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Monday, November 24, 2014

New York City Mayor: We Need to Address Mentally Ill Inmates in Jail

Reblogged from: The Epoch Times | November 20, 2014

Written By Annie Wu for The Epoch Times

NEW YORK—At a Thursday press briefing on the Department of Correction’s planned reforms of jail conditions at Rikers Island, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte expressed that their biggest challenge is how to provide for mentally ill inmates.

The mayor said the high proportion of inmates with a mental illness—at 40 percent of the total population at Rikers Island—was a reality that the Corrections Department failed to address, and was at times unwilling to. Half of all violent incidents reported at Rikers involved mentally ill inmates.

“There was no public acknowledgement that the problems on Rikers Island were first and foremost a mental health problem,” the mayor said. “We literally as a city, didn’t diagnose the problem until now.”


He added that a “culture change” was necessary to bring about effective reform in an agency where there existed “practices that were shockingly outmoded, things that went unsaid, things that went unaddressed.”

Sunday, February 2, 2014

New York Lawmakers Introduce Sweeping Reforms to Use of Solitary Confinement in Prisons and Jails

Reblogged from: Think Outside the Box
Jan. 31st 2014

Press release from the New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement.
January 31, 10:30 am
New York — At a mid-morning press conference at Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, New York legislators will join advocates, survivors of solitary confinement, and their families to announce the introduction of the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act (A08588 / S06466).
Introduced in both the Assembly and the Senate, the pioneering bill is being hailed by supporters as the most comprehensive and progressive legislative response to date to the nationwide problem of solitary confinement in prisons and jails. As written, it would virtually eliminate a practice that has been increasingly denounced as both dangerous and torturous, while protecting the safety of incarcerated individuals and corrections officers.
According to Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry, who is sponsoring the bill in the Assembly, “New York State was a leader for the country in passing the 2008 SHU Exclusion Law, which keeps people with the most severe mental health needs out of solitary confinement. Now we must show the way forward again, ensuring that we provide safe, humane and effective alternatives to solitary for all people.”
“Solitary confinement makes people suffer without making our prisons safer. It is counter-productive as well as cruel,” said Senator Bill Perkins, the bill’s Senate sponsor. “Solitary harms not only those who endure it, but families, communities, and corrections staff as well.”
Currently, about 3,800 people are in Special Housing Units, or SHUs, with many more in other forms of isolated confinement in New York’s State prisons on any given day, held for 23 to 24 hours a day in cells smaller than the average parking space, alone or with one other person. More than 800 are in solitary confinement in New York City jails, along with hundreds more in local jails across the state.
New York isolates imprisoned people at levels well above the national average, and uses solitary to punish minor disciplinary violations. Five out of six sentences that result in placement in New York State’s SHUs are for non-violent conduct. Individuals are sent to the SHU on the word of prison staff, and may remain there for months, years, or even decades.
The HALT Solitary Confinement Act bans extreme isolation beyond 15 days–the limit advocated by UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan E. Méndez, among others. It also bars vulnerable populations from being placed in solitary at all–including youth, the elderly, pregnant women, LGBTI individuals, and those with physical or mental disabilities.
“No person should be put in solitary confinement except when they are a risk to  someone else,” said New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm. “As a major opponent of the practice, I have introduced three pieces of legislation into the City Council. I applaud the proposed state legislation that sets parameters on who can and who cannot be placed in solitary confinement and limits the amount of time they are forced to stay there.”
For those who present a serious threat to prison safety and need to be separated from the general population for longer periods of time, the legislation creates new Residential Rehabilitation Units (RRUs)–high-security units with substantial out-of-cell time, and programs aimed at addressing the underlying causes of behavioral problems.
“Isolation does not promote positive change in people; it only damages them,” said Jennifer J. Parish of the Urban Justice Center’s Mental Health Project. “By requiring treatment and programs for people who are separated from the prison population for serious misconduct, the legislation requires Corrections to emphasize rehabilitation over punishment and degradation.”
“The HALT Solitary Confinement Act recognizes that we need a fundamental transformation of how our public institutions address people’s needs and behaviors, both in our prisons and in our communities,” said Scott Paltrowitz of the Correctional Association of New York. “Rather than inhumane and ineffective punishment, deprivation, and isolation, HALT would provide people with greater support, programs, and treatment to help them thrive, and in turn make our prisons and our communities safer.”
Many of those represented at the press conference are members of the New York Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement (CAIC), which was instrumental in drafting the bill. CAIC unites advocates, concerned community members, lawyers, and individuals in the human rights, health, and faith communities throughout New York State with formerly incarcerated people and family members of currently incarcerated people.
“Solitary is torture on both sides of the prison walls,” said family member Donna Sorge-Ruiz, whose fiancé is currently in solitary. “Loved ones on the outside suffer right along with those in prison, every day that they endure this pain. It must stop!”
The widespread use of long-term solitary confinement has been under fire in recent years, in the face of increasing evidence that sensory deprivation, lack of normal human interaction, and extreme idleness can lead to severe psychological damage. Supporters of the bill also say that isolated confinement fails to address the underlying causes of problematic behavior, and often exacerbates that behavior as people deteriorate psychologically, physically, and socially.
In New York each year, nearly 2,000 people are released directly from extreme isolation to the streets, a practice that has been shown to increase recidivism rates.
“The damage done by solitary confinement is deep and permanent,” said solitary survivor Five Mualimm-ak. An activist with CAIC and the Campaign to End the New Jim Crow, Mualimm-ak spent five years in isolated confinement despite never having committed a violent act in prison. “Having humane alternatives will spare thousands of people the pain and suffering that extreme isolation causes–and the scars that they carry with them back into our communities.”
Several state prisons systems, including Maine, Mississippi, and Colorado, have significantly reduced the number of people they hold in solitary confinement, and have seen prison violence decrease as well. HALT takes reform a step further by also providing alternatives for the relatively small number of individuals who need to be separated from the general population for more than a few weeks. Advocates see the bill not only as a major step toward humane and evidence-based prison policies, but also as a model for change across the country.
“Article 5 of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, states that ‘No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment,’” said Laura Markle Downton of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. “As people of faith, we recognize the use of solitary confinement in a prisons, jails and detention centers fundamentally violates this prohibition against torture. Now is the time for New York to lead the way in bringing an end to this human rights abuse plaguing our justice system nationally.”
“The HALT Solitary Confinement Act implements rational humane alternatives to the costly, ineffective, and abusive use of long-term solitary confinement in New York prisons and jails,” saidSarah Kerr of the Legal Aid Society’s Prisoners’ Rights Project. “The need for reform is well-documented and the time for change is now.”
PRESS CONFERENCE DETAILS:

