Cuomo signs legislation limiting the amount of time inmates spend in solitary confinement

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CORNING, NY (WETM) – Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the HALT Solitary Confinement Act into law last night.

This legislation limits the amount of time an inmate in state prisons to a maximum of 15 days. Residential Rehabilitation Units will also be established to give therapeutic and trauma-informed programming to incarcerated individuals.

Under this new law, women who are pregnant, people with disabilities, individuals with a serious mental illness, youth, and the elderly are banned from being put into segregated confinement.

Senator Julia Salazar said, “The HALT Solitary Confinement Act will put an end to the use of long-term solitary confinement in our state, a practice that has perpetuated violence and caused irreparable harm. I thank Governor Cuomo for taking action and signing this bill into law. This is a necessary step in making our state’s correctional facilities safer and our communities healthier.”

Assemblymember Jeffrion Aubrey said, “Solitary confinement has been established by the United Nations as a method of torture. The HALT act will not eliminate this practice, but will be regulated in a way which we think is conducive to the long-term betterment of both those who are incarcerated as well as the communities they return to. HALT will improve conditions of confinement, and create more humane and effective alternatives to confinement.”

But not everyone is pleased with this new law. Assemblyman Phil Palmesano believes that this is a tool that the governor has taken away from correctional officers that keeps themselves and other inmates safe.

“The Governor with a stroke of a pen last night has created an already dangerous environment that much more dangerous for the brave men and women who are working this dangerous job inside our correctional facilities who serve our community but also for the other inmates in the facility who really want to be there to debilitate while they are there,” Palmesano said.

Below is a list of key changes this law will make according to the Governor’s website:

  • A limitation on the amount of time people can spend in segregated confinement or special housing units to 15 days;
  • The creation of Residential Rehabilitations Units that will afford incarcerated individuals out-of-cell programming and trauma informed care, to address the underlying actions that resulted in their discipline;
  • The establishment of a minimum amount of out-of-cell time, therapeutic programming and/or recreation;
  • A restriction on the placement of youth, pregnant women, elderly and individuals with a serious mental illness into segregated confinement; and
  • An increase in the training of all staff that work within special housing units on de-escalation techniques, implicit bias, trauma-informed care, and dispute resolution.

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