New York agrees to overhaul solitary confinement
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New York State has agreed to a major overhaul in the way solitary confinement is administered in the state’s prisons.
The move to significantly reduce the number of inmates held in isolation and improve living conditions is the result of a lawsuit brought by the New York Civil Liberties Union.
The state recently announced a five-year, $62 million agreement that is expected to result in a number of reforms.
Under the provisions of the agreement
New York state will immediately move roughly 1,100 inmates into alternative programs. There are approximately 60,000 inmates currently housed in New York prisons.
The state will also develop training programs for corrections officers designed to encourage the use of forms of discipline and security other than isolation. Prisoners still held in solitary for more than 180 days will receive additional counseling, social time, and access to telephones.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the changes “will result in a safer correctional system, as well as a fairer and more humane response for inmates who engage in misconduct.”
Around 4,000 New York state prison inmates are held in solitary confinement on any given day. The lawsuit alleged many are confined for 23 hours a day to their cells.
Michael Powers, president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, said in a press release that it was “simply wrong to unilaterally take the tools away from law enforcement officers who face dangerous situations on a daily basis.”
Powers said prisons were overcrowded with violent offenders and that assaults by inmates on staff has almost doubled since 2012. “Any policy changes must prioritize the security of everyone who works and resides in these institutions.”
The agreement will need the approval of a federal judge before it can take effect.