Date/Time/ Location: Friday, January 31, 10:30 am
Judson Memorial Church, Meeting Room Balcony
55 Washington Square South (between Thompson and Sullivan Streets)
Speakers:
Assembly Member Jeffrion L. Aubry (D, 35th District, Queens), Assembly sponsor
Senator Bill Perkins (D, 30th District, Harlem), Senate sponsor
City Council Member Daniel Dromm (D, 25th District, Queens)
Five Mualimm-ak, survivor of solitary confinement in New York prisons and Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement
Jessica Casanova, aunt of individual currently in solitary and Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement
Scott Paltrowitz, Correctional Association of New York and Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement
Claire Deroche, National Religious Campaign Against Torture and Campaign for Alternatives to Isolated Confinement

PRESS KIT INCLUDES:
Press Release
Fact Sheet on Solitary Confinement in New York State
Summary of the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act
Full Text of HALT Act (A08588 / S06466)
New York Voices from Solitary Confinement
“Solitary Confinement’s Invisible Scars,” op-ed by Five Mualimm-ak

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Scott Paltrowitz, 212-254-5700, spaltrowitz@correctionalassociation.org
Sarah Kerr, 212-577-3530, SKerr@legal-aid.org
Five Mualimm-ak, 646-294-8331, endthenewjimcrow@gmail.com
www.nycaic.org
#  #  #

The Release of Aging People in Prison (RAPP) Campaign

This campaign should be expanded to every state!
This is from a leaflet of RAPP:

The Release of Aging People in Prison (RAPP) Campaign

SUMMARY

The Release of Aging People in Prison (RAPP) Campaign is an independent organizing and policy project that aims to establish a parole process in New York that is transparent, all inclusive, and fair, in which the state bases its parole decisions on legitimate public safety risk and individuals’demonstrated personal growth while in prison.

