PT: Reform Advocates Pushing Legislation to Limit Solitary Confinement

NYAPRS Note: Criminal justice reform remains a top priority for NYAPRS, especially passage of the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act A.3080B (Aubry)/S.4784A (Sepulveda) that bans the use of Solitary Confinement for people with mental, physical and medical disabilities, seniors, youth and pregnant women. The bill requires that individuals from these groups who do need to be removed from the general population for behavioral or other reasons should be sent to special rehab units and not the box.  The bill passed the Assembly last year and we’ve been getting signals it may well pass the new Senate. The HALT campaign is led by the Campaign for Alternatives to Solitary Confinement. Their site is http://nycaic.org/. Please sign on the campaign at http://nycaic.org/campaign-members/. HALT is, along with housing rate hikes and a COLA, among our top 3 priorities at this year’s NYAPRS Legislative Day on February 26th in Albany.

Look for a new release from our COLA coalition later this morning.

Reform Advocates Pushing Legislation to Limit Solitary Confinement

By Emilie Ruscoe  Politico  January 14, 2019

Prison reform advocates want to lock up the governor. Sort of.

A full-scale replica of a solitary confinement cell will land near the Capitol Tuesday morning as several lawmakers and activists call on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to spend 24 hours in an actual cell so he can fully understand what solitary confinement is like. The head of Colorado's prison system did just that several years ago, leading to his support for reform measures.

Advocates are pushing legislation that would restrict solitary confinement to 15 days. They are also supporting parole reform, pretrial detention reform, ending cash bail and ensuring the right to speedy trial. The governor has made criminal justice reform, including an end to cash bail, a priority for this year's legislative session.

"We hope to provide a much, much safer and more rehabilitative environment for everyone involved," said Doug van Zandt, whose son Benjamin killed himself in solitary confinement at Fishkill Correctional Facility in 2014.

According to data from the New York State Department of Corrections, more than 3,000 people are in solitary confinement on a daily basis in the state's prisons and jails, some for years on end.

More than 120 state legislators have supported previous versions of solitary restriction legislation. A bill passed the Assembly last year but it stalled in the Senate.

This year's version of the bill is sponsored by legislators whose districts are adjacent to Rikers Island: Sen. Luis Sepùlveda (D-Bronx) and Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubry (D-Queens).

Solitary confinement restrictions have been opposed by the Correction Officers Benevolent Association of New York City. COBA officials have characterized the use of solitary as a necessary tool for their work. In 2017, it sued the de Blasio administration over a change in policy restricting the use of solitary on people under the age of 21.