By Nicholas Rosa, Staff Writer
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that no longer allows long term solitary confinement in New York jails on Thursday, April 1. Cuomo signed the Halt Solitary Confinement Act into law. This will change the practice of segregated confinement in correctional facilities in New York.
There will now be restrictions on the amount of time a person can be in solitary confinement. In addition, certain vulnerable populations will be exempt from solitary confinement. There will also be specialized units for therapeutic programming, and out of cell time will be increased for incarcerated individuals.
The New York State website states that “this legislation limits the amount of time an incarcerated person can spend in segregated confinement to 15 days, clearly defines and reduces the number of disciplinary infractions eligible for segregated confinement, and exempts certain vulnerable populations, including the young, elderly, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and individuals with a serious mental illness.”
The website further states that “this legislation also establishes Residential Rehabilitation Units to provide incarcerated individuals with therapeutic and trauma-informed programming in a congregate setting. The expanded program model enacted by the HALT legislation will better address an individual’s underlying criminogenic needs and provide greater rehabilitative impacts to change behavior, leading to positive outcomes for individuals transitioning back to the general population.”
“I think this is a good thing, especially the exemptions for certain people,” freshman marketing major David Alonzo said. “Depending on the circumstances, it might not be right for someone to be kept in solitary confinement for a long time. It does seem that being forced to be alone for a long amount of time is torture. I know I wouldn’t be able to be completely alone for a long time. People need to interact with other people. Our heads can really get messed with if we have no interaction or stimulation.”
The New York State website describes how “isolation with little or no human contact for extended periods of time often leads to lasting trauma, as well as unintended consequences that are detrimental to an individual’s rehabilitation.” Residential Rehabilitations Units will allow those with “out-of-cell programming and trauma informed care, to address the underlying actions that resulted in their discipline.” All staff that work in special housing units will have “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.”
Students had mixed reactions to Cuomo signing the Halt Solitary Confinement Act into law.
“I don’t know if I completely agree with this,” junior finance major Vincent Johnston said. “I feel like it should depend on the persons’ crime that they committed. If someone is extremely violent and dangerous, and they are in solitary confinement for murdering a bunch of people, I don’t necessarily think it’s wrong to have them kept in solitary confinement. If it was a crime that was not violent and didn’t negatively affect other people in any way, then maybe it wouldn’t make sense to have that person kept in solitary confinement.”
There are serious negative outcomes from being left in solitary confinement for a long amount of time, according to Cuomo.
“Generations of incarcerated men and women have been subjected to inhumane punishment in segregated confinement with little to no human interaction for extended periods of time and many experience emotional and physical trauma that can last for years,” Cuomo said “by signing the HALT Solitary Confinement Act into law, we are reforming New York’s criminal justice system by helping ensure the effective implementation of proven, humane corrections policies. I applaud the bill sponsors and look forward to continuing our work to reform the era of mass incarceration and usher in a safer, more just Empire State.”