Led by Mujahid Farid, a 2013 Soros Justice Fellow who was incarcerated for 33 years in New York before his release in 2011, the RAPP Campaign focuses on the rapidly growing population of aging people in prison — many of whom are long-termer s convicted of serious crimes.

Many of these human beings have taken responsibility for their crimes, have transformed their lives and developed skills and abilities they lacked before incarceration, and could be released from prison with no threat to public safety. Yet many are denied release, often for political reasons, and needlessly remain imprisoned into old age.

Our campaign will seek fair and objective hearings for all individuals who come before the Parole Board. Significantly, our approach will not seek expanded release opportunities for certain classes of offenses by denying opportunities for others. In contrast, we will insist that decisions be made on a person’s individual merits and experiences inside.

This operating principle not only makes the RAPP Campaign unique, but also allows it to challenge a fundamental pillar of the mass incarceration crisis:
the reliance on a system of permanent punishment, a culture of retribution and revenge rather than rehabilitation and healing.

The RAPP Campaign is mobilizing currently and formerly incarcerated individuals, their families, and other concerned community members in efforts designed to increase parole release rates for aging people in prison who pose no risk to public safety.

RAPP is also partnering with the Drop the Rock Coalition, which previously helped lead efforts to reform NY’s infamous Rockefeller Drug Laws, and is reaching out to other prison justice groups to join in carrying out this work. From this united base, we will work to:

(1) raise public awareness about the destructiveness of mass incarceration and the benefits to society in releasing aging people, including those convicted of violent crimes who do not pose a risk to public safety and
(2) promote the use of key mechanisms for releasing elderly people including parole decisions, compassionate release, and policy changes.

BACKGROUND

For 40 years the prison population in the United States has been increasing to where it has become an international embarrassment.

While this has been acknowledged by federal and state governments, legislators, policymakers, and prison administrators (who face rising administrative costs amidst serious budget crises), and where incremental steps reduced some prison populations, there remains a strong reluctance to utilize available downsizing options as they apply to certain categories of people confined.[note 1]

The prison population will not be substantially reduced unless such options are used.

This project will seek to address mass incarceration through the “back end” of the criminal justice system, promoting the release of low - risk groups — especially aging people in prison, who make up a rapidly growing portion of the prison population. A recent Human Rights Watch report shows that between 1995 and 2010, the number of state and federal prisoners aged 55 and over nearly quadrupled to 124,400, while the prison population as a whole grew by 42%.

The explanation for this can be found in sentencing policies adopted during the past 25 years (Old Behind Bars: The Aging Prison Population in the United States, 2012), but also in the failure of correctional and parole systems to utilize existing release mechanisms. Current conditions don’t suggest improvement.

The ACLU’s report, “At America’s Expense: The Mass Incarceration of the Elderly,” finds that by 2030 there will be more than 400,000 older people behind bars, a 4,400 percent increase from 1981 when only 8,853 state and federal prisoners were elderly.

New York State presents an even sharper example. Over the past 11 years, the New York State prison population has decreased by 21% — from 71,466 in 2000 to 56,315 in 2011.
At the same time the population of prisoners aged 50 and over increased by 64% — from 5,111 in 2000 to 8,392 in 2011 (Correctional Association statistical sheet, “Elderly Prisoners and Parole Reform”).

Prison administrators know that older people who have served long sentences frequently serve as role models, facilitate most prison rehabilitation programs, and provide leadership, having found meaning in life through service to others.

Moreover, the vast majority of released prisoners over 50 do not return to prison. Those who do return generally do so because of a technical parole violation (failure to report to a parole officer, missing work, or missing curfew).

New York State policymakers are realizing that there are alternatives to costly, unproductive incarceration when such violations occur (2007 Releases: Three Year Post Release Follow - up, NYSDOCCS).

Consistently, the return rate of long - termers convicted of murder (most commonly people of advanced age) is the lowest (6.6%) system -wide, with only 1.3% returning for a new commitment (id).

Despite low recidivism rates, ample evidence of personal transformation, and the significant cost savings that could be realized, political considerations too often prevent administrators from using available release mechanisms.

