New York Senate Bill S596 “Prohibits participation in torture and improper treatment of prisoners by health care professionals; prohibits a health care professional from engaging, assisting, planning the torture or improper treatment of a prisoner; requires health care professionals to report torture and improper treatment” (S596). This bill is currently in senate committee. You can track the progress of this bill, read more closely about it, and find who sponsors this bill here.
“The state legislature made some changes to the increasingly controversial practice in state prisons. But victim advocates say they didn’t go far enough.”Listen to NCPR’s What Happens Next With Solitary Confinement? Broadcast here.
After 6 years of organizing for the HALT Solitary Confinement Act, activists were hopeful as the legislature went into session this summer. Unfortunately, the outcome has been less than favorable, despite the fact that in the last week of the state’s legislative session, both the Assembly and the Senate versions of the bill had enough votes to pass. Gov. Andrew Cuomo publicly voiced his opposition to the bill, naming high costs which were contested by activists. Legislative leaders Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Carl E. Heastie reached a compromise with Governor Cuomo under which regulations prohibiting adolescents, pregnant people, and people with disabilities from being placed in solitary will be instituted. These regulations will extend only to to state prisons, leaving out those suffering in local jails. As of August 12, 2019, Governor Cuomo has not yet released his solitary regulations. Read more about this latest update here
On July 11, 2019, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed the Isolated Confinement Restriction Act (A314/S3261) into law, following a nearly decade-long advocacy effort led by survivors of prolonged isolation (“Gov. Murphy Signs…” 07/12/19). When the act goes into effect on August 1, 2020, prisons and jails will be “prohibited from keeping anyone in solitary confinement for more than 20 consecutive days or longer than 30 days during a 60-day period” (“Gov. Murphy Signs…” 07/12/19). Additionally, any use of solitary confinement for certain vulnerable populations such as people who are pregnant, living with mental illness, or LGBTQ, will be “strictly limited” (“Gov. Murphy Signs…” 07/12/19).
While A314/S3261 limits the use of solitary confinement, it does not reform the conditions of this torturous practice. Read more about where A314/S3261 falls short from SWASC member and Program Director at American Friends Service Committee Prison Watch, Bonnie Kerness here.
For more about how New Jersey’s efforts to limit the scope of solitary confinement and the deplorable conditions, listen to this special segment of “By Any Means Necessary” where Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackmon are joined by Bonnie Kerness, Program Director at American Friends Service Committee Prison Watch.
In the first week of July, 2019, a federal lawsuit was filed on claims that a vulnerable man lost the ability to speak coherently, recognize his own mother, or understand who or where he was after 600 days in solitary confinement at Virginia’s Red Onion prison (Manson, 07/15/19).
The suit names the state corrections department, prison wardens, and the mental health care professionals who were aware of his deterioration and allowed the torment to continue as defendants (Manson, 07/15/19).
Text “RESIST” to 50409.
You can see legislative updates, contact your congressional representatives and state senators, and be connected to local organizing efforts by texting “RESIST” to 50409.