On Wednesday night time, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed laws that may restrict the usage of solitary confinement for folks locked up in New York’s prisons.
The legislation’s passage is a big victory for felony justice reform advocates, who’ve pointed to the deaths of New Yorkers like Kalief Browder and Layleen Polanco as proof that solitary confinement is merciless and immoral.
At the moment, there are greater than 1,600 folks being held in solitary throughout the state, a few of them for many years. The Humane Alternate options to Lengthy-Time period Solitary Confinement Act, which handed the State Senate and the Meeting final month, prohibits officers from inserting somebody in solitary confinement for greater than 15 days, which is the United Nations’ threshold for torture.
HALT additionally exempts sure folks from solitary altogether—the younger, the aged, pregnant ladies, folks with disabilities, and these with critical psychological sickness—and reduces the variety of infractions that may land somebody in a solitary cell. The legislation may also create Residential Rehabilitation Models for folks to be transferred to after the 2 weeks in solitary, for “therapeutic and trauma-informed programming in a congregate setting.”
The legislation will go into impact on April 1st, 2022.
Cuomo signed the HALT invoice after opposing it in earlier periods, claiming that the creation of the rehab items could be too expensive; felony justice advocates argued that HALT would truly save the state cash by drastically chopping again on the expense of protecting hundreds of individuals in solitary.
The governor’s signature got here with an “approval memo,” which directs the legislature to provide you with “amendments…needed to make sure that processes are in place to deal with all potential circumstances the place a person could have to be separated from different incarcerated people, together with when an incarcerated particular person commits a number of violent acts.”
This is the HALT Act approval memo, which says amendments can be made to account for “all potential circumstances the place a person could have to be separated from different incarcerated people, together with when an incarcerated particular person commits a number of violent acts.” https://t.co/l46zUvzKGF pic.twitter.com/GxY08ex48r
— Jon Campbell (@JonCampbellGAN) April 1, 2021
Brooklyn State Senator Julia Salazar, the primary HALT sponsor within the Senate, informed Gothamist she was not involved concerning the approval memo.
“The HALT Solitary Confinement Act will put an finish to the usage of long-term solitary confinement in our state, a apply that has perpetuated violence and brought on irreparable hurt,” Salazar mentioned in an announcement.
Jerome Wright, the pinnacle of the statewide #HALTsolitary Marketing campaign, which has advocated for the legislation for years, referred to as the invoice’s passage “an enormous leap ahead.”
“Solitary confinement is torture. It causes immense struggling and destroys folks’s minds, our bodies, and souls. It should not have any place in New York State or the remainder of this nation or world. I do know as a result of I survived it. I do know as a result of so many others didn’t survive it,” Wright mentioned in an announcement.
A spokesperson for the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Affiliation, which has historically opposed HALT, didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.
The governor’s signature of each HALT and the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act—one other felony justice reform invoice he resisted for years—could also be an indication of Cuomo’s restricted political capital, as he continues to combat allegations of sexual misconduct, claims he mishandled nursing residence sufferers through the pandemic, and now potential ethics violations surrounding his pandemic memoir that he reportedly obtained greater than $4 million to put in writing.
The HALT invoice is certainly one of a lot of felony justice reforms that advocates are hoping to get handed this 12 months. There may be the Much less is Extra Act, which is aimed toward curbing the variety of folks on parole who’re despatched again to jail for “technical” violations, akin to being late to an appointment, or testing optimistic for alcohol or marijuana. The Honest & Well timed Parole Act would grant parole to New Yorkers until they pose a documented, “unreasonable threat” to society; whereas the Elder Parole invoice would power the parole board to repeatedly contemplate all prisoners who’re 55 and older and who’ve served at the least 15 years of their sentence.
“Finally, we’ll proceed to wrestle for the liberty of our folks,” Wright mentioned. “At present, incarcerated lives mattered and tomorrow and the following day that have to be affirmed as we transfer towards justice and equality for all.”