pictured above WNY CAIC Organizer Jerome Wright
ALBANY, N.Y. — Prison reform advocates rallied outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan offices and the executive mansion in Albany, to demand he sign the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act (HALT Act) into law. Prolonged solitary confinement has long been classified by as torture, but holding prisoners in extreme isolation for weeks, months and even years has been common in New York prisons. The Senate Democratic Majority recently passed the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act (HALT). Sponsored by Senator Julia Salazar, this legislation limits the use of segregated confinement for all incarcerated persons to 15 days, implements alternative rehabilitative measures, including the creation of Residential Rehabilitation Units (RRU), expands the definition of segregated confinement, and eliminates the use of segregated confinement for vulnerable incarcerated populations.
Additionally, this bill establishes guidelines for humane conditions in segregated confinement, outlines reporting requirements, and adds due process protections by prohibiting placement in segregated confinement prior to a disciplinary hearing and by allowing access to counsel. The Nelson Mandela Rules, adopted by the United Nations, define segregated confinement for more than 15 days as torture. HALT will bring New York in compliance with this international standard and save the State tens of millions of dollars over the next several years. “ This legislation is another major step in the Senate Democratic Majority’s commitment to reforming New York’s justice system. I applaud the sponsor, Senator Salazar, and all of the advocates who have helped make today happen.” Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. Jerome Wright, Statewide Organizer for the #HALTsolitary Campaign is a survivor of more than seven years in solitary confinement.
“For many years, survivors of solitary confinement and families who have lost loved ones in solitary have led a campaign to end this torture and replace it with safer and more effective interventions . Freedom from torture is the most basic of human rights, and yet every year tens of thousands of New Yorkers are subjected to it in the form of solitary confinement for weeks, months, years, and even decades,” he said in the wake of the passage of the bill. “Today the New York Senate passed the HALT Solitary Confinement Act, bringing our state closer to the goal of protecting the human rights of incarcerated people. I applaud Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and our lead Senate sponsor and champion Julia Salazar, as well as her staff. It is now up to the Governor to sign HALT into law and forever change the punishment paradigm, moving away from torture and toward treatment – a win for all New Yorkers.