Last Thursday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a new legislation that would put a cap on long-term solitary confinement in state prisons and jails. Under the newly signed law, prisons and jails will not be allowed to hold inmates in solitary confinement for more than 15 consecutive days.
Furthermore, solitary confinement will be banned entirely for several categories of prisoners including minors, people over 55, pregnant inmates, and those with disabilities. Other provisions in the law focus on the mental health consequences of solitary confinement. The law would require screenings for suicide risk and the creation of new rehabilitation units for prisoners who need to be separated from the general population for more than 15 days.
With numerous advocates rallying for the newly-passed bill for years, the legislation will finally take effect in one year, with an aim to protect the human rights of prisoners who go through no less than torture in long-term solitary confinement. Earlier in 2019, A bill to halt solitary confinement in New York failed in part because of opposition from the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, which argued that ending the practice would make prisons less safe.
In a news release last week, after the bill was passed, Andrew Cuomo said, “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. 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.”
State Sen. Julia Salazar, a Brooklyn Democrat who sponsored the bill, said the new law “will put an end to the use of long-term solitary confinement in our state, a practice that has perpetuated violence and caused irreparable harm.”
Jerome Wright, an organizer with the #HALTsolitary Campaign, said in a statement, “Today marks an important victory in the struggle for racial justice and human rights. Solitary confinement is torture. It causes immense suffering and destroys people’s minds, bodies, and souls. It should have no place in New York State or the rest of this country or world.”