsor of #HALTsolitary)
  • Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon
  • Assembly Member Dan Quart
  • Senator Gustavo Rivera

VISUALS: There will be full-scale a replica solitary confinement cell for press and the public to see, go inside, and experience, a cardboard cutout of Governor Cuomo, a video recording of Commissioner Annucci’s callous remarks when asked to spend a day in solitary, banners and signs.

BACKGROUND: Thousands of people remain in solitary confinement in NY prisons and jails each day: 22 to 24 hours a day in a cell without any meaningful human contact or programs. These individuals are disproportionately Black and Latinx people, young people, gender non-conforming people, and people with mental illness. People continue to spend months, years, and decades in solitary (30+ years) in NY. The sensory deprivation, lack of normal interaction, and extreme idleness of solitary can lead to intense suffering and severe psychological and physical damage. More than 30% of all prison suicides in New York take place in solitary. The entire United Nations, including the US, passed rules prohibiting solitary beyond 15 days for any person, because it otherwise would amount to torture. Colorado has implemented a 15-day limit in its prisons and reduced the number of people in solitary from 1,500 to 18.  The HALT Solitary Confinement Act (A.3080B / S.4784A) would similarly include a 15-day limit on solitary, and would create more humane and effective alternatives.  States that have reduced the use of solitary have seen a positive impact on safety. Community members are calling for NYS Legislators and Governor Cuomo to pass HALT.

Learn more at www.nycaic.org.

CAIC is also part of a collective of campaigns, coalitions, and organizations that are pushing for a platform of policy changes to the system of incarceration in New York, including parole, bail, discovery, speedy trial, and sentencing reform; closing Rikers and Attica; restoring voting rights and college access to incarcerated people; protecting domestic violence survivors from predatory sentences; and promoting racial justice through reparations and a truth, justice, and reconciliation commission.