ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) — Local lawmakers joined the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association (NYSCOPBA) outside of the Elmira Correctional Facility on Wednesday to call for the repeal of the Humane Alternatives to Solitary Confinement (HALT) Act.
This law has been implemented since April, after being approved by the Cuomo Administration. A release from the lawmakers’ offices of Senator Tom O’Mara, Assemblyman Chris Friend, and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano claims the law limits the use of special housing units in correctional facilities and restricts the ability of prison officials to discipline the state’s most violent inmates, who commit criminal acts in prison, by separating them from the general population.
NYSCOPBA has been calling on Governor Hochul to not move forward on the law’s implementation as early as the beginning of this year.
NYSCOPBA has warned since April that the law would put officers at even greater risk within a prison system where inmate attacks on prison staff reached record numbers in 2021 and are currently on pace to be even more serious in 2022, with 883 attacks so far on staff inside prisons in New York State this year.
According to the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), since April 1, 2022, violence in New York State correction facilities has risen by over 35%.
Local lawmakers on Wednesday pointed out that along with the uptick in assaults from the inmates, there are severe staffing issues and shortages within NYS prisons. NYSCOPBA representatives claim that with the increase in assaults, and conjunction with declining officer recruitment numbers and increased retirements since HALT’s implementation, a crisis has amounted inside correctional facilities.
“Governor Hochul and the Legislature’s Democratic majorities have been solely focused on coddling violent criminals by severely hampering disciplinary sanctions,” Senator O’Mara, Assemblyman Freind, and Assemblyman Palmesano said in a joint statement, “finding ways to parole more and more inmates, and diminishing the ability of correctional officers to deal with violence inside prisons,” they said.
“Ongoing attacks inside the Elmira Correctional Facility and in prisons across this state should serve as a stark reminder that steps are needed to better protect corrections officers, prison staff, inmates themselves, and the overall safety and security within the walls of our prisons,” they said.
The lawmakers and members of NYSCOPBA ended the rally by continuing to call upon Governor Hochul to repeal the HALT Act.