What to Know
- Advocates are pushing for New York to ban placement of a prisoner in solitary confinement for more than 15 consecutive days
- Advocates panned solitary confinement as torture and highlighted cases where prisoners killed themselves during or after isolation
- The correctional officers' union president said those housing units separate "dangerous" people from the inmate general population
New York advocates are pushing a measure this session that would ban placement of a prisoner in solitary confinement for more than 15 consecutive days.
Legislation supporters chanted at the State Capitol on Thursday and urged lawmakers to pass the proposal, which did not cross the finish line at the end of last year's session.
The measure would go further than a plan from Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders. They say the plan, which makes changes administratively, would put a 30-day cap on solitary confinement and prohibit putting pregnant women and adolescents into isolation.
"(It's) long way past time that they reformed solitary confinement," said Victor Pate, a formerly incarcerated person who spent time in solitary confinement. He is pushing for the legislation and says there are enough votes in the Legislature to green-light the measure.
Advocates, who panned solitary confinement as torture, highlighted cases where prisoners killed themselves in isolation or after being exposed to it. Experts have long expressed concerns that solitary confinement is not suitable for people who are mentally ill or trying to hurt themselves.
Sen. Luis Sepulveda, who is sponsoring the bill, said he has found no evidence that solitary confinement changes behavior or improves the well-being of inmates or correction officers.
"Our conference is about treating people equally, treating people with dignity and respect," he said. The state, he said, must devote more resources to treatment and services that improve behavior.
The correctional officers' union opposed restrictions on solitary confinement last year. The union's president has said those housing units separate "dangerous" people from the inmate general population.
Meanwhile, a state watchdog agency has repeatedly found that the prisons it inspects aren't abiding by current solitary confinement rules.
Eight of the 25 prisons visited by the Justice Center in 2018 failed to meet existing solitary confinement regulations due to mental health and suicide assessments, along with follow-up visits, not being completed in certain time frames.