ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – On Thursday, the Senate Democratic Majority passed the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act (HALT). This will impact those in solitary confinement in state prisons and county jails.
The Nelson Mandela Rules, adopted by the United Nations, define segregated confinement for more than 15 days as torture. HALT will align New York with this standard and save the state tens of millions of dollars over the next several years, says the Senate Majority.
“We remember the names Layleen Polanco, Kalief Browder, and Benjamin van Zandt, and the countless others whose lives have either been taken or destroyed by solitary confinement,” Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “Prolonged segregated confinement can cause permanent harms and does not properly address the root causes that lead to the punishment. These reforms are morally right, fiscally responsible, and will improve outcomes at jails and prisons.”
Senator Julia Salazar, Chair of the Senate Committee on Crime Victims, Crime and Correction, said, “It is no secret that the use of solitary confinement is inhumane, unethical, and constitutes torture under international law if it extends more than fifteen days. It must be discontinued immediately. The passage of HALT in the Senate brings us one step closer to bringing justice to all those who have lost loved ones to the wrongful use of solitary, and the New Yorkers who have been victims of this state-sanctioned torture.”
The Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act (HALT)will:
- Limit the use of segregated confinement in state prisons and county jails and create alternative rehabilitative measures, including the creation of Residential Rehabilitation Units (RRU).
- Restrict the use of segregated confinement for all incarcerated persons for up to 15 days.
- Expand the definition of segregated confinement to include any form of cell confinement where an individual is held for more than 17 hours a day.
- Mandate additional out-of-cell time and rehabilitative programming for individuals sent to rehabilitative units after the 15-day limit has been reached.
- Prohibit segregated confinement for special populations for any period of time.
- Special populations are:
- Individuals age 21 or younger,
- Individuals age 55 and over,
- Individuals with a disability,
- Individuals who are pregnant, up to eight weeks postpartum, or caring for children in a facility.
- Special populations are:
- Prohibit the denial of services, treatment, or basic needs such as clothing, food, and bedding while an individual is held in segregated confinement.
- Mandate that staff must do 37.5 hours of training prior to working with segregated confinement units and 21 additional hours, annually, after assignment.
- Add due process protections by preventing the placement of a person in segregated confinement before a disciplinary hearing and by allowing access to counsel.
- Require DOCCS to publish monthly reports on its website with semi-annual and annual cumulative reports of the total number of people in segregated confinement.