Report reveals widespread violations of NY’s HALT Solitary Confinement Law
STATEWIDE — The Correctional Association of New York (CANY) released a scathing report on Wednesday on the state of New York’s prisons, documenting widespread violations of the HALT Solitary Confinement Law by prison officials, as well as reported abuse by staff aimed at undermining the law.
CANY is an independent oversight body with legislative authority to monitor New York prisons. The HALT Solitary Confinement Law was passed in 2019 to limit the use of solitary confinement in prisons across the state.
The report detailed the numerous ways that New York State prisons are failing to comply with the HALT Law. While the law has reduced suffering by leading to a reduction in the use of Special Housing Units (SHU), an end of keeplock, and the closing of Southport prison dedicated to solitary, the state prison department (DOCCS) is systematically violating nearly every component of the law.
“It is beyond disturbing that the state prisons, like many local jails, are systemically violating nearly every component of the HALT Solitary Confinement Law and continuing to send people – disproportionately Black people – to solitary confinement for weeks and even months at a time,” State Senator Julia Salazar said. “DOCCS must follow the law and implement it immediately. Legally and morally, the Department must no longer hold people in solitary beyond 15 days, and must not hold people with mental health needs in solitary at all.
“Additionally, DOCCS must stop sending people to solitary and alternative units for minor rule violations, and implement real alternatives with effective out-of-cell group programming.”
The report found that DOCCS was holding people in SHU – the main form of solitary confinement – beyond the 15-day legal limit, including upwards of six times that limit. The report also found that DOCCS was holding people with mental health needs and other disabilities in solitary when the law fully bans solitary for people in those categories.
The report further stated that DOCCS was operating various units outside of the requirements of both solitary confinement and alternative units, sending people to solitary and alternative units for reasons not allowed under the law, and holding nearly everyone in pre-hearing confinement without providing meaningful opportunities for representation.
The report also documented reports of racialized staff brutality and abuse, and provided extensive data debunking false claims related to reported violence in the prisons. One person quoted in the report stated that, “they’re setting people up with assaults on staff. The typical way they set people up is to tell people to put their hands on the wall, then they pepper spray them, and then they say you assaulted them.”
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