The RAPP Campaign will utilize the voices of the key population of formerly incarcerated women and men and currently incarcerated elderly to show that they can and should be released with no threat to public safety. It will build a public base to encourage policy-makers, parole commissioners and correctional officials to accelerate release of the elderly through both new and existing mechanisms for release.

Note 1:
In 2011, after years of struggle over boilerplate denials to violent offenders, New York’s Executive Law was amended requiring the parole board to create new procedures that “incorporate risk and needs principles” to measure decision-making. The board adopted the widely used evidence-based “Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanction” (COMPAS) assessment tool.

But the board has remained resistant to change and continues to issue boilerplates denying release based on the “nature of the crime.” This is one example of an already-existing mechanism that could be used for release of aging prisoners.

WHO WE ARE

Mujahid Farid, RAPP Campaign Organizer:

In 1978 at age 28 I entered prison. In 2011 I was released approaching 62.
The closer I got to my release date, the more I looked around at the men I would be leaving behind— many of whom had, like me, been incarcerated since their teens and twenties, and who were now, like me, more than 60 or 70 years old. I became more sharply aware of the increasing infirmities they face, the frailties of age, and the illnesses affecting them.

Like me, they had spent their entire adult lives in prison, and most were different from the person who had first entered the system.

Unlike me, they were not going home.

As a result of many years behind the walls of New York State prisons, I gained valuable insight into the various mechanisms responsible for mass incarceration, and I have been an advocate for systemic change, using community education and challenging the accepted social constructs that lend support to the carceral spirit.

During my incarceration, I maintained a practice of working on criminal justice issues, and the project proposed here is consistent with my activities over the past thirty-five years.

I played a major role in creating programs that helped the prison population deal with social crises.
One of my most noted accomplishments was being a founder of the Prisoners’ AIDS Counseling & Education (PACE) program, still in existence within NYSDOCCS. I organized and instructed courses for New York Theological Seminary, allowing other prisoners to earn college-credited certificates to initiate their journey into structured higher learning.

Since my release I initiated a collective of small business startups to address the issue of mass incarceration. These small business initiators have agreed to operate under principles of “social entrepreneurship” to provide formerly incarcerated persons, as well as disadvantaged community members, with employment opportunities and the ability to assist in building economic institutions in the community.

Our agreement entails providing mutual assistance to make each business successful, and to generate collaborative relationships between for -profit start-ups and community non-profits/social services agencies.
Finally, our agreement entails building support in the established business community.

With the encouragement of many people I left behind in prison and with whom I maintain contact, I have also proposed to various organizations to undertake the issue of aging in prison.

I was met with much sympathy and concern over the issue, but have been unable to find any organization willing to undertake a major project as described herein. Community-driven projects advocating on behalf of
aging and persons usually excluded from ameliorative legislation, policies, and practices are crucial now due to the volume of reports, studies, and commentaries published on this issue in the past two years.

The time to harness public consciousness on these issues is now.

So, I have undertaken this task.

This project arises from my commitment and belief that this situation can and must be altered, that release mechanisms for aging people confined must either be created or, where they exist, utilized.
I feel blessed and fortunate to be out, knowing that the tribulation of perennial incarceration could still be happening to me as it is to others.

As someone personally affected, I care deeply about those I left behind, and I remain committed to doing my part in bringing forth solutions.

Correctional Association of New York
The RAPP Campaign is located at and hosted by the Correctional Association of New York (CANY), an independent, non - profit prison reform organization. CANY was founded by concerned citizens in 1844 and granted unique authority by the New York State Legislature to inspect prisons and to report its findings and recommendations to the legislature and to the public.

Through monitoring, research, public education and policy recommendations, the Correctional Association strives to make the administration of justice in New York State more fair, efficient and humane.

HOW TO GET INVOLVED

To get more information, offer your story, or join our efforts, please contact:

RAPP Campaign
c/o The Correctional Association of New York
2090 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Blvd.– Suite 200
New York, New York 10027

Phone: 212-254-5700 Extension 317
Fax: 212-473-2807

Monday, August 19, 2013

Graying Prisoners

From:  New York Times
Aug 18th 2013, 
By Jamie Fellner, a senior adviser at Human Rights Watch, focusing on criminal justice in the United States.

