Together We Can #HALT solitary Confinement
The New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (NYCAIC) #HALTsolitary campaign is doing everything possible to urge the New York legislature to pass, and the Governor to sign, the HALT Solitary Confinement Act as soon as the legislative session resumes in January.
Solitary confinement is torture. People in solitary spend all day, every day, without any meaningful human contact or programming. People in NY routinely spend months, years, and even decades in solitary, including over 30 years.
The sensory deprivation, lack of normal human interaction, and extreme idleness can lead to intense suffering and severe damage. Over 30% of all suicides in NY prisons take place in solitary. A study conducted in New York City jails found people in solitary were nearly seven times more likely to harm themselves and more than six times more likely to commit potentially fatal self-harm.
Solitary further causes great harm to the families and communities of people in solitary. Solitary is also counterproductive to purported safety justifications. Jurisdictions that have reduced solitary have seen positive impacts on safety for both incarcerated people and correction officers. Reductions in solitary also leads to greater safety in the outside community and decreases the likelihood people will return to jail or prison.
Yet, NY continues to lock several thousand people in solitary each day, and tens of thousands each year. Solitary is disproportionately inflicted on Black and Latinx people, as well as on young people, people with mental health and behavioral health needs, and transgender and gender non-conforming individuals.
A new New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) report shows NY prisons have been increasing the use of solitary in recent years, despite a lawsuit settlement meant to limit its use, with nearly 40,000 solitary sanctions in state prisons issued last year alone.
NY must end this barbaric practice by passing the HALT Solitary Confinement Act, S.1623/A.2500. Thanks to efforts led by survivors of solitary and their family members, there are more than enough votes to pass HALT. Over 130 state legislators support HALT, including 99 Assembly members who voted to pass HALT in 2018, 79 current Assembly cosponsors, 34 Senate cosponsors, and additional Senators and Assembly members who committed to vote for HALT.
The bill would: limit solitary to no more than 15 days for all people in line with United Nations standards; prevent cycling to solitary by limiting solitary to no more than 20 days in a 60-day period; ban solitary for people with mental health needs, young people, and others; create more humane and effective alternatives; restrict the criteria for who can be placed in solitary or alternatives; and increase transparency and oversight.
The #HALTsolitary campaign is also urging New York City (where the vast majority of people are held pre-trial and presumed innocent, and others are there for low-level misdemeanor convictions) to completely abolish solitary and instead utilize proven alternatives that are the opposite of solitary, with full days out of cell and access to meaningful human engagement and congregate programs and services.
There are growing calls across the state and the country to end solitary confinement from leading mental health organizations, faith institutions, Presidential candidates, social justice organizations, and countless others. The people of New York can wait no longer. The deaths of Layleen Polanco, Kalief Browder, Benjamin van Zandt, and countless others demand that NY end this horrific and deadly practice.
Beyond ending solitary, NY must decarcerate and shift from its extreme punitive approach (rooted in racism) to a public health, healing, and empowerment approach. As some examples, NY must pass Elder Parole and Fair and Timely Parole, restore access to higher education and full voting rights to people while incarcerated, end police and correction officer violence, promote community-based care for mental health needs and substance use, reduce draconian prison sentences, expand meaningful opportunities for in-person and overnight prison visitation, and adopt meaningful alternatives to incarceration and restorative and transformative justice.
Please join our movement to end solitary, challenge the entire incarceration system, and promote the health, safety, and well-being of all our fellow community members.
Pullout: “There are growing calls across the state and the country to end solitary confinement from leading mental health organizations, faith institutions, Presidential candidates, social justice organizations, and countless others. The people of New York can wait no longer.”