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Solitary Confinement Cap Established After HALT Legislation Fails

In a joint statement released today, Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced a series of changes to solitary confinement policy, which will be implemented administratively, after New York State government failed to pass the larger reforms laid out in the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act.

“While we are disappointed that HALT legislation could not be passed this year, we have reached an agreement to dramatically reduce the use of solitary confinement in correctional facilities,” reads the statement. “These new steps build on this year’s landmark reforms and will further help to correct inequities and end inhumane practices in our criminal justice system. Together we will continue to work on this issue, fight to move this state forward and create a stronger, fairer and more just New York for all.”

Changes to the policy include prohibiting the use of solitary confinement on “vulnerable incarcerated individuals” including adolescents, pregnant women, and the disabled. Read the full terms of the agreement here.

The Legal Aid Society voiced strong concern that these reforms do not go far enough.

“The failure of Albany leadership to enact the HALT Solitary Confinement legislation is a disgrace. New York loses its moral authority to protest human rights abuses elsewhere when it permits torture by isolation in prisons and jails in our state,” said Mary Lynne Werlwas, the director of the Prisoners’ Rights Project at The Legal Aid Society. “Handshake deals and promises of moderation are no substitute for clear laws protecting New Yorkers against this inhumane treatment.”

HALT would have limited solitary confinement to 15 consecutive days or 20 days total in any 60 day period. The current changes still allow for up to 30 consecutive days in solitary.

Learn more about The Legal Aid Society’s work on The Prisoners’ Rights Project.