April 3, 2021
What The Governor Says He Did:
GOVERNOR CUOMO SIGNS THE HALT SOLITARY CONFINEMENT ACT INTO LAW
Legislation (S2836/A2277A) Restricts Time in Segregated Confinement and Exempts Vulnerable Populations
Establishes Specialized Units for Therapeutic Programming and Expands Out of Cell Time for Incarcerated Individuals
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed the HALT Solitary Confinement Act (S2836/A2277A) into law, reforming the practice of segregated confinement in New York State correctional facilities. This legislation limits the amount of time an incarcerated person can spend in segregated confinement to 15 days, clearly defines and reduces the number of disciplinary infractions eligible for segregated confinement, and exempts certain vulnerable populations, including the young, elderly, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and individuals with a serious mental illness.
This legislation also establishes Residential Rehabilitation Units to provide incarcerated individuals with therapeutic and trauma-informed programming in a congregate setting. The expanded program model enacted by the HALT legislation will better address an individual’s underlying criminogenic needs and provide greater rehabilitative impacts to change behavior, leading to positive outcomes for individuals transitioning back to the general population.
“Generations of incarcerated men and women have been subjected to inhumane punishment in segregated confinement with little to no human interaction for extended periods of time and many experience emotional and physical trauma that can last for years,” Governor Cuomo said. “By signing the HALT Solitary Confinement Act into law we are reforming New York’s criminal justice system by helping ensure the effective implementation of proven, humane corrections policies. I applaud the bill sponsors and look forward to continuing our work to reform the era of mass incarceration and usher in a safer, more just Empire State.”
What Palmesano Says, The Governor Did:
PALMESANO BLASTS GOV. CUOMO FOR APPROVING BILL LIMITING USE OF SPECIAL HOUSING UNITS TO SEGREGATE VIOLENT AND DANGEROUS INMATES
WILL LEAD TO EVEN FURTHER ESCALATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST STAFF AND INMATES INSIDE CORRECTIONAL FACILITIES
With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Cuomo made an already dangerous, ‘powder keg’ environment inside our correctional facilities even more volatile for staff and inmates. Gov. Cuomo, Wednesday, signed into law Assembly Bill 2277, which will limit the use of segregation of dangerous, violent and disruptive inmates from other inmates in the general population by placing them in Special Housing Units (SHU).
Advocates of this legislation have often referred to this as “solitary confinement” or “torture,” said Palmesano. “It is not! Individuals residing in Special Housing Units receive property, services and amenities similar to those in the general population. They receive and have access to outdoor recreation, personal visits, unlimited legal visits, religious counseling services, daily medical sick call and emergency sick call, daily visits from an offender rehabilitation coordinator for counseling services, frequent mental health assessments, headphones and radios, access to tablets for phone calls and for various forms of media as well as access to a variety of other services and amenities.”
“Unfortunately, the governor’s prison closures, coupled with his policies, or lack thereof, have created a dangerous ‘powder keg’ environment of increased violence, drug contraband and gang activity inside our correctional facilities. He has failed to provide important tools like utilizing a secure vendor mail/package program and K-9 drug dogs at each facility to help keep drugs out of our prisons. Now, limiting and restricting the use of Special Housing Units to segregate violent, dangerous and disruptive inmates from other inmates in the general population will further increase the already-violent and dangerous environment inside our facilities, jeopardizing the safety and well-being of our brave and dedicated correction officers and staff, in addition to other inmates.
“We don’t have to look any further than the governor’s own correctional numbers. Since 2016, inmate-on-staff assaults are up 38%. In addition, inmate-on-inmate assaults have also increased 31% since 2015. It is mind-boggling that the governor and his administration continue to take actions that make our correctional facilities more dangerous for staff and inmates, especially in the face of the rising number of assaults,” said Palmesano.
Last week, Palmesano sent a letter to the governor with fellow Republicans on the Assembly Corrections Committee Joe Giglio and Mark Walczyk, urging him to veto the legislation. In the letter, which is attached, they made it clear that this legislation was unnecessary, costly and dangerous.