MORE and more United States prisons resemble nursing homes with bars, where the elderly and infirm eke out shrunken lives. Prison isn’t easy for anyone, but it is especially punishing for those afflicted by the burdens of old age. Yet the old and the very old make up the fastest-growing segment of the prison population.

Today, the New York State Board of Parole is scheduled to decide whether to give medical parole to Anthony D. Marshall, who was convicted of stealing from his mother, Brooke Astor. Mr. Marshall is 89 and suffers from Parkinson’s and congestive heart failure. His lawyers say he cannot stand or dress himself. He is one of at least 26,100 men and women 65 and older incarcerated in state and federal prisons, up 62 percent in just five years.

Owing largely to decades of tough-on-crime policies — mandatory minimum sentences, “three strikes” laws and the elimination of federal parole — these numbers are likely to increase as more and more prisoners remain incarcerated into their 70s and 80s, many until they die.

I try to imagine my 90-year-old father in prison. His body and mind whittled by age, he shuffles, takes a painful eternity to get up from a chair and forgets the names of his grandchildren.

How would he fare climbing in and out of an upper bunk bed? Would he remember where his cell was in the long halls of many prisons? How would his brittle bones cope with a thin mattress and blanket in a cold cell in winter, or his weak heart with the summer heat. If he had an “accident,” would someone help him clean up? Unlike Mr. Marshall, some older inmates committed violent crimes, and there are people who think such prisoners should leave prison only “in a pine box.”


Read the rest here.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Prisoners Tortured Daily in New York State

This is an article in the February issue of Peace Newsletter, posted by the Syracuse Peace Council:

From the February 2013 PNL #821
by Amelia Ramsey-Lefevre

In March 2012 the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture called for a near-total ban on solitary confinement. Juan Mendez stated that “solitary confinement itself can amount to … torture as defined in Article 1 of the Convention against Torture.” The cited article defines torture as “... any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person.” Mendez contends that after 15 days some psychological effects resulting from solitary confinement (also called isolation or segregation) are irreversible.

Mendez also specifically condemned US reliance on the practice, which is utilized in all sectors of the US detention system. From immigration detention centers to psychiatric institutions, military prisons to even juvenile detention centers, solitary confinement is a standard feature of the imprisoned landscape. And the nation’s penal system is no exception.

There are 45 “super-max” prisons in the US. A super-max is a prison facility wholly devoted to holding inmates in solitary confinement. 44 of these are state-run and the lone federal super-max is in Florence, CO. In 2000, the US Department of Justice estimated that an average of 80,000 inmates are held in solitary confinement at any one time.

Solitary in NYS

NYS is the home of two super-max prisons, Southport in Chemung County (789 beds) and Upstate in Franklin County (1,040 beds). Additionally, there are around 3,000 Special Housing Unit (SHU) beds dispersed among 37 other prisons in New York. A 2012 snapshot of the solitary confinement population found 402 inmates under 20 years old, 83 of them 18 or younger. 86% of the prisoners at Southport and Upstate are Black or Latino. Many have been diagnosed with mental illness before or after their arrival in isolation. LGBTQ prisoners are particularly vulnerable to discriminatory isolation across the detention spectrum.

[24 hours in solitary]
Inmates in solitary are permitted one hour per day of
“recreation” in an outdoor cage. Image: NYCLU & Amelia
Ramsey-Lefevre


Inmates in solitary confinement spend 23 hours a day in a small cell alone or in close quarters with one other person (a condition given the conflicted name “double solitary”). One hour per day is allowed for “outdoor recreation.” Prisoners may go in handcuffs to a caged area smaller even than their cell, where other inmates can be heard but not seen. Some inmates reported to the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) that they declined recreation to avoid hearing the screams of other solitary inmates in the recreation cell.

Prisoners receive no training, work, or rehabilitation services and report insufficient access to medical and psychological care while in solitary confinement. No transitional services are available for those in solitary, even when inmates will be directly released from isolation. Despite the lack of services, SHUs and super-maxes are expensive to staff. NYS spends about $76 million each year to staff segregation units.

How does an inmate get to solitary?

