by Katy Leidel
On February 27th, the HALT Bill moved out of the Assembly Correction Committee! Meaning that it will be put to a floor vote before the entire house this session. It should pass the Assembly! However, it may have trouble passing the Senate, which is dominated by Republicans. Republican senators will be more inclined to vote for this bill once the Correctional Officer’s Benevolent, Inc. (COBA) grants approval to ending solitary confinement, which thus far they have not taken a stance on. It should be noted that Texas has the largest prison guard union in the United States and they are calling for reductions in solitary confinement, specifically for prisoners on death row.
On March 13th, SWASC members were in Albany leading teams for breakout sessions with Assemblymembers and Senators. One team led by a SWASC member met with Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee and Senator Leroy Comrie. Both legislators are sponsors of the Humane Alternatives to Long-Term Solitary Confinement Act and will be signing onto the Challenging Incarceration platform. Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee agreed to try to sway support from colleagues whom are not yet sponsors of the bill. Christopher W. Labarge, the Legislative Director for Senator Comrie, also provided strategies on how to reach Republican senators to grow support for the bill. He suggested setting up additional meetings with non-supporting legislators and writing directly to Governor Andrew Cuomo.
This Advocacy Day, CAIC dropped off a letter to Governor Cuomo to encourage him to spend a day in the SHU, as Colorado reduced its population in solitary to 18 after Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Corrections, Rick Raemisch, agreed to experience solitary firsthand. Colorado correctional officers who had initially opposed the new policy have changed their minds after seeing positive results, including more meaningful interactions with inmates.
There is progress!
Join the #HALTSolitary Campaign! CAIC brings together advocates, formerly incarcerated persons, family members of currently incarcerated people, concerned community members, lawyers, and individuals in the human rights, health, and faith communities throughout New York State.
We invite individuals and organizations to join the campaign’s ongoing efforts! To join our listserv, send an email to email@example.com. To contact CAIC, email Victor Pate at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pictured below: Katy Leidel, Senator Leroy Comrie, Dolores Baldasare, and Eugene Fields