Ayyyeee… What’s Goodie Everyone. So I got some tea and it involves a law to end solitary confinement in New York jail and prisons.
New York Govenor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill on Wednesday that will end the use of long term solitary confinement in prisons and jails. The new law is set to restrict prisons and jails from holding people in solitary confinement nearly all day isolation for more than 15 consecutive days. It also bars the practice entirely for several groups, including minors and people with certain disabilities.
The new limitations, which will not go into effect for one year, mirror recent changes in several other states that have limited the practice. Cuomo signed the bill on Wednesday, his office confirmed, but signaled that he planned to negotiate some changes to the legislation. 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.
A large campaign to limit the use of solitary confinement in New York kicked off more than eight years ago. But those efforts had long fallen short in Albany. A measure similar to the new law appeared due to pass in 2019, but failed after union pushback and a threat of veto from Cuomo, who cited concerns over large potential costs to carry out the changes. (Those projections were later disputed.) Instead, the governor agreed to roll out several less expansive administrative changes to alter the practice.
After the 15 day cap, people would move to high security rehabilitative units when needed, where they would spend at least seven hours outside of a cell per day for therapy, treatment and other programs. (The change applies to prisons and jails with populations of more than 500.)
The current legislation would restrict the use of solitary to no more than 15 consecutive days, or 20 total days over a two month period. Punitive segregation would be banned entirely for people under 22 or over 54, those who are pregnant and individuals with mental and physical disabilities, among other groups.
In his approval of the law, Cuomo wrote that “amendments are necessary” in order to protect people living and working in correctional facilities. He said those changes would involve addressing “all possible circumstances” in which incarcerated people may need to be separated from the general population, including when they commit “multiple violent acts.”He did not offer additional specifics.