Roughly 90% of placements in isolation are for disciplinary reasons, though solitary confinement can also be imposed if the inmate is perceived to be vulnerable or a threat to prison safety. The punitive system in NYS prisons allows each class of violation to be rated at varying levels of severity, granting corrections officials (COs) wide discretion as to the severity of the punishment. In fact every single rule violation in NYS prisons has the potential to be met with a solitary confinement sentence.

There is no limit to the amount of time an inmate can spend in solitary confinement. Once in isolation, an inmate’s sentence in the SHU can be extended to punish subsequent rule infractions. If the solitary sentence exceeds the remainder of the entire sentence, COs are authorized to enforce further punishment through deprivation of haircuts, clothing, recreation, and even nutritional food.

It is well documented that prolonged solitary confinement often leads to mental illness in previously healthy individuals and almost always exacerbates mental illness where it already exists. Inmates in isolation have higher rates of suicide and self-harm. COs also report adverse effects from working in such tension including depression, alcoholism and family problems.

Why solitary?

The question remains why solitary confinement is so heavily relied upon in the US despite its costliness compared to conventional prisons, its negative effects on inmates and COs, and its ineffectiveness in reforming criminals. How did we get to where we are today?

In 1890, the US Supreme Court concluded that “solitary confinement left prisoners in a semi-fatuous condition.” The practice was virtually abandoned in the US for nearly 90 years. Then, in 1983 a riot in a federal prison in Marion, IL prompted a state of emergency and permanent solitary lockdown for all inmates that lasted 23 years. By 1991, over 35 states had built or repurposed facilities to emulate the conditions at Marion. Between 1995 and 2000, the total US prison population grew by 28%; the population in isolation grew 40%. By 2000, the Justice Department estimated there were 80,000 prisoners being held in solitary at any one time in the US. The Commission on Safety and Abuse in America’s Prisons claims the real number is much higher.

There is a clear connection between the invented Drug War and the resurgence of solitary confinement as an acceptable form of punishment. The NYCLU reports that the 346% increase in the prison population between 1973 and 1993 (correlated with vastly increased prosecution of nonviolent drug offenders) stressed the prison system with overcrowding that led to unprecedented management and control problems. Prisons responded to this stress by putting inmates in isolation.

Insubstantial Myths

Increased dependence on solitary confinement also mirrored a larger trend in the penal system toward punishment as opposed to rehabilitation. Just as policymakers waxed poetic about how they were “cracking down” on “hardened criminals”—language intended to make racist laws palatable to the public, as Michelle Alexander argues in her 2010 book The New Jim Crow—prison officials welcomed the construction of isolation units as proof of how “tough” their institutions were.

We are told that isolation is reserved for the “worst of the worst”—the most dangerous individuals in the prison population. Even the name of the solitary confinement prison—“super-max”—supports the notion that an extreme level of security is required to handle an extreme level of danger. But how can that be true if any violation can be punished with isolation? The NYCLU found that five out of six punitive isolation sentences are handed down for nonviolent rule infractions. The “worst of the worst” myth is simply not true.

Profit is the bottom line

The need for solitary confinement is a myth that supports a profit-driven prison system. Research shows that people released directly from solitary confinement are more likely to reoffend (and end up back in prison) than comparable general population prisoners. These crimes are also more likely to be violent and therefore garner a longer prison sentence.

This state of affairs is tragic, but it’s not surprising. The US prison system locks people up with no human contact and no meaningful work, denies them access to mental health care, and then releases them with no transitional programming whatsoever. The only beneficiary in this warped system is a prison system that profits from holding more inmates.

New Yorkers, our task is clear. We must stop torturing our fellow New Yorkers. We must reject the punitive, profit-driven imprisonment culture, and we must end the racist Drug War.

------

References

-National Religious Campaign Against Torture – www.nrcat.org; also powerpoint presentation in Columbus, GA in November 2012; also their film, “Solitary Confinement: Torture in Your Backyard.” SPC owns a DVD copy of this film. Contact Amelia to watch or organize a viewing.

-“Boxed In,” published by NYCLU, 2012, http://www.boxedinny.org/report/

- NYT Mar 10 2012 “Prisons Rethink Isolation, Saving Money, Lives and Sanity” http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/11/us/rethinking-solitary-confinement.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

-“Invisible in Isolation: The Use of Segregation and Solitary Confinement in Immigrant Detention,” published by the Heartland Alliance’s National Immigration Justice Center & Physicians for Human Rights, 2012, http://www.immigrantjustice.org/publications/report-invisible-isolation-use-segregation-and-solitary-confinement-immigration-detenti#.UPHRXPLDkm8

-The Passion of Bradley Manning, Chase Madar, 2012.

-The New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander, 2010.

Amelia’s education in prison justice was catalyzed by the tragic murder of Troy Anthony Davis on September 21, 2011. Thanks also to the inmate who wrote to the PNL recommending NYCLU’s report “Boxed In.”

Sunday, February 3, 2013

State Bar Association Calls on New York to “Profoundly Restrict” Its Use of Solitary Confinement

This comes from SolitaryWatch
By Jean Cassella and James Ridgeway
Jan. 30th 2013:


The New York State Bar Association last week passed a resolution calling for a dramatic transformation and curtailment of solitary and other forms of isolated confinement it its state prisons and city jails. The strongly worded resolution, written by NYSBA’s Civil Rights Committee, cites “the damage caused by prolonged solitary confinement and the ability to ensure prison and public safety without resorting to its use.”

It urges the New York State legislature to hold hearings on solitary confinement, and on Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the state and city departments of corrections to undertake sweeping changes in their prison practices.

After laying out the problem, the document presents the following resolution:

RESOLVED, that the New York State Bar Association calls upon the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS) and New York City Department of Correction (DOC) to profoundly restrict the use of long-term solitary confinement, by adopting clear and objective standards to ensure that prisoners are separated from the general prison population only in very limited and very legitimate circumstances and only for the briefest period and under the least restrictive conditions practicable.

FURTHER RESOLVED, that the New York State Bar Association calls upon the Commissioners of DOCCS and DOC to adopt stringent criteria, protocols and safeguards for separating violent or vulnerable prisoners, including clear and objective standards to ensure that prisoners are separated only in limited and legitimate circumstances for the briefest period and under the least restrictive conditions practicable; and auditing the current population in extreme isolation to identify people who should not be in the SHU, transitioning them back to the general prison population, and reducing the number of SHU beds accordingly.

FURTHER RESOLVED, that the New York State Bar Association urges the Governor of New York State, the Mayor of the City of New York and the Commissioners of DOCCS and DOC to take necessary steps to proscribe the imposition of long-term solitary confinement on persons in the custody of DOCCS and DOC beyond 15 days.

FURTHER RESOLVED, that the New York State Bar Association calls upon the State Legislature to hold public hearings to inquire into the harmful effects of long-term solitary confinement and to solicit both professional and academic commentary on the matter and comments from persons who have been placed in long-term solitary confinement, and to otherwise conduct these hearings in a manner that will best inform lawmakers and the public at large regarding the effects of long-term isolation.

An excellent report attached to the resolution takes as its epigraph a statement from a former prisoner at Guantanamo: ”Please torture me in the old way … Here they destroy people mentally and physically without leaving marks.”

The report traces the history of solitary confinement both nationally and in New York State; documents the psychological and physical damage caused by isolation and its widespread abandonment by the international community; and notes that solitary is counterproductive to the goals of prisoner protection, discipline, rehabilitation, and reintegration.” It concludes:

Policy makers looking for guidance should first remember that “conditions of confinement that deprive prisoners of the minimal civilized measure of life’s necessities” offend not just the conscience, but the U.S. Constitution. It should be kept in mind that these conditions can easily, perhaps even reliably, lead to legal exposure for prison administrators and state officials who choose to employ it without strict guidelines and significant restrictions on the length of time that inmates can be placed in solitary confinement. In every relevant way, long term solitary confinement is counter-productive to the legitimate penological interests of both state officials and prison administrators and to the public safety interests of the public at large.

In light of the foregoing, solitary confinement, if used at all, should be measured in days, not years, months, or even weeks, ensuring that all prisoners, regardless of their conditions of confinement, have some minimal measure of interactive activity so that their psyche does not begin to deteriorate. Preventing psychological harm to inmates encourages institutional safety, security and discipline by preventing the development of serious mental illnesses which exacerbate the problems that supermax and SHU-style detention are intended to solve. Abandoning long term solitary confinement alleviates these problems while ensuring that the health and dignity of prison inmates remains intact.